Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Element Six’s road to 2030 carbon neutrality

Along with De Beers Group, Element Six (E6) has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030 across our operations.

To achieve this ambitious target, we will have to continue the transition towards sustainable manufacturing, making significant changes to how we operate. We believe that this is our responsibility as a business to make a lasting contribution and play our part in ensuring everyone can look forward to a more sustainable future.

Joleen Bleuel, Sustainability Specialist, is leading E6’s carbon neutral goal. In this Q&A, she explains why the company is making the commitment, how we plan to get there and what E6 employees are already doing to make the business more environmentally sustainable, globally.

Q: What is the motivation behind E6’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030?

A: It’s a very human reaction to be concerned about the climate crisis. The effects of global warming can be seen in news headlines every day, while more extreme weather is becoming a reality for more and more people around the world. This makes you wonder what you can do to help, be that cutting out single-use plastics or cycling to work, which I know many E6 employees already do.

We must also consider what we can do as an organisation. In late 2020, De Beers Group announced as part of its Building Forever sustainability goals a commitment to being carbon neutral across its operations by 2030. At Element Six, we are equally committed to this goal and ensuring we contribute to a better and more sustainable future for all.

At the heart of this commitment is a new global sustainability strategy which focuses on the business’ efforts to consolidate local activities into tangible action on the path to carbon neutrality.

For this reason, E6 has committed to spend a meaningful portion of capital per year, fully dedicated to supporting the reduction of CO2 within our business. But all E6 investments across the business have an environmental component and sustainability will be considered for all capex decisions. Buy-in and support from all levels of the organisation has been crucial in implementing this programme – without this, it would be impossible to reach our ambitious targets.

What is the E6 Sustainability Task Force?

Last year we launched a Sustainability Task Force to set, review and improve E6’s approach to sustainability. We have already begun a detailed resources analysis, which will help us to review the best approach to sustainable manufacturing.

In doing this, we have identified key focus areas, which will allow us to start tackling priority projects across the business. This analysis will also help us to develop five-year plans for each of our production sites.

What are the key focus areas for the Task Force?

We have identified three key focus areas: energy (which is the key source of our emissions), sustainable culture and waste management. These three focus areas will be the pillars of our sites’ five-year plans. Our sustainability strategy will encompass all areas of the business, including the environment, leadership and culture, group standards and legal compliance, communications and marketing, and our customers and suppliers.

How will E6 become carbon neutral?

Becoming carbon neutral is an ambitious goal but one that De Beers Group and E6 are committed to achieving. De Beers Group’s  path to carbon neutrality rests on three key actions, which we call the ‘3Rs’:

  1. Reduce energy intensity
  2. Replace fossil fuels and fossil fuel electricity
  3. Recover remaining carbon emissions

At E6 we are also focused on looking at direct internal changes to reduce 40% of our emissions through renewable technology. There are four stages to the strategy:

  1. Before 2030 we will address direct emissions and indirect emissions (Scope 1 and Scope 2)
  2. We will develop an energy management strategy, based on data analysis, to help us reduce energy consumption and we’ll replace fossil electricity and fuels by investing in and committing to more sustainable alternatives.
  3. We will then seek to support our customers and suppliers to also become carbon neutral. This starts with quick wins and low hanging fruits, but we are already working towards the harder challenges as well (Scope 3)
  4. Recovering remaining carbon emissions will be the final stage in our journey to becoming carbon neutral, as these technologies continue to be developed.

What sustainability initiatives is E6 already engaged with?

De Beers conducted extensive analysis of carbon emissions in partnership with the Carbon Trust in 2018, which really set the wheels in motion for further work on sustainability. Since then, we have launched our Task Force and set up local working groups which involve teams from across all of our global sites. The working groups’ efforts focus on energy, supply chain, hazardous material and landfill, water and single-use plastic. All have set local strategies specific to their site, while working together globally to share best practice to reach attainable targets.

We have already seen some fantastic successes from our local initiatives, thanks to the innovative thinking and passion of the E6 teams. For example, our South African facility has received solar panels which are already generating electricity to replace fossil with renewable energy. Our Ireland facility has a new leaching plant that significantly reduces acid consumption. The plant is also working on the installation of a heat pump to recover waste heat and displace 90% of its oil usage. Set to be running by the end of 2021, the solution will also deliver close to $1M in cost savings over the next 10 years.

What is the focus for 2021?

We are proud of our local sustainability initiatives, but we are now working to consolidate them into a robust global strategy for E6. This is a significant step change for the business. We can only truly build towards sustainable manufacturing by leveraging co-operation and a holistic approach. Co-operation between our production facilities and co-operation with our supply chain are key to better understand what impact we have on the environment and address it accordingly.

We are also introducing energy management systems to our three largest sites, with first trials already happening at our Shannon facility in Ireland.

What will E6 be doing for the rest of the decade to achieve carbon neutrality?

In terms of longer-term steps, assessing our product carbon footprint will be important in calculating  the overall carbon impact of our manufacturing activities. But sustainability has to be a collective effort, which is why we cannot stand alone in this. We will be assessing the environmental impact of our supply chain to help us make informed decisions that will ultimately benefit our environment.

Find out more about what we stand for, here.

Back to news