Since taking over as president of Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology in April 2019, Henrik Ager has guided his charge while staking his position on how he wants his strategic vision of more sustainable operations realized. As a veteran of the mining industry, he shares his plans with Solid Ground online for how he will shepherd in a more sustainable future for his business area.
Is it possible to achieve sustainable business practices, long-term growth and strong business strategy simultaneously?
Definitely. We’ve divided our sustainability initiatives into four essential areas, all of which are tagged to our business goals: reducing CO2 or greenhouse gases (GHG) is one, and a very important one so let me get back to that; circularity, which obviously impacts CO2 emissions because the more material that we can reuse, the less we need to create; safety, or zero harm to people, which has always been a top priority for us; and compliance. When it comes to zero harm to people and compliance, we currently have mature practices. With circularity and reducing GHG, while we are doing a lot, we have not formalized as much as we could, and we can always do more. Right now, the mining and quarrying industry accounts for 3-4 percent of global energy consumption. So, the more energy efficient our equipment is the fewer emissions per kilo of output they will produce, which helps limit that energy consumption. What we sell and help our customers to use are products and solutions
that make them more productive; this allows them to then use less fuel and electricity for the same amount of output. That’s the biggest impact we can have on GHG: helping our customers be more productive.
So, you’re saying being more sustainable equals being more productive?
Absolutely. And that’s both with our customers and in our internal operations. For our operations, we can become more GHG efficient which means more energy efficient. We can also be more GHG efficient by using sustainable energy sources, too.
How important is sustainability for long-term success?
Sustainability is critical to our long-term performance with our customers and as an employer. For our customers, an aggressive approach is essential. Driving productivity and GHG efficiency together is going to be key for us, because if we can’t make our customers more productive, we won’t survive. As an employer, we have to show that we approach this very seriously and that we have a plan to become a more sustainable company, helping our customers become more sustainable too, so that the whole ecosystem is improved.
What solutions has the Rock Tools division created to reduce its own waste and emissions?
For Rock Tools, one of the most influential ways we can make our rock tools processes more efficient is through logistics. If you ship a drill bit on a boat, it will generate around 100 times less CO2 than if you fly it to the customer on an airplane. That approach reduces our generated CO2 by 10,000 tonnes, which in comparison with the total emissions for the division is significant.
Another key focus for Rock Tools is to minimize scrap rates. We also have projects ongoing where we focus on heat generation and heat recovery, where we recover the heat used in production and redistribute it to heat our buildings during winter. And we will obviously look at using greener energy sources.
How can Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology set aggressive goals without sacrificing credibility?
My view is, across all four focus areas of compliance, zero harm to people, reducing GHG and circularity, the more we link our targets to normal business targets and find ways to combine them to achieve a common good, the better chance we have to stick with them. It’s when there are targets for sustainability that are not anchored to the business that the risk of them falling to the wayside grows during tough times.
How will Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology adapt its offerings to create a more sustainable model?
There are plenty of examples, I think. We work and are focusing a lot on circularity and GHG efficiency. As I mentioned before, we are constantly developing products and solutions to help our customers be more productive. We’ve done so for 150 years and will continue to do so, but one of the really exciting avenues where we’re leading is automation. Automated equipment tends to be more productive; it breaks less, lasts longer and delivers more for the same amount of energy input. So, you get the same output with the less GHG emissions.
In the digital space, where we can capture more and more information, analyze it and use it to help operations improve, we’ve just started to scratch the surface. We will continue to use data and analytics to find better ways to make and help our customers use equipment more productively while lasting longer and using less fuel when it operates. Then there’s electrification, which presents an opportunity to take diesel out of mines, particularly the underground mining environment. We know the negative health risks associated with diesel particulate matter, so if we can put electric vehicles in underground operations, we reduce the need to ventilate, saving energy and money.
You will personally spearhead the initiative on halving the business area’s CO2 impact. What will this entail?
If we start with the basics, our own operations will ensure that we have improvement plans to drive down GHG emissions. We’ll put this in as an essential criterion when developing new products and solutions to have GHG efficiency and recyclability as essential R&D aspects.
We’ll definitely put this in as one of the defining criteria for selecting new suppliers. Where we have the biggest opportunities, however, is with our customers. I want Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology to quantify the GHG impact our products have and the savings they can realize with our solutions.
We can also play a more active role in the industry. We currently sit on the CEO advisory board with the International Council of Mines and Minerals and we must leverage that position to help drive this theme forward together, using our role as a leader to help change the industry, and the world, for the better.
Can you speak to Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology’s approach to the UN Global Goals initiative?
The UN 2030 goals make a lot of sense for us. We have to remember that the goals for 2030 are just steps on the way of the future for climate change. We must take ownership, take responsibility and act with strength to ensure that all steps are taken in the right direction.
We set our goals for 2030 and 11 years can look like a lot but in many ways it’s just around the corner. Our ambition is set high and we aim to make a shift in the industry. We have selected seven of the UN goals, but the important thing is to set the overall sustainability ambition high with the complete picture of sustainability in mind.