As a company, we have a responsibility to operate as a worthy steward. In addition to our work to fulfill environmental regulations, reduce our impact on the environment and manage climate change impacts, we also develop products that protect wood and preserve its carbon capture potential. We are proud to be a voice for environmental Sustainability in our industry and in our communities, and make our values known through participation in efforts such as CEOs for Sustainability, of which our own Leroy Ball is a member of the executive council.
Koppers continues to research and implement new and innovative technologies to extend our circular economy business model across our value chain. Our efforts begin with our supply chain, in particular our raw materials, the majority of which are by-products generated in other industries. These raw materials are our key production inputs. We also utilize renewable resources for another significant portion of our raw material requirements.
Otherwise an unusable by-product, coal tar is generated during the steel making process and subsequently purchased by Koppers. The coal tar is then processed into creosote (a wood preservative), carbon pitch, refined chemicals and distillates for use across multiple industry segments. Creosote has been used for more than 150 years as a wood preservative to extend the useful life of timber products, thus reducing the need to harvest more trees. Railroad crossties that are pressure treated with creosote have a service life of up to 40 years, making it an economical and reliable product for the railroad industry. This also brings an additional benefit by extending the life of wood infrastructure so that the atmospheric carbon captured in the wood through photosynthesis is retained longer.
One of the most exciting areas of opportunity for Koppers is to drive significant innovation by pursuing “cradle-to-cradle” supply chain solutions. In 2019, the Koppers Recovery Resources team collected nearly 3.5 million railroad ties, which is equivalent to 1,077 miles of railroad track. We converted these ties to biomass and sold them as fuel, offsetting the need for fossil fuels.
Environmental and Regulatory Compliance
Effective environmental management is a central principle of our Zero Harm culture and something that we attentively exhibit at all of our worldwide locations. The processes, procedures and systems we have implemented help us efficiently manage our environmental performance, and we maintain several internationally recognized certifications dedicated to environmental responsibility, safety and health.
We work with many of our contractors to ensure they are Responsible Care® qualified and certified. This process begins with the review of potential contractors in a pre-qualification evaluation. Once a contractor has been approved and is qualified under Responsible Care® they are added to our contractor database that uses built in reminders to ensure their qualifications do not expire. We also work with our contractors to help them implement responsible processes and policies for their operations. When improvement is needed to meet Responsible Care® requirements, we work with our contractors to help them enhance their operating procedures. This engagement occurs between our individual plants where there is firsthand knowledge of the changes that need to be made and our corporate or regional headquarters. These conditionally approved contractors are placed on a tailored improvement plan and periodic evaluations are carried out to confirm their operations improve.
We recognize the significance of the potential impacts climate change can have on society and business. It is important to Koppers to identify and take appropriate measures to reduce our climate change contributing greenhouse gas emissions and overall carbon footprint, while also building our operational resilience to potential physical and economic impacts from climate change.
Koppers has focused our business strategy around wood preservation technologies and industry sectors that rely on long term life-cycles of treated wood products. Our Carbon Materials and Chemicals (CMC) and Performance Chemicals (PC) divisions produce organic and inorganic wood preservatives that greatly extend the life-cycle of wood products, allowing our facilities and customers supporting critical industries such as rail transportation; residential, commercial and marine construction; and electrical and telecommunications distribution networks to extend the life of treated wood products for decades, thereby keeping the naturally sequestered carbon out of the carbon cycle.
In 2018, Koppers acquired two new business units designated Utility and Industrial Products (UIP) and Koppers Recovery Resources (KRR). Our UIP division preserves wood poles and accessories in direct support of the electrical distribution and telecommunications industries. The KRR division recovers used rail ties no longer useful in railroad service. These ties are either graded for suitable non-rail use or converted to biomass fuel for approved combustion units, thereby providing a renewable fuel that offsets the need for fossil fuels.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions increased in 2019 due to the acquisitions described above as these were omitted from 2018 greenhouse gas emissions reporting. For both UIP and KRR we had access to data from only a part of 2018 and because of this decided to omit them. The tables below reflect adjusted 2018 and total 2019 GHG emissions. Koppers plans to reestablish our baseline in 2020 and continue to investigate areas of opportunity for GHG reductions.
|Scope 1 (in MT CO2e)||2019||2018||2017||2016|
|Scope 2 (in MT CO2e)||2019||2018||2017||2016|
|Scope 1 and Scope 2 (MT CO2e)||2019||2018||2017||2016|
At Koppers, we recognize the potential environmental impact of our operations and we are committed to the continual improvement of effective environmental management at all worldwide locations. Our Responsible Care® Management System and our goal of Zero Harm, while demanding, drives and focuses our efforts to improve our environmental performance. All environmental incidents are investigated, causes determined and appropriate corrective measures implemented with the goal of preventing recurrence.
We are proud of our efforts to limit total reportable releases to a level as low as possible, while simultaneously acknowledging we must continue working towards our goal of Zero.
*Reportable releases are those uncontained releases of specific chemicals and/or quantities of chemicals that require reporting to a federal, state or local regulatory agency.
Water Permit Limit Exceedance
Our employees are driven and focused on safe and efficient operations that protect our water resources. We are committed to complying with discharge limits and implementing best management practices as well as investigating and implementing appropriate control technologies to minimize the impacts of our water discharges. In 2019, 6 of the 12 permit exceedances in North America were the result of one upset event. Upset events are abnormal occurrences such as erroneous pumping of material into the system or failure of one or more automated feed systems for nutrients, air, or chemical additives, that have an adverse impact on the wastewater treatment system and may result in the discharge of pollutants above permit limits.
Our energy consumption increased due to the acquisitions described above that were omitted from last year’s report. The table below reflects adjusted 2018 and total 2019 energy consumption. Koppers plans to reestablish our baseline in 2020 and continue to investigate areas of opportunity for energy reductions such as renewable sourcing, alternative fuels and increased efficiencies.