Sustainable Raw Material Supply and Extraction
Continuous monitoring of long-term availability of raw materials
Long-term availability of raw materials is a crucial aspect of sustainability for Wienerberger. To mitigate the risk of potential shortages, Wienerberger pursues various strategies, such as an increase in raw material efficiency (reduction of losses and waste), increased recycling, early identification of possible shortages, and the diversification of sources of supply. In 2013, for example, Clay Building Materials Europe developed a plan of action to secure strategic raw material supplies for the coming 20 years. In 2014, a risk analysis covering all clay extraction sites was begun, from which further steps are to be derived. Within the framework of the Sustainability Roadmap 2020, similar measures will be taken by Steinzeug-Keramo, North America and Semmelrock. At Pipelife, the diversification of the supplier structure contributes towards securing the availability of raw materials on a long-term basis.
Nature conservation and re-naturalization of extraction sites
Nature conservation and a meaningful use of extraction sites that have reached the end of their service life are the guiding principles of sustainability in the operation of any extraction site. This includes non-interference with protected areas and the re-cultivation or re-naturalization of spent extraction sites or their use for other purposes. As regards Wienerberger’s own clay pits, nature conservation and a meaningful use of exhausted sites are guaranteed. Extraction site operators in our supply chain are not yet subject to detailed scrutiny in ecological and social terms.
Protection of local residents at our own extraction sites
Local residents in the vicinity of clay extraction sites are an important stakeholder group for Wienerberger. New extraction sites have to undergo intensive processes of approval and authorization by public authorities, which are strictly observed by Wienerberger. Moreover, Wienerberger engages in open dialogue with the local residents concerned because their health and safety are important concerns for the company.
Health and safety at our own extraction sites
Health and safety of our employees are matters of special importance at our own clay extraction sites. Avoiding occupational accidents and protecting workers from dust emissions and noise are our top priorities. Compliance with all rules regarding protection against health hazards and ensuring occupational safety is an absolute must at Wienerberger. Occupational health and safety in our own clay pits are issues of foremost importance and will therefore be given even greater attention in future sustainability reports.
Sustainability in plastic production: The Pipelife Supplier Code of Conduct
For manufacturers of plastic products, sustainable sourcing of raw materials comprises a number of critical issues, ranging from nature conservation and the rights of regional stakeholders in crude oil extraction to energy efficiency in processing in the petrochemical industry. For the time being, Pipelife’s plastic suppliers are not yet subjected to a sustainability assessment, as sustainability certificates or labels are not yet available in this industry. However, Pipelife expects its suppliers to observe the principles of sustainability – see “Pipelife Supplier Code of Conduc”.
Use of biogenic and secondary raw materials
From the viewpoint of resource efficiency, the use of secondary raw materials is an important topic for the future. However, technical feasibility depends on the types of materials and the applications concerned. The use of secondary raw materials has become common practice in plastic production. In ceramic production, secondary raw materials are used as additives. Substances such as ash, slag, EPS, paper fibers, saw dust or straw are added to ceramic products to obtain the desired product qualities. Using secondary raw materials as a substitute for primary raw materials is a greater challenge. While residual material from our own plants can be recycled into production on account of its high degree of purity, the use of secondary ceramic material from external sources is hardly possible, at least for the time being. Ceramic material can be separated from other construction debris and re-used in the production of building materials, but is not yet available in sufficient quantities. In particular, material from the façade or the roof of a demolished building can be recycled directly into brick production. Generally speaking, most of our business units regard the use of recycled materials as a promising and future-oriented approach, but – with the exception of Pipelife – consolidated recycling rates are not yet reported.