Zotefoams considers that the management of safety, health, environmental, social and ethical matters forms a key element of effective corporate governance.
Health and safety
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. The next stage of development involves better awareness of the behavioural aspects of health and safety and this will form the core of our priorities for 2020 across the Group.
Zotefoams operates in the plastics and polymer industry where environmental performance is increasingly under societal and regulatory scrutiny. When developing our business we consider both the internal and external environment. Internally, the focus is mainly around improving efficiency in energy and polymer use. Externally, we consider the benefit of the products and technology we offer and seek to develop products which we can justify as being more beneficial to society than either our existing products or those offered by competitors.
The debate on plastic prompted by inappropriate applications and irresponsible disposal has become polarised, with many beneficial uses of plastic now tainted by association. We at Zotefoams believe that responsible usage of plastics, minimising usage (reduce), maximising service life (reuse) and considering end of life issues (recycle) is vital to ensuring the sustainability of the plastics industry and our business.
Internal metrics are complicated by the changing product mix of our business, as our HPP business in particular grows more quickly than Polyolefin Foams. The additional capacity investments in the UK and USA are latest generation technology that are more flexible and energy-efficient than existing equipment, although the benefits of this will not be fully realised until utilisation levels increase.
We continually strive for efficiency improvements in our energy-intensive production processes. Our newest low-pressure autoclaves are around 5% more efficient than older models. Our USA high-pressure autoclaves heat and cool more quickly and are around 10% more efficient than those in the UK. Improvement activities in the UK and USA are estimated to have improved yields and reduced material usage by at least £400,000 per annum, which also benefited energy consumption and other processing costs.
Through optimised machine loading and cycle time reduction in our main high-pressure and low-pressure gas processes, we have reduced annual energy usage by around 700,000kWh.
The development of Factory 4 on our UK site, which was completed during 2019, has been assessed using the BREEAM environmental assessment methodology and has achieved an Excellent rating. The design team has incorporated a wide range of environmental features into the design of the building, including:
- monitoring the processes during the construction period;
- LED lighting and controls;
- efficient space conditioning systems;
- low water usage fittings with solenoid
- shut-off valves;
- energy-efficient equipment throughout; and
- environmentally responsible materials.
- Zotefoams products make airplanes, trains and cars demonstrably lighter than traditional materials, translating to better fuel efficiency and a lower carbon footprint. This is a far more tangible and immediate measure than e.g. carbon offsetting.
- Our foams are typically 15–20% less dense than any competing foam for comparable applications. This means less material content and the maximum possible lightweighting benefits for our customers.
- Zotefoams’ main three-stage process uses only pure nitrogen to expand foams and is inherently environmentally friendly. The process affords exceptional product characteristics that contribute to a long service life.
We have set out to improve post-consumer recycling rates of single use packaging by designing ReZorce® mono-material barrier packaging – now available for licensing globally – for full compatibility with HDPE recycling (Stream 2).
Foam products and technologies offer many environmental benefits, and Zotefoams intends to develop further products and solutions that respond to global needs in a sustainable manner.
At Zotefoams, we understand that combating climate change is a significant global challenge. Regulatory and behavioural changes are already shaping the markets we serve and the environment in which we operate. We believe the business is well positioned and prepared to deal with these changes, with foam products delivering high performance, insulation and reduced weight which offer the potential for CO2 reduction in excess of the CO2 required to manufacture the product. We are improving our energy intensity and material consumption and adapting our product range to enter new markets where these benefits are clearly understood and valued. Measurement of energy consumption and polymer usage, which generate CO2 emissions, are monitored monthly and we have clear targets to improve these as described further in this report.
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 standards OHSAS 18001 on Health and Safety and ISO 14001, the International Standard for Environmental Management Systems, and is regularly audited by certification bodies to ensure that the Company complies with those standards.
The Company achieved compliance against ISO 14001/2015 in 2018 and has now made considerable progress towards migration to ISO 45001:2018 by successfully completing recertification to OHSAS 18001:2007 in December 2019. Migration to ISO 45001:2018 will be conducted beginning in March 2020 as part of a continual improvement plan.
The Board has ultimate responsibility for SHE policy and performance and receives quarterly reports on SHE issues. 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 at least once a year.
The Group CEO is directly responsible to the Board for SHE performance. Site Committees on SHE normally meet once a 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 appropriate.
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.
SHE: Key metrics
Group: Reportable lost time injuries
Company: Environmental metrics Internally recorded
Energy usage – (Mwh)
Energy consumption (kWh/kg)
now shown as mix-neutral assessment of energy usage.
SHE: waste and water
Waste to landfill (tonnes)
This has been reduced significantly against 2018 where we experienced the restriction in sending waste to our recycling partners. A recycling route was reopened in the second half of 2019 which has had led to the improvement.
Water consumption (000m3)
Water usage continues to increase; investigations have highlighted spikes in usage at certain times and also identified a leak, which is being dealt with at the time of publication.
Health and safety performance
The primary metric used to monitor the number of reportable lost time injuries is RIDDOR. In 2019, the number of RIDDOR incidents across the Group decreased to 1 (2018: 4).
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 2019, there was a marked improvement in Days Away From Work (DAFW) and Days Away Restricted Or Transferred (DART). In both cases, the metrics are compared with the latest benchmark data for Rubber and Plastics Processors and represent approximately the rate of accidents and incidents per 190 full-time Zotefoams employees.
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 reoccurrence. In 2019, there were no prosecutions, fines or enforcement actions taken as a result of non-compliance with Safety, Health or Environment legislation (2018: none).
Behaviour is now the focus for Group health and safety training and intervention. Analysis of incidents and near misses clearly shows that behaviour is the main root cause of these incidents and this focus is needed to maintain and better the recently improved safety outcomes.