In its quest to become a more sustainable company, Swedish heating provider Kanthal, part of the Sandvik Group, has set ambitious targets for the coming decade, including halving its CO2 emissions by 2030. The company has also introduced a plan encompassing the sustainability of its customers, improvement of its own internal sustainability, and work with suppliers to achieve further gains.
“Almost every industry we work with has either started or about to start moving towards fossil-free processes, and heating is one of the key enablers to being successful,” stated Anders Björklund, president, Kanthal. “We are now being approached by customers and industries that, just a few years back, were not even entertaining the idea of stepping away from oil and gas heating processes. The shift has come very quickly.”
One of the biggest areas where the company hopes to contribute to greater sustainability is in moving to electrify industrial processes – already, a number of its customers have made significant reductions in their carbon footprints by replacing their gas furnaces with electric using Kanthal equipment.
“This is an area that we will continue to target and be more proactive in informing companies of how much CO2 they could potentially save,” added Linda Belka, QEHS and Sustainability Manager. “And, of course, we practice what we preach. We have already replaced most of our gas furnaces with electric and will set a plan to replace the remaining ones.”
Internally, the company has already initiated a number of projects targeted at reducing the carbon emissions from its own operations – for example, heat generated from its melt shop is currently being reused as district heating in other buildings, saving around thirty-eight tons of CO2 per year. Last January, Kanthal’s Walldorf, Germany, site began using solar panels, which should reduce annual CO2 emissions by another 45 tons. Other initiatives include changing electricity suppliers in the US to a less carbon-intensive source, installing solar panels on the roof of its Hosur plant in India, and replacing oil burners in its Hallstahammar, Sweden, plant.
“Sustainability is a clear focus point for society in general and more and more of our employees want to contribute too,” Belka stated. “So, we feel the push to be more sustainable coming from both inside and outside of our organisation.”
As well as its more overt moves, Kanthal is also aiming for over 90% circularity in its business by 2030. The company is currently working with its suppliers to ensure the usage of recyclable packaging materials. It is also working with customers to ensure this packaging is being either recycled or reused. In addition, together with Sandvik Materials Technology, Kanthal is looking at material circularity in its melts.
“As well as continuing to look into our materials, one of our big projects for 2021 is to do a complete lifecycle assessment of our operations,” Belka continued. “This will give us the hard facts that we need in order to prioritise the right areas. Then we can ensure our efforts have the biggest impact.”
Another company goal is to half the Total Recorded Injury Frequency Rate (TRIFR) and occupational illnesses within Kanthal, ultimately reaching ‘zero harm’ to anyone within the company. The key here will be to work proactively with all issues related to health and safety, including psychological as well as the more traditionally-considered physical health. Employees will be offered training and awareness programmes on key occupational hazards, including stress.
The final pillar of Kanthal’s sustainability plan concerns business ethics and ensuring the company’s transparency and fairness. Training programmes on anti-bribery and corruption are provided for employees within sales, while online courses for increasing awareness are available for all employees. A Supplier Code of Conduct has also been established and is sent out whenever a new agreement with a supplier is signed.
When it comes to diversity, the company aims to have one third of its managers women and already has a number of women in key managerial positions including production, R&D, marketing and human resources. The company is continuously working to recruit and retain a diverse work force, despite operating in a male-dominated industry.
To ensure Kanthal remains compliant with all legal and ethical standards, its legal set-up is being restructured into Compliance Houses – a system that allows the business to understand and work efficiently with legal compliance. The purpose is to truly embed compliance into the business, allowing the company to monitor itself in hopes of checking any stray from its new bottom line.