09/06/2021 - Environment
by Corinne Willecomme
Sustainable Development at Vallourec started many years ago. Today, our Group wants to further accelerate, to go beyond and foster awareness among all employees to embrace Sustainable Development at every level of the company. This is the mission my team and I have been entrusted with: driving sustainability programs across Vallourec’s worldwide business while embarking on the next stage of our journey. These include reinforcing our efforts towards greater environmental and social responsibility as well as health and safety schemes.
A journey that began 13 years ago
It is important to remember that Vallourec took its first steps on the path to sustainability back in 2008. It all began with our GreenHouse* project, and we have continued by finding ways to reduce our energy consumption during production and rethinking our supply routes.
This longstanding commitment was strengthened in 2018 with the creation of our Corporate Social Responsibility committee. This is held by members of the Supervisory Board, demonstrating the importance and involvement at the highest level of our company. It has been maintained despite changes in our governance during the years following its creation.
Our efforts to date have been recognized: in extra-financial assessments performed by external agencies, we have consistently rated among the top companies for Environmental, Social and Governance responsibility for years now. We have also made significant efforts to improve the wellbeing and safety of employees.
Firm commitments in place
Our industry has a significant environmental footprint, and collectively, we know we have a lot of work to do to cut our emissions and reduce our impact.
Vallourec has set ambitious goals. We are in line with the Paris Agreement to keep global warming “well below 2°C” by reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% by 2025 compared to 2017. This ambition was validated by SBTi (Science-Based Targets initiative) in May 2020.
We are working to address all three scopes of GHG emissions as defined by the GHG Protocol: our own, direct emissions, emissions generated from the energy we purchase and indirect emissions generated by both suppliers and customers.
In terms of social responsibility, we are working with our suppliers to ensure we select only partners with exemplary human rights records.
We are in a period of intense change, and for businesses to survive and thrive, we have to evolve along with the increasingly high expectations of our consumers and stakeholders. Again, this is not new for Vallourec: we have long been aware of the need to prioritize sustainability.
An excellent example of the way in which Vallourec is ahead of the curve years is our integrated business in Brazil, where we manage a Vallourec-owned forest in a sustainable way to produce our own charcoal for use in the steel production process.
Building on our past progress
Our work so far has yielded results of which we are rightly proud. Through our GreenHouse project we managed to reduce our energy consumption by 17% in 12 years. In 2020, 46% of our energy came from renewable sources, and 88% of our energy was low carbon including renewables and nuclear.
To reduce our impact even more we have implemented a number of actions. These include applying an internal carbon price of 40€/ton (increased to €80 as of July 1) to take into consideration the importance of environmental impact in the investment decisions we make. In the US, we have achieved carbon-free power certification, which guarantees that the company buys low-carbon electricity thus helping to reduce footprint of the tubes produced locally, thereby reducing our scope 2 emissions.
We are also taking steps towards building a circular economy business model. For example, 97% of our waste is recovered, with 90% of our industrial plastic waste recycled or reused, and we are collaborating with suppliers to reduce their use of packaging. We are also looking for ways to increase recovery and use of rainwater, for example through the construction of a reservoir in Brazil and through the diversion of water in the US. Currently, 8% of our water requirement is supplied by the rain.
Vallourec takes a holistic approach to sustainable development and, in 2020 undertook comprehensive lifecycle assessments to assess our global footprint and identify opportunities for improvement. Our product lifecycle assessment resulted in an Environmental Product Declaration of 1.661 ton of CO2 per ton of tubes produced and the carbon footprint of our products is now certified ISO 14025 and EN 15804+A1.
The road yet to travel
To maintain the momentum we have achieved, in 2020 Vallourec relaunched the materiality analysis first performed in 2016. The project was put in place to ensure we understand our stakeholders’ priorities and can align our actions accordingly. Based on the results of that analysis, we are now creating a next-steps roadmap, due to be completed this year.
We are also facing the challenge of raising employee awareness around sustainable development issues. Certain topics are top-of-mind for our management team but rank lower among employees. That’s why we are looking to create a series of internal events, including our recurring "Sustainability Journey" webcasts, to onboard as many people as possible and identify ambassadors.
With a committed management team and supervisory board, demanding and aware stakeholders, and a talented staff, Vallourec is poised and ready to embark upon the next leg of our journey to sustainability. We have worked hard to ensure we have all the information and resources we need to meet and even exceed our 2025 goals. Moving forward, we will be seeking even greater alignment with all our sustainability objectives across the company, and looking to develop our ambitions even further, particularly in terms of social responsibility. The world is changing, and we are changing with it.
* The objective of the GreenHouse project was to reduce total gas and power consumption by 20% by 2020, for an equivalent scope, product mix and level of activity, using 2008 as the reference year
Corinne Willecomme has been Sustainable Development Group Director since February 1st, 2021. After starting her career at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston-MA, USA, where she worked in the retail department, she joined Carrefour in 2003 to work in direct, then indirect sourcing. Corinne joined Vallourec in 2010 as Sourcing Governance, Performance and Process Group Director. Corinne holds a Master’s degree in Sourcing and Supply Chain from Skema Business School.