Belgium's Umicore doesn't see sustainability as just an add-on to its business. As CEO Marc Grynberg tells Corporate Knights, "it's really a part of everything we do."
Performance materials: These are materials derived from zinc, platinum and other metals that are used in building products, fertilizer and fibreglass production.
Recycling: The company recovers precious and non-ferrous metals from complex waste streams, including industrial, electronic and consumer waste. This business, too, has been driven by regulation, particularly in the EU, where industries are required to take back and recycle e-waste.
Recycling is a very efficient way to produce metals, says the company, highlighting the benefits of "closing the materials loop." From 50,000 mobile phones – around three tons of material, excluding batteries – Umicore is able to recycle around one kilogram of gold, 10 kilograms of silver, 400 grams of palladium and 420 kilograms of copper. By contrast, extracting one kilogram of gold from a mine below the ground requires the removal of 200 tons of rock.
To push efficiency further, Umicore is aiming for a 20 per cent reduction in its CO2 emissions from a base year of 2006. It had achieved a 14 per cent reduction by the end of 2011, adjusting for changes to the business; in absolute terms, it cut emissions by 6 per cent.
It ranked near the top in our survey in terms of energy, GHG, water and waste productivity.