Zotefoams plc considers that the management of safety, health, environmental, social and ethical matters forms a key element of effective corporate governance.
Health and safety
Behavioural safety was a significant focus of the Group in 2019 and 2020. COVID-19 reaffirmed the importance of embedding safe behaviour in the workplace through maintaining physical distancing, pro-actively complying with hygiene measures in place and all staff being cognisant of the symptoms, risks and testing regime applicable to the virus.
In 2020, the Managing Director (Europe) and the Health and Safety Manager led over 897 factory floor behavioural safety engagements with the workforce, comprising coaching sessions, safety forums, individual and group training, surveys, safety suggestion boxes, safety drills and intervention on potential risk hazards. As a result, 1,705 safety-based observations were carried out (2019: 930). Improved safety awareness among the workforce has been noted as a result of these initiatives.
A programme of health surveillance in the UK, run by an external provider, resumed in Q4 2020 following suspension during the pandemic.
Over the past few years, we have heightened our focus on health and safety and delivered a marked improvement in performance across the Group. Our chosen metrics allow benchmarking against similar industries and our performance is now better than average in these comparator industries. This focus will continue in 2021 and beyond. One of our core priorities in 2021 will be to review the risk assessment process around our equipment to ensure that all machinery is engineered in a way that minimises risk of injuries to operators regardless of levels of skills and experience.
ISO 9001: Quality Management
ISO 9001:2015 is a highly respected global standard that defines the requirements for a Quality Management System. Compliance with the standard supports Zotefoams’ efficiency, provides strong foundations on which to grow, improves customer satisfaction and ensures the business meets and strives to exceed customer expectations.
Certification to ISO 9001 demonstrates Zotefoams’ commitment to quality products and services and ensures all applicable regulatory requirements are verifiably met though external audit.
ISO 14001: Environmental Management
ISO 14001:2015 specifies the requirements for an environmental management system that Zotefoams operates to enhance its environmental performance and sustainability and maintain its commitment to the protection of the environment.
As part of this commitment, Zotefoams reviews the aspects of the business which could negatively impact the environment and ensures suitable control measures are in place to mitigate this. Through external audit, certification demonstrates that Zotefoams has a firm grasp of environmental legislation, aims to reduce environmental risk and validates a commitment to continually improving Zotefoams’ environmental performance.
ISO 45001: Occupational Health and Safety
The new ISO Standard in Occupational Health and Safety, ISO 45001:2018 aligns with both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 through an overarching structure. ISO 45001:2018 is an international standard, which is an evolution from the internationally recognised OHSAS 18001. ISO 45001 supports a pro-active, holistic approach to the incorporation of a safety culture at every level of an organisation. It provides a structure to increase safety, reduce workplace risks and enhance health and well-being at work.
While the standard requires that OHS risks be addressed and controlled, it also takes a holistic risk-based approach to the OHS management system itself, to ensure that it is effective and is being continually improved. Certification is the endorsement that demonstrates to external parties that compliance to the Standard has been achieved.
Sustainability and climate change
The world must progress toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
In 2020, the Board updated its sustainability strategy centred around the twin principles of i) preferentially operating in markets where Zotefoams’ products offer sustainability advantages which benefit society and ii) minimising the use of natural resources through a series of internal measures. The implementation of the strategy in 2021 will take into account the TCFD requirements and aims to align the internal risk management framework to the SASB framework, in order to set and implement clear targets for improvement. A new category, sustainability and climate change, has also been added to the Company’s principal risks.
Given that its products deliver high performance, insulation and reduced weight which offer the potential for CO2 reduction in excess of the CO2 required to manufacture the product , Zotefoams views the transition to a lower carbon economy as an opportunity to demonstrate its competitive advantage through the nature of the existing business and the proactive pursuit of opportunities with outstanding sustainability credentials.
Safety, Health and Environment (SHE)
The Board has in place separate policies relating to Safety, Health and Environment (SHE). The Company is certified to accredited standard ISO 45001:2018 for Health and Safety, following a migration from OHSAS 18001:2007, and ISO 14001:2015, the International Standard for Environmental Management Systems, and is regularly audited by certification bodies to ensure that the Company complies with those standards.
The Board has ultimate responsibility for SHE policy and performance and receives quarterly reports on SHE issues. The Board has set a very low risk appetite for safety, health and environmental matters. Annual performance objectives are agreed by the Board and performance against these is monitored as part of its quarterly reporting programme. RIDDOR reportable lost time accidents are reported immediately and discussed in detail at the Board meeting following any such incident. Additionally, the Board has a detailed review of SHE performance, targets, metrics and approach through monthly updates.
The Group CEO is directly responsible to the Board for SHE performance. Committees on SHE normally meet once per quarter to consider all SHE matters and are overseen by steering committees, chaired by the Group CEO (or appropriate responsible person in subsidiary companies). The steering committees consider overall performance and the impact of current and impending legislation.
On joining the Group, all employees receive induction training on SHE matters, including the Group’s OHSE policies, and refresher training is provided, as appropriate, to ensure that the employees understand SHE matters. All employees are made aware that everyone has a part to play to ensure the safety of themselves and their colleagues at work. Employees are encouraged to report to their managers any unsafe, or potentially unsafe, acts or conditions. Senior managers are responsible for ensuring that SHE policies are implemented in their areas, that their teams are informed of the departmental SHE requirements and that the employees receive training on environmental issues and safe working practices and understand them. Regular audits are conducted to ensure policy and procedure implementation is
The Group takes the reporting of all SHE incidents very seriously and requires employees to report all incidents, including any near misses, as well as damage to plant or equipment which has not resulted in personal injury. The Group considers the reporting of near misses to be as equally important as actual incidents, since it raises situations to management that could cause, or might have caused, harm. It then ensures appropriate corrective action can be taken to eliminate or minimise the risk.
The Group also ensures that appropriate safety practices are included in standard operating procedures to reduce the risk of SHE incidents occurring.
Few controlled substances are used in the manufacture of our foams, but where they are, the Group has established procedures, in which the relevant employees are trained, to ensure that the storage and handling of such substances are safe and in accordance with regulatory requirements. The manufacturing process involves manual handling and processing of materials. When new or altered equipment or materials are introduced, and at regular periods thereafter, the risks to the processes are assessed and improvements made wherever possible, such as to the design of the
equipment, to reduce or eliminate the risks identified.
The most strictly controlled parts of the Group’s sites are where high-pressure gas is used. The high-pressure autoclaves are subject to the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 in the UK and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) in the USA. Tightly defined procedures and operational controls are in place to manage the safety of these pressure systems. Fail-safe mechanisms, known as pressure relief valves and bursting discs (which act like fuses in an electrical system), are included in the design of the pressure systems which, when triggered, allow depressurisation of sections of the system and prevent any further risks. Operation of these fail-safe mechanisms releases harmless nitrogen gas into the atmosphere. The air we breathe is composed of 78% nitrogen.
An increase in energy usage in the UK and USA arose from increased output levels in H2 2020, buoyed by the high volumes resulting from the Group’s supply of polyolefin foams to a key customer to service its PPE contract with the UK Government, and increased footwear-related output. The USA showed a further increase against 2019 following the installation of a new high-pressure autoclave at the start of the year. The construction of the Poland facility also contributed to the global increase.
All SHE incidents are investigated by appropriate levels of management to ascertain the root cause of the incident and, wherever possible, working practices and procedures are improved to minimise the risk of recurrence. In 2020, there were no prosecutions, fines or enforcement actions taken as a result of non-compliance with SHE legislation (2019: none).
Health and safety performance
The primary metric used to monitor the number of reportable lost time injuries is RIDDOR. In 2020, the number of RIDDOR incidents across the Group remained at 1 (2019: 1).
The Zotefoams Group also uses metrics devised by the United States Department of Labor to measure staff absences resulting from workplace incidents and accidents. This allows comparison with a large, relevant peer group as well as provides an established methodology with which we can benchmark our performance annually. In 2020, there was a slight increase in Days Away From Work (DAFW) and Days Away Restricted Or Transferred (DART). To combat this in 2021, we will continue the programme of increasing risk and hazard awareness, which is also linked to the continuation of expanding the new safety engagement process. In both cases, the metrics are compared with the latest benchmark data for Rubber and Plastics
Processors. Good performance against this benchmark was noted in both 2019 and
SHE: Key metrics
Group: Reportable lost time injuries
Internally recorded environmental incidents
Energy usage – (Mwh)
Energy consumption (kWh/kg)
Energy usage – (Mwh)
* Calculation shown as
mix-neutral assessment of energy usage.
In 2021 Zotefoams plc switched to an electricity supplier signed up to the Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin scheme to achieve 100% renewable sources.
In October 2009, the Company entered into a Climate Change Levy (CCL) agreement which involves meeting specific targets to reduce energy consumption. Provided the Company meets the requirements of the CCL agreement, it receives a rebate on its electricity bills and is also exempt from the Carbon Reduction Commitment Scheme.
The Company measures energy efficiency by taking energy consumption and dividing it by the amount of material (in kg) that passes through high-pressure autoclaves. The increase in production of our HPP foams, which requires more energy than for polyolefin foams, prompted us to update these metrics to be product-mix neutral in 2018. In 2020, our adjusted energy efficiency measure Specific Energy Consumption (SEC) has decreased to 9.89kWh/kg (2019: 11.60kWh/kg), the lowest ever recorded. This value was higher during the first half of the year but significantly reduced due to the high throughput experienced in the second half, along with improvements on specific products (such as foams for footwear) and manufacturing processes.
The SEC value has been reported in the Annual Report as a mix-adjusted value since 2018 to reflect the growth of footwear and to show the energy efficiency improvements made.
In order to benefit from a CCL exemption, the Company has entered into Climate Change Agreements (CCAs) as set out by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. A CCA is a voluntary scheme setting targets to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. For the plastics sector, the scheme is run by BPF Energy Limited, to which unadjusted SEC figures are reported quarterly. The scheme will run up to 2025.
The mix-adjusted value reported for SEC has significantly improved as we focused on better processing efficiency for new products, including footwear, in our UK facility.
Zotefoams’ foams are used in applications globally to improve people’s lives and reduce energy consumption, primarily through insulation and weight reduction. The processes we employ to create these foams allow us to use less raw material and produce lighter foams than competitive processes, both of which are beneficial for carbon reduction. In making these foams, energy (both gas and electricity) is the main source of carbon emissions from our facilities.
The efficiency with which we use energy to process polymer is measured in our specific energy consumption and our UK site, which processed approximately 80% of Group polymer by tonnage, reduced this energy consumption by over 14.7%. Overall emissions for 2020 were 14,637 metric tonnes (2019: 12,425 tonnes) with the main changes due to increases in the volume of foam produced (estimated increase 1,379 tonnes), a change in product mix with an increase in more energy-intensive foams such as those sold to the footwear segment (estimated increase 1,097 tonnes) and emissions directly related to the construction of our Poland facility (increase 892 tonnes). These specific emissions increases are offset by reductions, in the main related to reduced activity linked to COVID-19, resulting in the overall 2,212 tonne increase.
In 2020, 93.2% (2019: 98.5%) of the Group’s carbon emissions arose from our use of electricity and gas, primarily in processing polymer with some use in facility heating and cooling, while 6.1%, 892 tonnes (2019: zero), was in relation to construction of our Poland facility. Direct carbon emissions from other sources were minimal (2.1% of Group emissions) as we do not operate our own fleet of vehicles or any private jet.
The methodology we have used is in accordance with the guidance published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in June 2013. We have only included emissions for which we are directly responsible. We have not included emissions for activities over which we have no direct control. For example, we have included business mileage on a Company van and mileage claimed by employees in the UK, but not other forms of business travel, such as travel made by employees elsewhere in the Group or travel using public transport or air travel.
Group: carbon emissions (CO2 tonnes)
Emissions arising directly from our operations (including fuel used in our vehicles)
Indirect emissions – use of energy
Carbon emissions (kg)
* These figures have been retrospectively amended to show the impact of 93 tonnes of emissions relating to our facility in China, which was not recorded in the 2019 Annual Report.
Water and waste
Usage of water and the amount of waste produced are key environmental metrics. During the year, there were a number of UK and US site initiatives to improve the efficiency of polymer processes with respect to waste reduction, all of which represented personal objectives for the respective Business Unit leaders. Our water consumption is metered and again we have specific programmes to improve efficiency and reduce water including, planned for 2021 during our plant shutdown, a significant overhaul of water systems in our UK facility.
Waste to landfill (tonnes)
The amount of recycled waste has reduced due to COVID-19 affecting international recycling routes. New recycling routes are being investigated in 2021.
Water consumption (000m3)
The water consumption has levelled off after 3 years of increased consumption due to improved consumption management. Significant capital projects are planned in 2021 to reduce water consumption.
Group (data provided from 2020 onward)
Excluding Poland as production started in February 2021.
Waste to landfill (tonnes)
Waste recycled (tonnes)
Water consumption (000m3)