Koppers is committed to being a positive steward of the environment across our global operations. Beyond meeting regulatory requirements,we reduce our environmental footprint and create circular solutions that conserve resources. We are also committed to participating in the fight against climate change, both through our actions to increase our resilience to potential impacts and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Our four Planet-focused FAST Teams work to reduce our environmental impact and increase our resilience through emissions reductions, natural disaster preparedness, resource efficiency, energy use reduction and sound environmental management.
Team Summary: Decrease our Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions. Evaluate facility exposure to climate-related impacts and make appropriate improvements. Identify, support and partner with local and state emergency management associations and communities.
“The Climate Action FAST Team works toward achieving carbon neutrality in product lifecycle emissions by reducing our carbon footprint across the globe. We are also working toward improving our adaptive capacity to climate change and helping the communities we operate in do the same. Our goals not only drive robust facility operation, but also contribute to the societal goal of a net-zero economy. Our climate-related work is critically important as we work to preserve the planet and resources for future generations and sustain Koppers success as a global company.”
— Natalie Hinkle, Climate Action FAST Team Leader
Team Summary: Identify improvement areas for resource efficiency within our processes to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation.
“Our Efficiency and Economic Growth FAST Team prioritized two goals for initial investigation: optimizing our treating process through improved cycle times and efficient use of preservatives; and reducing our generation of off-spec products. Achieving these goals will allow us to more efficiently utilize the Earth’s limited resources, leading to better performance for our shareholders and reducing our impact on the environment.”
— Cliff Schademan, Efficiency and Economic Growth FAST Team Leader
UN SDG Focus: Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
Team Summary: Identify opportunity areas and develop relevant actions to substantially increase the share of renewable energy in our energy mix, evaluate and increase our rate of energy efficiency improvement, implement energy management systems at our manufacturing facilities, expand energy infrastructure and upgrade energy-related technologies.
“The Energy FAST team works to demonstrate how Koppers is reducing enterprise-wide energy consumption, utilizing renewable resources, improving electrical safety in our organization, supporting energy innovation and providing energy infrastructure. By driving energy improvements like these, we will have positively impacted our employees, the planet and our performance as a company.”
— Tim Shannon, Energy FAST Team Leader
UN SDG Focus: Goal 7 Affordable and Clean Energy
Team Summary: Identify opportunity areas to develop and implement actions to improve upon environmentally sound management of wastes, reduce releases to water and soil, sustainably manage and efficiently use water and reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.
“As the world becomes more proactive in addressing humanity’s environmental impacts, it is imperative for businesses to evaluate their processes, rethink the ways they do business and take advantage of opportunities to reduce their environmental footprint. Our Environmental Stewardship FAST Team works to set a foundation for Koppers actions to better understand which of our processes generate waste, how we manage waste and what we can do to eliminate or minimize waste. We are also developing goals and plans focused on the elimination of potential environmental impacts from wastewater discharges and stormwater run-off.”
— Kevin Rapsack, Environmental Stewardship FAST Team Leader
UN SDG Focus: Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
Across our operations and value chain, we pursue innovative solutions that enable Sustainability and contribute to the circular economy. Our business model is by nature circular, structured on the reuse of waste and scrap materials to drive our production of railroad ties and utility poles. We also utilize renewable resources as raw materials in our production process.
Circularity at Koppers starts with our choice of raw materials. The Performance Chemicals business unit uses scrap and recycled copper to produce wood preservatives. Our Utility Products business strives to source its wood from sustainably managed forests. Our Carbon Materials and Chemicals business uses coal tar, a by-product generated during the production of coke for use in steelmaking, to create wood preservatives, carbon pitch and refined chemicals. By making products from coal tar, we reduce the disposal of the substance, thus enabling a more sustainable lifecycle.
Of all of the products we make from coal tar, creosote is central to our circular economy efforts due to its use as a wood preservative. Using creosote, we treat railroad ties and utility poles to extend their useful life by up to 40 years. By doing so, we reduce the harvesting of trees, preserving natural carbon stores and increasing the reliability of wood products for industry. Extending the useful life of railroad ties and utility poles carries the additional circular benefit of retaining carbon captured in the wood through photosynthesis and preventing its release to the atmosphere.
When a railroad tie or utility pole reaches the end-of-life stage, Koppers Recovery Resources (KRR) offers product recovery services that convert wood into biomass fuel, which KRR sells to industrial boilers that produce power for industrial facilities. By converting the wood products into biomass fuel, KRR produces a circular energy solution that removes wood from landfill waste streams. Additionally, KRR offers wood waste recycling where utility poles and railroad ties are reused as agricultural or building materials in applications such as fence posts, retaining walls and pole barns.
In 2020, KRR collected over 2.4 million railroad ties, of which 2.1 million were converted to fuel and 230,000 resold for landscaping. Our Utility and Industrial Products (UIP) business unit collected over 21 million pounds of utility poles, equal to over 19,000 individual poles.
Our Efficiency and Economic Growth FAST Team is optimizing resource and process efficiency in our production operations. By doing so, we aim to decouple our economic growth from our environmental impact as specified in UN SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth. By increasing resource efficiency, we can more economically produce our products and reduce waste by-products. To realize efficiency benefits, the FAST Team is evaluating the resource efficiency data tracked across our business units. From the findings of their evaluation, the FAST Team will establish metrics for resource usage to identify where we are increasing efficiency and where we can improve.
At Koppers, we strive to go above and beyond environmental compliance regulations. Our efforts are based on the centrality of environmental protection to the well-being of our employees, communities and the natural world on which we all depend. Our work to operate responsibly also drives cost savings across our business. By focusing on effective environmental management in our processes, we can more efficiently use inputs for our products, lowering costs.
We highlight the critical importance of environmental and regulatory compliance in our operations by positioning it as a core tenet of our Zero Harm culture and our Safety, Health and Environmental (SHE) Policy. Our governance is ultimately driven by our Board of Directors and its Sustainability Committee, which review our programs and performance related to environmental compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The Committee also follows significant legislative and regulatory trends related to the environment that might affect our business.
Our Zero Harm Councils at the executive, business unit and facility levels govern compliance and are responsible for implementing our SHE Policy across our operations. The executive Zero Harm Council defines our approach to compliance and sets the tone for going beyond requirements. At the business unit and facility levels, Zero Harm managers oversee day-to-day compliance management. In many of our more complex facilities, we have a Zero Harm manager solely focused on environmental performance and compliance, and a separate Zero Harm manager focused on safety activities. Beyond the Zero Harm councils, our corporate Zero Harm department works to coordinate our compliance approach across all levels of Koppers and ensure we meet our Zero Harm commitment.
Outside our environmental and regulatory compliance governance structure, we also manage compliance through several internationally recognized certifications for environmental responsibility, safety and health.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) Responsible Care® program is an integrated, structured approach for chemical companies to enhance their performance in regard to: community awareness and emergency response; security; distribution; employee health and safety; pollution prevention; and process and product safety. As an ACC member and Responsible Care® signatory, Koppers commits to following the ACC Responsible CareŽ Guiding Principles and conforming to the RC14001:2015 Technical Specification. Through Koppers participation in Responsible Care®, we work to identify and evaluate hazards and risks associated with our operations and establish objectives to address them. We then work to accomplish the objectives, evaluate our progress and make changes to improve based on our evaluation, where necessary.
In addition to our own conformance with Responsible Care®, we work with many of our contractors to ensure they are qualified and conformant under the program. During our contractor prequalification evaluation, we review contractors’ performance to specific safety, health and environmental criteria. Those contractors who do not meet our qualification criteria may be conditionally qualified with the understanding that Koppers and the contractor will develop an appropriate improvement plan. We also conduct periodic contractor observations and evaluations to ensure contractor performance is maintained.
Building our resilience
We acknowledge the realities of climate change and recognize our business is not immune to physical or transition impacts related to this global issue. In our efforts to be responsible corporate citizens, few topics are more intertwined across our Sustainability pillars of People, Planet, Performance than climate change. Climate change is likely to affect almost every facet of our company, including potential impacts on the health and wellness of our employees, implications for how our facilities operate, sourcing of our raw materials, and impacts on our customers’ use of our products.
To decrease our exposure and build our resilience to climate change, we created our Climate Action FAST Team, bringing together a global group of representatives from our Zero Harm, logistics, operations and risk functions. The Team's purpose is twofold: evaluating and strengthening our facilities' resilience regarding climate-related hazards and developing measures to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. For climate-related impacts, the Team is first evaluating which of our facilities are most exposed to potential risks. From their evaluation, they will develop improvement plans to reduce exposure and increase resilience, update emergency response procedures in relation to climate hazards, and partner with local and state emergency associations.
The Team is also finalizing Scope 1 and 2 emissions baselines for all our operations and developing a Scope 3 emissions baseline for a portion of our operations. Once we finalize our baselines, we will construct a framework from which to manage and reduce our emissions through targeted goals.
Another way we aim to reduce climate change risk and subsequently maximize stakeholder value is through our circular economy business approach. Our approach focuses on extending the lifecycle of wood products through wood preservative technologies. By lengthening wood product lifecycles, we in turn prevent carbon sequestered in the wood from being released to the atmosphere and contributing to climate change, thus helping our facilities and customers limit their emissions.
Koppers greenhouse gas emissions decreased in 2020 as a result of various factors. Over the past year, our plants in Follansbee, West Virginia, and Denver, Colorado, ceased operations and closed, reducing emissions that would have otherwise occurred if the plants were operational. Natural gas usage at our Stickney, Illinois, plant decreased in 2020, a decrease made more impactful by the plant being our largest greenhouse gas emissions source. We also decided to omit emissions from our China operations, which we sold in September 2020, from our emissions totals.
|Scope 1 (in MTCO2e)||2020||2019||2018|
|Scope 2 (in MTCO2e)||2020||2019||2018|
|Scope 1 and 2 (inMT CO2e)||2020||2019||2018|
*We sold our business in China in 2020 and, as a result, do not have 2020 greenhouse gas emissions data for the business.
At Koppers, we understand our operations can and do impact the environment. Accordingly, we strive to reduce our impact through effective environmental management across our global footprint.
Our RC14001® Management System and our Zero Harm goal drive our pursuit of responsible operation. Twenty Koppers facilities in Australia, Canada, Denmark and the U.S. are certified by Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance to the RC14001:2015 Technical Specification, which combines Responsible Care® and ISO 14001 into a comprehensive management system encompassing safety, health, environment and security. Combined with RC14001, our Zero Harm to the environment goal enables us to better our environmental management and thus increase environmental benefits and lower our operating costs.
Recently, we created our Environmental Stewardship FAST Team to bolster our commitment to environmental management. To ensure their work covers all facets of our business, the Team brings together people from across Koppers, including from our Global Process Excellence, Zero Harm, Logistics, Innovation, Compliance and Sales functions. The Team is initially working to identify areas where we can develop and implement actions to reduce our environmental impact. Their efforts are aimed at four key environmental issues: effectively managing all Koppers waste streams, reducing Koppers releases to water and soil, sustainably managing Koppers water usage, and reducing Koppers waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. Overall, the Team’s actions will drive cost savings, increase the Sustainability of our operations, reduce noncompliance events and reduce our environmental impact.
As a strategic partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, the Stickney, Illinois, team began a phytoremediation project at a barge and rail shipping terminal Koppers leases from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
Phytoremediation uses plants like willows, grasses and native species with long root systems, including certain hardwood species suitable to the local climate, to help improve soil quality. The roots of the plants take in water and nutrients from the surrounding soil, sediment or groundwater, storing contaminants in their roots, stems and leaves. The hardwoods showed growth throughout 2020, and over the course of the project, we will determine whether the extensive root system of the hardwoods enhances the remediation process.
To ensure our employees understand how best to prevent and manage reportable releases we employ spill response plans at all of our facilities. Our plans outline what employees should do to prevent releases from occurring and the actions they should take to ensure health and safety and limit environmental impacts should a reportable release occur. Additionally, our facilities train employees annually, conduct simulated drills and connect with the local emergency response agencies to ensure coordinated responses when required.
|Number of Reportable Releases||2020||2019||2018|
|Volume of Reportable Releases||2020||2019||2018|
We are committed to protecting the water resources near our operations and ensuring our water discharges are well within compliance limits. One upset event can trigger multiple permit limit exceedances. As such, the number of permit limit exceedances for any given year does not represent the number of upset events. We employ best management practices to ensure the effective operation of our discharge control technologies. We utilize a comprehensive water-discharge treatment process at our planets.
In many cases, discharges are treated by a Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW). These dual water protection layers ensure that our permit limit exceedances do not ultimately impact public waterways.
|Number of Water Permit Limit Exceedances||2020||2019||2018|
We make every effort to reduce our energy consumption throughout our operations through efficiency measures, alternative fuel usage and renewables sourcing. Our emphasis on energy consumption brings dual benefits. First, by reducing our consumption, we can subsequently reduce our environmental impact and our greenhouse gas emissions. Second, our energy sourcing costs decrease when using less energy, thereby enabling us to increase the financial efficiency of our operations.
We created our Energy FAST Team in 2020 to pursue innovative measures to reduce energy consumption now and in the future. Bringing together engineering resources from across Koppers global footprint, the Team aims to increase energy efficiency, scale up renewable energy use and support energy infrastructure. The Energy FAST Team is also assessing the potential implementation of energy management systems in our facilities to help us further reduce our energy consumption and increase cost savings.
|Energy Consumption (gigajoules)||2020||2019||2018|