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Imerys recognizes global employees through sustainability challenge

This year’s Sustainable Development Challenge highlighted the commitment and creativity of employees to make a difference to their local communities or reduce their impact on the environment.


Imerys’ annual Sustainable Development Challenge (SD Challenge) has inspired employees across more than 30 countries to unlock the sustainable potential of minerals and empower each other to make a positive difference.

For the 19th edition of this competition, in which any of Imerys’ 250 sites can nominate a sustainability project they have rolled out, 429 initiatives were submitted, compared with 343 in 2021. This increase demonstrates the growing appetite of Imerys colleagues to add meaningful value in their communities. The submissions were global, coming from across more than 30 countries. 

Each initiative is submitted under one of nine categories, all of which aim to celebrate Imerys’ core values. The most popular category was Environmental Management, which contained one fifth of all submissions. 

From across all business areas, 137 internal experts formed a shortlist of the best entries. These were then judged by a jury of members of the Executive Committee and other senior leaders from across the business. For each of the nine categories, one winner and two runners-up was recognized – 27 initiatives in total.

The level of engagement with the SD Challenge in 2022 is incredibly rewarding, and is key to Imerys’ legacy. The time, energy and creativity invested by the winners drive the company forward, helping Imerys unlock better futures.


And the winners are:


Category: Talent & Skills Management

Country: United Kingdom

Talent and skill management is more than just training and career development: it is a means for Imerys employees to continuously evolve. 

To enhance operational excellence and recognize and empower employees, an initiative called I-Suggest allows employees to formally submit safety, savings or any improvement idea.

This initiative was introduced in the UK Hub site. Not only did it cost nothing, but since its launch in 2022, 136 suggestions have been made, with £224,000 of savings identified and 27 safety improvements implemented.


Category: Diversity & Inclusion

Country: USA

At Imerys, having diverse and inclusive teams is consistent with the Group’s values, as well as being good for business.

The Roswell site in Imerys’ Performance Minerals business area co-ordinated a two-and-a-half-day Women Breaking Barriers event. This followed on from a Group-wide campaign on gender diversity, and aimed to bring together female employees for an in-person networking and collaboration conference.

The event was attended by 40 women. It was so successful that three additional events have been planned. 



Category: Environmental Management

Country: USA

Group-wide, all employees share responsibility for protecting water, a natural resource that is precious now and will continue to be in the future.

The Wild Strawberries initiative, from the Norfolk site in the USA, aims to establish a self-sustaining vegetative ground cover on the storm water drainage ditch embankment. This will control erosion sediments into the Elizabeth River, eliminate the need for personnel to be on a hazardous walking surface, and provide food and habitation for animals.

Since this initiative started in 2006, new storm lines and concrete retaining walls have been installed. Most recently, 400 wild strawberry plants were placed. 


Category: Natural Resources Efficiency

Country: India

Imerys is striving to use the world’s resources as efficiently and responsibly as possible.

However, mining and calcination of aggregates from mines require pyro processing and fuel consumption, which leads to CO2 emissions. Developed in Imerys’ Katni site, the Mission Mineral Conservation initiative led to the replacement of over 23% of virgin raw materials, overcoming a fuel availability challenge and ultimately delivering a more sustainable product. 



Category: Biodiversity & Ecological Land Restoration

Country: Greece

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

To this aim, Imerys operations apply specific practices that protect the environment and promote sustainable development – and the Fokida site’s Rehabilitation Project is part of this.

Since 2017, €2 million has been invested, resulting in 60,000 plants in the nursery, 150 acres returned to forest authority and connection to key stakeholders.



Category: Climate Change Strategy

Region: Group-wide

Playing a part in combating climate change is fundamental to the long-term future of Imerys’ business.

To raise awareness, enhance participation of everyone and tackle it together, Imerys’ Refractory, Abrasives & Construction (RAC) business area launched an internal challenge. 

The RAC Idle Running Reduction Challenge started in 2021 and, thanks to an outstanding 92% participation rate from sites, has since avoided thousands of tons of CO2 emissions while also saving €800,000 for a full year. 


Category: Fair Operating Practices & Responsible Purchasing

Country: France

In today’s world of complex and integrated value chains, the relationships Imerys has with its suppliers is more critical than ever.

Because of this, the Diatomaceous earth operation located in Murat decided to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) from a local supplier, instead of a bigger supplier located further away from the site. ESAT ADAPEI was shortlisted based on the quality of the products, the short distance to the plant and their dedication to the professional development of people with disabilities.

PPE Inclusive Project has so far reduced 1,800kg of CO2 per year, by minimizing transportation distance, promoting inclusion and increasing local contracts. 



Category: Community Engagement

Country: India

Effective community engagement is an essential part of being a sustainable business. 

The aim of Mission Urja was to generate and distribute clean electricity to 50 tribal families in Velhe village, by using a nearby waterfall and generating at least 70,000 kKWh per year for usage from June 2022. The project improved the local living conditions, and contributed to safety, education and business employment opportunities.

Hydropower, generated through the waterfall, was selected after comparison with solar and wind power, because of its better capacity utilization factor (the ratio of the annual output of a plant versus installed plant capacity).

So far, the €12,000 investment has led to 61,600 kWh per year being generated. In addition, a carbon emission study has been carried out to calculate the carbon credits.

SD Challenge Mission Urja

While this project in India was the winner in the Community Engagement category, one other entry caught the judges’ attention.

Imerys extracts mica from its suzorite mica quarry, close to the First Nations community Atikamekw of Wemotaci. As such, the Imerys Canada site and the community signed a Development Agreement that will be in force for the entire life of the mine.

This framework outlines Imerys’ long-term social commitment to maximize positive economic repercussions for the local community and ensure public safety. As part of the agreement, Imerys will grant financial contributions to the community and take action regarding employment opportunities for the community members.

This work gained a special mention from the SD Challenge jury for the team's ability to transform the relationship with the First Nations community from one of opposition to one of constructive and respectful collaboration, with clear benefits for the community and for Imerys.


Category: Product Sustainability

Country: France

If Imerys wants to remain an industry leader, it needs to understand and anticipate market-driven sustainability needs.

As such, Imerys has developed a more sustainable solution than the polymer-based industry standard to protect wastewater assets exposed to H2S biogenic corrosion. SEWPER® Liner for H2S corrosion protection of new wastewater assets is a 100% mineral solution that offers a much longer service life and a reduced environmental footprint – and at a competitive price. 


Formulated in the Imerys Technology Center in Lyon, this initiative started in 2018 and, as a new product, SEWPER® Liner required significant financial investment and the expertise of many Imerys scientists. A complete comparative life cycle assessment, validated by an external expert panel, shows a significantly lower environmental impact than the polymer industry standard. Imerys carried out an in-depth year-long comparison with the most commonly used alternative, BPA epoxy resin, and found many clear environmental advantages to using mineral solutions to protect mineral assets. 

The study concluded that, as a result of superior durability and a reduction in waste generated, Sewper® Liner scored better on all impact categories, including greenhouse gas emissions, primary energy consumption, air acidification and water consumption. It also shows reduced human and environmental exposure to harmful and/or toxic substances, as BPA is an endocrine disruptor and contains VOC.

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