How Kanthal is working with sustainability
In its quest to become a more sustainable company, Kanthal has set itself some ambitious targets for the coming decade, as well as a comprehensive plan that encompasses its customers, employees and suppliers.
For many companies, sustainability is no longer an issue of corporate social responsibility, it has become integral for future growth and success. And Kanthal is no exception.
“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,” says 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.”
Kanthal can make a positive contribution to the environment through three ways: helping customers improve their sustainability performance, improving sustainability internally within its own operations, and working with suppliers to make further gains.
“Sustainability is a clear focus point for society in general and more and more of our employees want to contribute too,” says Linda Belka, QEHS and Sustainability Manager, Kanthal. “So, we feel the push to be more sustainable coming from both inside and outside of our organization.”
Halving CO2 impact
One of the biggest areas where Kanthal can contribute to greater sustainability is in helping to electrify industrial processes. Already, a number of its customers have significantly reduced their carbon footprints by replacing their gas furnaces with electric using equipment from Kanthal.
“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,” says Linda Belka. “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, Kanthal aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by half by 2030. It has 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, which saves around 38 tons of CO2 per year. Last January, Kanthal’s Walldorf site began using solar panels, which will 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 plant.
By 2030, Kanthal aims to have more than 90% circularity in its business. After completing a pre-study into its use of packaging, Kanthal is now working together with its suppliers to ensure it uses recyclable packing materials. It is also working with its customers to ensure they are recycling or reusing packing that is sent to them. In addition, together with SMT, 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,” says Linda Belka. “This will give us the hard facts that we need in order to prioritize the right areas. Then we can ensure our efforts have the biggest impact.”
The ambition is to half the Total Recorded Injury Frequency Rate (TRIFR) and occupational illnesses within Kanthal, and ultimately reach ‘zero harm’ to anyone within the company. The key will be to work proactively with all issues related to health and safety, including psychological as well as physical health. Employees will be offered training and awareness programs on key occupational hazards including stress.
“Being proactive with safety, health and occupational illness by working with preventative actions will not only help ensure incidents do not occur in the first place but will also help create a good working environment, work-life balance and an inclusive climate,” adds Linda.
Doing the right thing
The fourth and final pillar of Kanthal’s sustainability plan concerns business ethics and ensuring Kanthal always acts fairly and openly. Training programs 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, Kanthal 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. “This way we will be able to monitor ourselves more closely going forward, and ensure we did not sway in any area,” says Linda Belka.