14 December 2020

The construction and demolition industry is a major contributor to Sweden’s climate impact, and is thus facing many sustainability challenges. However, with communication and an impressive innovative spirit, alumna Amanda Borneke has shown that the industry is ready for climate adaptation.

Picture of Amanda Borneke
Amanda Borneke has been nominated for and won several awards for her work in sustainability in the construction industry.

Amanda Borneke is quality and environment manager at CS Riv & Håltagning in Gothenburg, having graduated from the LiU programme in environmental science and taken further training in the sustainability profile of the construction industry. Important tools in the work are communication and innovation, and she is working to realign the construction industry to fossil freedom and circularity such that machines are to be powered by renewable fuels or electricity, and that construction material is to be reused or remanufactured instead of demolished. Work for which she has received several prizes. 

She was recently awarded the title of “Årets miljöinnovatör” (Environmental Innovator of the Year) by the Swedish Transport Administration. This is given to a person with innovative patterns of thought; someone passionate about sustainable societal development who has made a clear contribution to reducing environmental and climate impact.

“I received the award for reconfiguring the complete fleet of CS Riv’s vehicles to be totally fossil-free. It wasn’t easy, but I managed it after only one year”, she says. 

Magnify the problems and collaborate

The reason this has not previously been possible is that people have believed that it would be too expensive or that the machines risk breaking down when run on eco-friendly fuels. 

“But I wanted to demonstrate that it was perfectly possible. So I started by magnifying the problem. I often use this tactic when faced with a problem that I don’t know to solve. Because by magnifying the problem you can find other people with the same problem who share your vision.” 

No sooner said than done. CS Riv was the first demolition contractor to adopt the government’s “Färdplan för klimatneutral och fossilfri byggbransch” (Roadmap for a Climate-neutral and Fossil-free Construction Industry), and it was the start of Amanda’s networking initiatives. 

“It’s all about focussing on collaboration rather that competition”, she maintains. 

Positive communication

Networking and coordination were important factors, but it was also necessary that others should understand the value of reconfiguring the machine park. 

“It’s important to adapt communication to the target group, and understand the values they hold – what they consider to be important and not important. When we were to switch to biofuels, for example, I focussed on explaining that the oil in the machines was not hazardous for the operators. If a spill occurs, they don’t have to immediately stop and clean up themselves and the surroundings. This means that they can continue the demolition work, which makes them happy”, says Amanda. She continues: 

“There are also some triggers – words that should be avoided. Consider, for example, ‘vegan’. A lot of people say that this is not for them, so if you want more of them to eat vegan food it’s better to present it as ‘healthy food’ or ‘plant-based food’. This makes folk curious.” 

Using positive terms in communication is a common thread in all that Amanda says, and she does not agree that the demolition industry is the end of the line. On the contrary. 

“The demolition component of the construction chain is known as ‘end of life’. The simple fact that the process is known by a somewhat negative term means that eco-friendly behaviour gets locked out. If you want to achieve rapid change, it’s important to use words with positive values, since people tend to want to be part of a positive process. So in the past two years in the industry I’ve investigated what happens if I call this process the ‘beginning of life’ instead. This makes the transition from idea to action very quick.”

Circular flows and the reuse of demolition material

CS Riv founded a sister company for the reuse of demolition material in 2012. This is a business idea that Amanda has decided to spread. She has also been involved with drawing up new procurement requirements that specify circular flows in the construction industry.

“It’s really exciting to be involved and help set the bar one step higher, making reuse a part of the procurement requirements”, says Amanda.

She has also developed quality assurance criteria for reused material, and tools to reclassify waste as a resource. She won the Environmental Prize from Betonggalan – Concrete Future in 2019 for this work. 

Picture of Amanda BornekeAmanda attended the award ceremony for the Environmental Prize from Betonggalan - Concrete Future in concrete-coloured dress made from reused material.

“I’m just speechless about the way I’ve been so well looked-after by the construction industry and Sweden. My work with sustainability has aroused considerable interest and I have been recognised as a courageous societal transformer who has managed to motivate a heavy, male-dominated industry to realign and introduce real change.”
She was headhunted to CS Riv, and – once there – realised that she had found her true home.
“I fell in love with the industry, which needs my driving force to achieve climate neutrality.”

Caring for the planet

Her driving force has been evident since childhood. It’s based on a true devotion to caring for the planet and insight into the fact that we have a limited amount of resources. We can’t simply consume: we must also preserve.
“Climate adaptation is necessary: the planet can’t wait”, she says. 
Her own alarm clock sounded when she was 17 and environmental issues came up in the courses at upper secondary school. It happened on what is known as “Overshoot day”, which is the day in the year when the annual budget of renewable resources in the natural world runs out. This will occur earlier and earlier for each year that passes, unless we can manage to reverse trends in CO2 emissions. 
“That’s when I understood what overconsumption means. I became a vegetarian and decided to study environmental sciences. My studies at LiU were the starting gun for me to start running. It was at the university that I learnt to manage my talents, using the tools available there. The use of problem-based learning was particularly beneficial. I also gained advantages in using rhetoric from the way in which we didn’t have to take written exams, but were instead compelled to argue and arrive at a point of view.”

Picture of Amanda BornekeOne of Amanda’s role models is RuPaul Charles, an American drag queen artist. “From this, I’ve learnt all I know about stage presence and how to capture an audience quickly”, says Amanda, who is often engaged as lecturer and sustainability coach.  

Spreading climate hope

Another arena where Amanda is active is social media. Her accounts and podcast (“Hållbarprofil”) reach more than 12,000 followers, whom she regards as her team. 

“My followers support me and give me the strength to continue with my work in sustainability.”

She also uses her platforms to spread climate hope. 

“It should be fun, easy and inspiring to work with environmental issues.”

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