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December 21, 2021

Sustainable initiatives recognized in global Imerys competition

Imerys colleagues around the world have shown that their passion for sustainability and motivation to make a difference in their communities is getting stronger year by year.

SD Challenge

Imerys’ annual global competition, the Sustainable Development Challenge (SD Challenge), gives employees from all Imerys sites the opportunity to share initiatives linked to the Group’s core environmental and social commitments – and this year saw the most projects entered in the SD Challenge’s 17-year history.

97 experts from different functions (D&I; HR; Environment; Purchasing; Product Stewardship; etc.) and regions create a shortlist of the best entries, which are then judged by a jury comprising members of the Executive Committee and other senior leaders from across the business. For the first time, the Jury also included an external expert Santiago Forero, a biodiversity specialist at the French National Museum of Natural History, who voted on all the biodiversity finalists. The initiatives are selected based on criteria including ability to create positive impacts for both Imerys and the environment and society over the long term; evidence of sustainability-driven innovation; and the degree to which they take into account the local context.

There were 343 projects submitted in 2021 – more than last year’s 216, which was itself a record. “This shows the increasing importance our teams place on embedding sustainable thinking into every aspect of our business. They are focused on adding value for our people, our local communities and our ecosystems,” says Leah Wilson, Sustainability Vice President. “It is particularly impressive given the ongoing disruption our sites have faced throughout the pandemic. More than one-third of entries were in the Environmental Management or Climate Change Strategy categories, highlighting how our colleagues continue to build resilience into our business.” 

The results showed the global nature of the challenge, with the shortlist of 27 initiatives representing France, UK, Switzerland, Denmark, China, Brazil, Mexico, India, South Africa and USA.

And the winners are:

Category: Talent & Skills Management
Country: UK 

Work is an important part of our daily lives and where we spend much of our time, and this is why supporting our colleagues with their physical and mental health is a commitment we take seriously. 

Across the UK, our teams created and delivered a structured wellbeing program that is inclusive of all employees. This support has been critical as our workforce faced the extraordinary challenges related to the pandemic.

Category: Diversity & Inclusion
Country: China

Employing diverse and inclusive teams is good for business – for innovation, engagement and collaboration. We want our employees to feel valued, equal and supported

In Shawen, China, our teams organized a series of activities focusing on ethnic diversity. The aim of Minority Culture Day was to raise awareness of other cultures, and foster an inclusive environment based on mutual respect and dignity.

Category: Environmental Management
Country: China

Imerys is committed to reducing the impact of our operations on natural habitats, local ecosystems, water resources and air quality. 

In Zhejiang, China, our team took a number of actions to further reduce the risk that waste from ships supplying the zirconia plant might pollute the waterway; these included shipping pollutant collection, dock upgrade, wastewater online monitoring, and environmental protection training and awareness campaign for employees, suppliers and the local community. 

Category: Natural Resource Efficiency
Country: South Africa

At Imerys, we strive to use the world’s resources efficiently and responsibly through smart production methods, optimizing the use of mineral deposits, reducing water consumption and exploring ways to create a more sustainable and circular value chain. 

In Thabazimbi, South Africa, we are now saving 500,000m3 of water every year thanks to the implementation of a thickener that allows our andalusite mine to directly recycle water and send dense slimes with lower water content to the quarry.

Category: Biodiversity and ecological land restoration
Country: France

Imerys is committed to minimising the impact of our operations on biodiversity and to implementing a comprehensive biodiversity improvement plan to preserve and restore nature. 

Our goal is no net loss of biodiversity. 

As part of the rehabilitation of a quarry at Murat in France, we have created a wetland that serves as a nesting area for multiple species, such as migratory birds, and a home to mammals. 

Category: Climate Change Strategy
Country: USA 

Helping to combat climate change is fundamental to the long-term future of our business and industry, and creates exciting opportunities for us to think innovatively about how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Our Andersonville plant in the USA is making good use of local biomass waste, having started installing infrastructure and converting four of six kilns to use an energy mix of 80% ground peanut hulls and 20% natural gas, replacing a fossil energy mix which included 47% coal. When fully completed this project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 103 ktCO2e/year.

Category: Fair Operating Practices & Responsible Purchasing
Country: UK

Imerys is committed to exemplary business conduct across all its operations. This includes working with partners who share our commitments to being a sustainable and responsible business. 

In the UK, we have changed our waste-handling suppliers, focusing on identifying partners able to recycle and create opportunities to use waste as an energy source thereby reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills. As part of this initiative, we are collecting more insightful data that will help us continue to find new alternatives.

Category: Community Engagement
Country: Brazil

Community engagement is an essential part of being a sustainable business. Our teams around the world play a key role in their communities to help address local economic and social challenges and create lasting, positive impacts. 

In Brazil, our Capim plant’s Sustainable Entrepreneurship Project offers practical help to women in the community who make furniture from pallets to turn these items into marketable products, generating new income options for the families involved.

Category: Product Sustainability
Country: UK

Responding to our customers’ changing needs for solutions with lower environmental footprints is a priority for us at Imerys. 

At our Imerys Technology Center in the UK, we developed an innovative, patented circular economy solution. Used for pigments for paper and board, Imerloop allows customers to reintroduce the excess of calcium carbonate instead of disposing of it. The project uses a post-industrial by-product from the pulp industry to replace virgin mined chalk and marble.

Category: Arts for Biodiversity
5 winners in different categories

Raising awareness on biodiversity is one of Imerys’ commitments as part of its membership of act4nature. We place a firm focus on restoring biodiversity, preserving natural habitats and minimising disruption in the areas where we work

As such, this year, we included a special Arts for Biodiversity category in our SD Challenge. For this, employees and contractors and their children were asked to visually capture the wonder of the biological and natural heritage of Imerys’ quarries, sites, laboratories and offices or produce drawings that reflect on nature in general, or environmental and biodiversity protection. More than 500 photographs by Imerys employees and subcontractors and drawings by their children, grandchildren and stepchildren, were submitted, with winners in five categories selected.

Biodiversity on site - Almeria, Mexico
Biodiversity on site - Ranong, Thailand
Arts for Biodiversity - Nagpur, India
Arts for Biodiversity - Durgapur, India
Arts for Biodiversity - China
Arts for Biodiversity - UK
Arts for Biodiversity - Ukraine
Arts for Biodiversity - India
Arts for Biodiversity - India

Santiago Forero, a biodiversity specialist at the French National Museum of Natural History, and one of the members of the Arts for Biodiversity jury, says: “Not only were the different drawings and pictures beautifully executed, but they were also quite inspiring. By encouraging employees and their families to reflect on our interactions with nature and our impacts, as well as the solutions we can provide, this kind of initiative will play a part in building environmentally conscious citizens engaged in the preservation of our planet.”

In recognition of the involvement of the people who made the SD Challenge 2021 contest possible – each participant, coordinator, expert and jury member – 2,000 trees were planted through the Reforest’Action initiative.

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