Corporate Social Responsibility

What does sustainability mean for AMPCO METAL?

Why is sustainability important to us? What do we believe? Luis Bento, CEO, AMPCO METAL, is drawing a picture of the challenges companies in the metal industry are facing nowadays and explains the relevance of copper recycling in relation to sustainability.

WHY

Why is sustainability important to us? What do we believe? Luis Bento, CEO, AMPCO METAL, is drawing a picture of the challenges companies in the metal industry are facing nowadays and explains the relevance of copper recycling in relation to sustainability.

These days, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to focus on sustainability in order to minimize future disruption to their business and to ensure the long-term success of the company.

In this context, the metal industry is facing different challenges, but also opportunities that need to be seized. Metals are essential for economic development, for the functioning of society and to maintain our quality of life. If we look at our consumption habits over the last 50 years as a global society, more and more products are being made that use more and more materials and elements from the Mendeleev Table, primarily due to the increased population and the general spread of prosperity around the world. This means that there is a lot of valuable elements that are not always being recovered and reused. These materials and elements are finite, and we are responsible for the next generations to come to recover the elements after use and appropriately reuse for other purposes.

When looking at materials that recycle well, one must definitely look at copper. The total global demand for copper in 2018 was approximately 24 million tons. Of all the copper needed across the world, 34% comes from recycling, but in Europe, this figure is even higher (41%). Copper has been vital to the development and sustainability of our society since the dawn of civilization. The demand for copper along with other metals (such as steel, aluminum, and nickel) is growing as countries throughout the world continue to develop industrially, with a consequent requirement for more raw materials and we are using minerals and metals in greater quantities than ever before.

The scarcity of metals and its accelerating consumption compounded by its finite dimension leads to a different mindset in the medium- and long-term. Therefore, it is key to implement a real circular economy and focus on products made 100% from recycled materials, and at the same time transform our supply chain, manufacturing, and processing to run entirely on sustainable energy.

WHAT

What are our values at AMPCO METAL? Where do we come from and what will we do and accomplish to contribute to a more sustainable world? Luis Bento, CEO at AMPCO METAL, looks back on the company history and shows how the corporate values will serve as guidelines in the future.

AMPCO METAL has proudly observed its 100th anniversary back in 2014, which reflects the company’s success over the last century. It was back in 1914 when a small group of entrepreneurs discovered a new bronze hard enough to cut steel. The alloy was called AMPCO® Bronze, a name derived from the initials of the American Metal Products Company, renamed AMPCO METAL in 1930.

Having built a reputation as a reliable producer of consistent quality products, mainly aluminum bronze alloys produced through extrusion, sand castings, and forgings by the beginning of World War II, AMPCO METAL could benefit from the high demand for the production of copper-based alloys.

Today, AMPCO METAL is running operations in 16 countries on three continents, providing customers around the world with innovative engineered metal products and services, acting as a respectful and trusted partner. In doing so, we’re always guided by our values to remain resolutely customer-focused, to grow through innovation and to embrace change in all forms.

Looking ahead for another century of success, it is right and proper for us to examine or re-examine our heritage and our philosophy of excellence in everything we do for our customers, not only in terms of products but also health, safety, and environmental aspects.
Therefore, it is our company’s intention of bringing environmental sustainability into the very fabric of AMPCO METAL’s corporate purpose, strategy, and all other structural pillars of our business.

HOW
How can AMPCO METAL make a positive environmental impact and reach its sustainability goals? We’re looking at copper as a valuable and sustainable material and why we’re focusing on copper recycling in the first place.

The widely accepted description of sustainability is the concept of meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability includes social, environmental, and economic dimensions. This also means that sustainable metal production is not only environmentally friendly and safe, but it also has positive social and economic characteristics. It is underlined here that sustainability and profitability can and must go hand in hand.

Copper – a metal with a long history

Without metals, we would not have the lifestyle that we enjoy today. It is thanks to the continued development of technology, processing, and manufacturing that we can benefit from reliable products ranging from airplanes, cars, computers, mobile phones, etc. In short, metals are essential or nearly so.

Copper is a metal that is naturally present in the earth’s crust, is essential to the development of all forms of life, and has been a vital metal in the development of civilization. It is the oldest metal used by man – the first copper coins date from 8700 BC – and, alloyed with tin, it forms the first alloy ever used, called bronze.

To date, only about 15% of known copper resources have been mined. Despite escalating industrial production, copper reserve levels have actually grown over time and have outpaced production. It is clear however that reserves estimates are unreliable indicators of the long-term availability of metals as their definition depends on current science, technology, and economics.

Graphic: Primary Copper Production

Businesses can be a major force for sustainable development and AMPCO METAL as a responsible company will play its role to merit the reputation that comes from more than 100 years of honorable business life. Since the beginning of the 20th century, global demand for refined copper has risen from 0.5 million tons in 1900 to approx. 24 million tonnes in 2018. Therefore, it is genuine to ask if we can continue to provide the metals required to meet this increasing demand and whether ultimately our resources will be exhausted.

The advantages of copper recycling

Modern technology is largely designed around the use of extracted virgin metals. It is however increasingly apparent that materials that have been incorporated into products no longer in use (secondary metals or scrap) can provide a valuable supplement to virgin stocks.
The recycling of old copper brings many advantages:

  • the recycling of copper is cheaper than to mine and extract new copper
  • recycled copper is worth up to 98% of the cost of the original copper
  • recycling helps to keep the cost of copper products down
  • copper can be recycled thousand times and it does not degrade, as such it is indefinitely recyclable
  • with the technology of electrolytic refining, there is no difference in the quality between copper from mining or from secondary resources
  • depending on the kind of scrap available, the energy level needed for recycling is only about 15% up to 40% of the energy required to produce copper from ores

Graphic: Copper - a circular material

Hence copper is the ideal material for sustainable development. Even if copper is by definition a sustainable metal, the sustainability needs of copper producers are related to several aspects such as energy efficiency, metal recovery efficiency, water efficiency, water protection, waste management, working environment, and health & safety. Historically, sustainability issues—e.g. energy, water, material efficiency, waste minimization, health, and safety—have played an essential role in the mining and metal industry.

Therefore, AMPCO METAL is following a virtuous conduct since the significance of these parameters has increased drastically and has become a crucial element in the long-term profitability of the copper industry. Our commitment goes towards using our earth’s resources sparingly, in terms of raw metals recycling and sustainable energy use in metal production and processing.

WHERE TO

Which concrete sustainability measures is AMPCO METAL focusing on in the realm of a circular economy? How can our clients contribute to the sustainability in the metal industry and hence pave the way for an economically and environmentally bright future?

Luis Bento, CEO at AMPCO METAL SA

One of the key parameters in terms of sustainability today is without any doubt energy efficiency. Copper makes products more energy-efficient, therefore making our world more sustainable. With the help of an energy optimization study, AMPCO METAL is exploring ways to reduce the energy consumption of its production sites. The energy efficiency program progress at AMPCO METAL’s foundry in France shows the direction set and the current results fully justify continuing to invest with the objective to run entirely on sustainable energy. With the implemented actions the carbon emissions could be reduced by 240t CO2 per year and more than 80k € in energy consumption could be saved. For more in-depth information download the full case study.

The other side of the equation is the recycling and the circular economy aspect. Copper is an essential nutrient for our entire planet – plants, fish, animals, humans, all need copper to function properly. As the most important characteristic of copper is its capability of endless recycling, it requires the assistance from our customers and partners to ensure we all contribute to meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. A greener, healthier and more sustainable future relies on the use of copper as it is used to improve our lives today and will continue to be available for future generations.

CASE STUDY

AMPCO METAL Sustainability

Learn how AMPCO METAL creates sustainability by reducing energy consumption of its production site.