A Foundation of Excellence, A Sustainable Future
At Birla Carbon, we aim to fully embed sustainability into the core of our business. Our approach, Sustainable Operational Excellence, drives our continued progress across all the dimensions of sustainability programs and CSR activities. This approach manifests itself throughout our operations in six focus areas, which we explore in our sustainability report:
- Governance and Ethics
- Product Responsibility
- Customers and Suppliers
- Our People
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VISION & STRATEGY
Sustainability Informs Every Decision
Our vision is to be the most respected, sustainable and dynamic global carbon black business. Achieving this requires we maintain responsible and sustainable practices, while providing a secure, consistent supply of the highest-quality carbon black to our customers across the globe. By embedding sustainable thinking at every level, we meet the evolving needs of our stakeholders regardless of economic volatility, increasing environmental and societal concerns, and challenges such as stricter regulatory requirements and changing consumer expectations.
Birla Carbon aims to use natural resources as wisely and efficiently as possible, minimizing any harm to the environment. We further prioritize keeping our employees safe, attracting the right talent and engaging regularly with contractors, customers and local communities. Our approach to sustainability is reflected in the Birla Carbon Sustainability Policy.
3 Key Elements
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Sustainable Operational Excellence
Our sustainability approach is driven by our Sustainable Operational Excellence (SOE) strategy. SOE helps us improve operating standards, manufacture carbon black as efficiently as possible, minimize adverse impacts on natural resources and the environment and maximize our positive impact on society, while continuing to deliver excellence to our customers. It influences all aspects of our business decisions, from designing and operating our plants to engaging with our customers, our employees and the communities where we operate.
Our SOE Philosophy
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Dr. Santrupt Misra, Chief Executive Officer
Birla Carbon has come a long way as a business – from its origins as a regional carbon black supplier to the present, where it now stands as a global leader in the industry. It’s benchmark standards, across all areas of operations, too have grown in line with the business’ growth.
Formal external communication on our sustainability journey began in 2013, with our first Sustainability Report. Since then Birla Carbon has surged past many of its key sustainability milestones of which health, safety, and environment (HS&E) have been key elements. These accomplishments have not been limited to one region, but rather across all regions where the business operates.
We are very proud that we were the first Aditya Birla Group entity to create sustainability as an independent function and in doing so, took a decisive lead amongst our industry peers. Since then, our united vision for a comprehensive sustainability agenda has been well acknowledged by our stakeholders.
We have, and continue to strive to maximize our potential. I believe that potential is a combination of building key capabilities and being prepared to unleash them when the time calls. However, it is important to note that a business’s ultimate potential is constantly evolving in response to the new challenges it faces.
Thus, the journey that we have been on so far, cannot be the journey that we continue to take. We must, therefore, continue to learn, adapt, and evolve our capabilities to break new grounds. Many of our technology and product developments are a testimony to this. We continue to make investments in this respect.
To us at Birla Carbon, sustainability is not just about the health and safety of our employees nor can it just be about environmental stewardship. I believe sustainability is also about creating and bettering one’s business model to ensure that an enterprise is truly building for the future. It requires a long view of issues that transcend the many shortcomings of myopia. Therefore, while a sustainability initiative may be in play today, its real results may materialize much further down the line.
A large part of our sustainability agenda concerns our customers and their emerging needs. It is this agenda that has allowed us to build excellent relationships with our customers, some of which date back more than a half century. Yet we are taking steps to take these relationships to the next level: co-development of products, joint workshops to solve product performance issues, the creation of innovative solutions and partnerships are all a key of our sustainability agenda – of which our customers are an integral part.
We are proud indeed that our stakeholders acknowledge and recognize our efforts on sustainability. They have been generous with their awards, invitations to think tanks on sustainability, and have given us numerous best supplier scores. But we continue to ask more of our business and our employees. It is my ambition that such introspection will continue to drive Birla Carbon’s growth and strategy. We hope to continue to do well by doing good.
We cannot, however, rest on our laurels. We must engage our employees even more in sustainability projects, and increase their awareness on issues of safety, health, and the impact (positive or negative) that each and every one of them can have on the environment.
Despite the dispersed nature of our global organization and market uncertainties we have laid a strong cultural foundation that unifies our people across the globe as One Birla Carbon. It is this strong culture that has helped us weather many turbulent economic and geo-political cycles. Our culture will continue to be the cornerstone of our business in the years to come.
Birla Carbon shares the sustainability vision of the Aditya Birla Group as articulated by our Chairman, Mr. Kumar Mangalam Birla: “the Aditya Birla Group endeavours to become the leading Indian conglomerate for sustainable business practices across its global operations, balancing its economic growth with environmental and societal interests.” To this end, we draw support from the rest of the Group and are happy to extend that same help.
Our stakeholders can continue to expect more from Birla Carbon, built on the ability and hard work of our people. We will carry on, making incremental changes in our regular operations and occasionally leap-frogging – we are not afraid of capitalizing on opportunities when they present themselves.
I welcome you to our fifth Sustainability Report, covering FY2017, and invite you to see the progress we have made for yourselves.
Kevin Boyle, Chief Operating Officer
FY2017 has been a year of continued progress for us on many fronts – setting us up for what will be a very exciting FY2018. Our new facility in Jining, China, will start production mid-year, bringing with it significant changes in Birla Carbon’s presence in the region and our production capacity. The optimism is palpable; conditions are right for us to move forward.
In general, oil prices have stabilized, moving up from the lows in 2016, creating a more stable operating environment for us. Sadly, we had to close our German site in Hannover as the modernization required to compete successfully in the future was not feasible. Conversely, by closing Hannover, we have driven innovation elsewhere in the region and successfully compensated for the production shortfall.
In FY2017, we also faced severe economic challenges in South America, which reduced demand for our products in the region. Conversely, in India there was immense demand growth, calling for more carbon black. We are proud of the agility and efficiency of our global network which enabled us to adapt to successfully tackle these challenges.
As our customers grow and evolve, we are seeing them expand into new countries or regions. Having a strong presence globally puts us in a strong position to support our customers with their growth plans. For instance, our greenfield plant in Jining will complement our existing plant in Weifang to better align with the growth agenda of our customers in China.
The Jining facility will not only increase our regional capacity but also be our most sustainable plant. There is an increased focus on environmental awareness everywhere, and China is no exception – Jining has been designed to not only meet but exceed the most stringent environmental performance requirements. This state of the art facility underscores our commitment to be a leader in this industry in the decades to come.
Safety and the environment are issues that will always be at the forefront of our industry. In terms of safety, we’re continuing to push for zero accidents, an achievement that many facilities have reached by themselves during FY2017. Although incident severity is down globally, incident frequency is up. This is an area of concern so we continue to focus on finding further opportunities to drive progress and instill a culture of safety.
As responsible stewards, our approach and targets are frequently reviewed and challenged to ensure we continue to drive progress in evolving environments. For instance, in some parts of the world, access to fresh water is already a challenge, while at the same time, we must implement water-intensive technologies to reduce air emissions from our operations.
This is true for other areas as well. As responsible stewards accountable to a wider global community, our aim is to identify all areas where we can most effectively prioritize our work.
Thank you for choosing to read our Sustainability Report and taking the opportunity to learn more about how we’re preparing ourselves to go further in our journey to Sustainable Operational Excellence.
Joe Gaynor, Chief Legal, Sustainability and Risk Officer
We have come a long way on our sustainability journey; we have a long way to go. The most important thing is that everybody understands that sustainability is a forward-looking exercise. When we look forward, we shape our future and what sustainability means in the long term – what will allow us to not only be available to customers, but what will differentiate us as the preferred supplier.
We can see this journey in our work. We continue adapting our processes, and there is increasing excitement visible in our employees. Now that we have everybody engaged, we are redefining the path ahead.
Carbon black plays a key role in everyone’s life, and yet the wider public does not understand our product. There are several levels to its social value, but essentially, carbon black makes products stronger and more durable. It enables the everyday: from tires to shoe soles, from water pipes to newspaper ink, from sealants to power cables.
Carbon black makes it easier for us to interact with the world around us in many ways. It makes movement easier and safer through longer lasting and stronger tires; impacts health through effective clean water transportation; facilitates more efficient agricultural practices; is a key component of the wires and cable technology that power our lives; and provides a deeper, darker black that we see every day in our clothes, electronics, ink and plastics.
Carbon black enables human connections.
It is important for us to make our product more visible and to demonstrate its sustainable attributes. Through responsible stewardship, we have differentiated ourselves from our peers for our customers. We have achieved significant milestones, including the EcoVadis Gold rating recognizing our best-in-class performance, notably in fair business and labor practices. We took on greater leadership with our peers, and worked with other industries. Our work with the Sustainable Leadership Forum (SLF) in the USA and the UK enhanced our profile, as does being represented at the Vice-Chairman level at our industry body, the International Carbon Black Association (ICBA).
We have further engaged in FY2017 with two of our key stakeholder groups: our customers and our suppliers. For instance, we entered into a partnership with a company specializing in nanotechnology to create more resilient tires. We also held Customer Leadership Dialogues with large Indian customers to align our sustainability expectations. In terms of our supply chain, the management of risks, particularly ethical risks, is key to be a preferred supplier. Building on our work in FY2016, we are strengthening our vendor due diligence by implementing a third party screening program.
A key concern for us and our stakeholders is water. It is important that Birla Carbon focuses on water because we operate in some areas where water is not abundantly available. We are in the process of improving our water management, including how we access, measure and ensure efficient use of this resource.
Other key environmental areas for us are air quality, energy use and carbon conversion efficiency. We lead the way in our industry in terms of pollution control technology and aim to be as efficient as possible in our carbon mass balance efforts; the more efficient we are, the more effectively we capture and utilize the carbon in our feedstock and we reduce our impact on the environment.
We constantly look to the future and the megatrends that we think will impact our business. The trends that we can see show an ageing global population, a growing middle class in developing countries and an increased demand for mobility and communications. Our partnership with Forum for the Future is helping us to anticipate what these external factors could mean to our industry.
Our people and stakeholders are fully engaged and are contributing to ensure we continue to steward resources responsibly. We have been a reliable partner with our customers for over 150 years and we intend to remain so for the next 150 years.