Corporate news

Imerys launches a transparent and understandable approach to sustainable minerals

Where do our mineral raw materials come from? How have they been produced and processed? What impact does their production have on the environment and society? Which sustainable benefits do they bring to the downstream value chain? The newly launched Imerys SustainAgility™ Solutions Assessment framework provides a transparent, straightforward approach to mineral sustainability.

Milos - Pioneer Solutions

For industrial players today, sustainability of resources is a strategic element of their own commercial and compliance agendas for which they need clear and standardized information. As the leader in mineral-based specialty solutions for the industry​, Imerys is wholly aware, and conscious, of its environmental impact and the responsibilities that it brings. As such, Imerys is directly meeting the ambition of its customers to proactively be more sustainable rather than simply meeting regulatory requirements.

Taking an important step forward with a tried and true methodology

Imerys’ goal was simple: to map the sustainable potential of its portfolio by ranking product ingredients against established sustainability criteria. This portfolio assessment and development would allow for smarter business and investment decisions and would be able to directly respond to customers’ sustainability requests and needs regarding the impact of Imerys products on their value chains. Following this, the methodology would also raise awareness and educate. It is out of these ambitions that the Imerys SustainAgility™ Solutions Assessment framework (SSA) was born. 

Through a clearly defined 5-step process designed to quantify the impact and the benefits of individual Imerys products, from extraction to end of life, the framework also differentiates solutions from others available in the Imerys portfolio.

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Imerys SustainAgility Solutions Assessment 5-step process

The SustainAgility™ Solutions Assessment framework in action

  • The first two steps of the assessment framework are the Scope Definition & Portfolio Segmentation. These aim to assess products and solutions in a given (or specific) application from a full life cycle assessment perspective.
  • Following this, the next step is Sustainable Value Creation and the attribution of an Ecoprofile, which takes a large number of indicators into account and the various impacts during the full life cycle of the product. 
  • This is then followed by the Market Alignment assessment, where products are analyzed in their end-use application to understand their absolute and relative sustainability performance. 
  • Last but not least, an overview rating, from "Learner" to "Pioneer", the highest score (more details below later!), is associated to the Product in Application Combination. This allows customers to get the relevant information and a mapping of the portfolio with regards to sustainability and market criteria.
  • It is only once the process is complete that we consider that the product or solution has been through the SustainAgility™ Solutions Assessment.

Aligned with the globally applicable World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) framework, the SSA takes a robust, scientific and fully auditable approach that is based on both qualitative and quantitative indicators from Imerys operations and suppliers, as well as publicly available research and feedback from key stakeholders and market players. A product is deemed to have a positive, negative or neutral impact depending on the balance between sustainable value during the use phase and the environmental impacts of mining and manufacturing. Each family of products is assessed by different internal and external experts together with a dedicated in-house team that contributes to improving and reinforcing assessment methodology throughout the supply chain. This team makes product assessments with regards to competitive solutions available on the market to help steer the entire portfolio in the right direction. 

Operationally, the SSA is treated with the same rigor as all Imerys internal processes,” explains Emmanuelle Henry-Lanier, Imerys Product Sustainability Director, “a clearly established process, a systematic approach, reviewed by experts on a yearly basis. It covers all business activities, directly addresses sustainability megatrends, is market-focused and wholly customer-centric. Strategically, the SSA represents a new defining chapter for how we do business, not just for Imerys but also for the industry as a whole.”

Ambition and responsibility: a Pioneer certificate for sustainable excellence

How can companies be absolutely sure they are using the most responsible product to suit their needs? The Pioneer certificate clearly denotes a product in a given application providing the highest social and environmental contribution to the downstream value chain, while demonstrating a low environmental impact in its production phase compared to its economic value. These highest-ranking certificates are not given out so easily, they represent the pride of Imerys’ sustainable innovation and are just the beginning of many fine things to come.

Pioneering product example: Barrikote™

SustainAgility Solutions - Pioneer logo

What does a Pioneer certified product look like, and what makes it so sustainable? Barrikote is an innovative water-based barrier solution for paper and cardboard that is easily recyclable and a great alternative to single-use plastic. It directly addresses the problem faced by paper takeaway cups today where less than 1% are actually recyclable because of prominent use of plastic waterproof coating on the insides. Barrikote was certified as a Pioneer product because it is a sustainable alternative to plastics for food packaging barrier solution, it is 50–60% less rejected in recycling facilities compared to polyethylene and is strongly aligned with increasingly stringent regulations regarding single-use plastics.

SustainAgility Solutions report
SustainAgility Solutions - Pioneer logo

Imerys SustainAgility™ Solutions: a commitment for the future

The SustainAgility story is still being written. Over the next few years, teams will be reviewing the entire product portfolio of over 500 products in application combinations according to the SSA’s rigorous process. Currently, about 22% of the existing portfolio has been evaluated for its sustainable potential, with the goal for end of the year being 40%. Furthermore, by the end of 2022, Imerys has committed to ensure that 50% of all new products launched should be rated in the top 2 categories based on the SustainAgility Solutions Assessment methodology

If you want your sustainability measures to have a real lasting impact on the industry, you have to go all-in,” details Leah Wilson, our Sustainability Vice President, “SustainAgility is being  embedded into the DNA of the Group, it anchors sustainability in the heart of our strategy, involves everyone, and further solidifies Imerys’ place as the industry leader.”

Looking for more?

The dialogue over how best to address sustainability concerns is very much alive at Imerys. Recently, Imerys gathered several stakeholders from both industry and the press during a LinkedIn event to discuss how businesses should engage the full supply chain to further improve the sustainability of their operations, including the minerals and raw materials used.

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