Dr. Santrupt Misra
Chief Executive Officer
“We continue to strive to maximize our potential. We must continue to learn, adapt and evolve our capabilities to break new grounds.”
Birla Carbon has come a long way as a business – from its origins as a regional carbon black supplier to the present, where it now stands as a global leader in the industry. Its benchmark standards, across all operational areas, have also grown in line with the business’ growth.
Formal external communication on our sustainability journey began in 2013, with our first Sustainability Report. Since then, Birla Carbon has surged past many of its sustainability milestones, of which health, safety and environment (HS&E) have been key elements. These accomplishments have not been limited to one region, but rather across all the regions where we operate.
We are very proud that we were the first Aditya Birla Group entity to create sustainability as an independent function and, in doing so, took a decisive lead among our industry peers. Since then, our united vision for a comprehensive sustainability agenda has been well acknowledged by our stakeholders.
We continue to strive to maximize our potential. I believe that potential is a combination of building key capabilities and being prepared to unleash them when the time calls. However, it is important to note that a business’ ultimate potential constantly evolves in response to the new challenges it faces.
Thus, the journey that we have been on so far cannot be the journey that we continue to take. We must continue to learn, adapt and evolve our capabilities to break new grounds. Many of our technology and product developments are testimony to this, and we continue to make investments.
To us at Birla Carbon, sustainability is not just about the health and safety of our employees – nor can it just be about environmental stewardship. I believe sustainability is also about creating and bettering one’s business model to ensure that an enterprise is truly building for the future. It requires a long view of issues that transcend the many shortcomings of myopia. Therefore, while a sustainability initiative may be in play today, its real results may materialize much further down the line.
A large part of our sustainability agenda concerns our customers and their emerging needs. It is this agenda that has allowed us to build excellent relationships, some of which date back more than half a century. Yet we are taking steps to progress these relationships to the next level: co-development of products, joint workshops to solve product performance issues, the creation of innovative solutions and partnerships are all key to our sustainability agenda – of which our customers are an integral part.
We are proud that our stakeholders acknowledge and recognize our sustainability efforts. They have been generous with their awards and invitations to think tanks on sustainability, and have given us numerous best supplier scores. But we continue to ask more of our business and our employees. It is my ambition that such introspection will continue to drive Birla Carbon’s growth and strategy. We hope to continue to do well by doing good.
However, we cannot rest on our laurels. We must engage our employees even more in sustainability projects, and increase their awareness on issues of safety, health and the impact (positive or negative) that each individual can have on the environment.
Despite the dispersed nature of our global organization and market uncertainties, we have laid a strong cultural foundation that unifies our people across the globe as One Birla Carbon. It is this strong culture that has helped us weather many turbulent economic and geopolitical cycles. Our culture will continue to be the cornerstone of our business in the years to come.
Birla Carbon shares the sustainability vision of the Aditya Birla Group as articulated by our Chairman, Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla: “the Aditya Birla Group endeavors to become the leading Indian conglomerate for sustainable business practices across its global operations, balancing its economic growth with environmental and societal interests.” To this end, we draw support from the rest of the Group and are happy to extend that same help.
Our stakeholders can continue to expect more from Birla Carbon, built on the ability and hard work of our people. We will carry on making incremental changes in our regular operations and occasionally leap-frogging; we are not afraid of capitalizing on opportunities when they present themselves.
I welcome you to our fifth Sustainability Report, covering FY2017, and invite you to see for yourselves the progress we have made.
Chief Operating Officer
“FY2017 has been a year of continued progress for us on many fronts – setting us up for what will be a very exciting FY2018. Our new facility in Jining, China, will start production by year-end, bringing with it significant changes in Birla Carbon’s presence in the region and our production capacity. The optimism is palpable; conditions are right for us to move forward.”
In general, oil prices have stabilized, even drifted up a little, creating a more stable operating environment for us. Sadly, we had to close our German site in Hannover, as the modernization it would have required was not feasible. Conversely, by closing Hannover, we have driven innovation elsewhere in the region and successfully compensated for the production shortfall. In FY2017, we also faced severe economic challenges in South America, which reduced production, while in India, there was immense demand, calling for more carbon black. We are proud of the agility and efficiency of our global network, which enabled us to adapt to successfully tackle these challenges.
We are seeing that, as customers grow and evolve, they start to expand into new countries or regions. Having a strong presence in many parts of the world puts us in a good position to support our customers. For instance, our greenfield plant in Jining will complement our existing plant in Weifang to better align with the growth agenda of our customers in China.
Once operational, the Jining facility will not only increase our regional capacity but also be our most sustainable plant. There is an increased focus on environmental awareness everywhere, and China is no exception – Jining has been designed not only to meet but to exceed environmental performance requirements.
Safety and the environment are issues that will always be at the forefront of our industry. In terms of safety, we’re continuing to push for zero accidents, an achievement that many facilities have reached by themselves during FY2017. Although incident severity is down globally, incident frequency is up. This is an area of concern, so we continue to focus on finding further opportunities to drive progress and instill a culture of safety.
As responsible stewards, our approach and targets are frequently reviewed and challenged to ensure we continue to drive progress in evolving environments. For instance, in some parts of the world, access to fresh water is already a challenge, while at the same time, we must implement water-intensive technologies to reduce air emissions from our operations.
This is true for other areas as well. As responsible stewards, accountable to the wider community, our aim is to identify all areas where we can most effectively prioritize our work.
Thank you for choosing to read our Sustainability Report, and taking the opportunity to learn more about how we’re preparing ourselves to go further in our journey to Sustainable Operational Excellence.
Chief Legal, Sustainability and Risk Officer
“We have come a long way on our sustainability journey but we have a long way to go. The most important thing is that everybody understands that sustainability is a forward-looking exercise. When we look forward, we shape our future and what sustainability means in the long term – what will allow us to not only be available to customers, but what will differentiate us as the preferred supplier.”
We can see this journey in our work. We continue adapting our processes, and there is increasing excitement visible in our employees. Now that we have everybody engaged, we are redefining the path ahead.
Carbon black plays a key role in everyone’s life, and yet the wider public does not understand our product. There are several levels to its social value, but essentially, carbon black makes products stronger and more durable. It enables the everyday: from tires to shoe soles, from water pipes to newspaper ink, from sealants to power cables.
Carbon black makes it easier for us to interact with the world around us in many ways. It makes movement easier and safer through longer lasting and stronger tires; impacts health through effective clean water transportation; facilitates more efficient agricultural practices; is a key component of the wires and cable technology that power our lives; and provides a deeper, darker black that we see every day in our clothes, electronics, ink and plastics.
Carbon black enables human connections.
It is important for us to make our product more visible and to demonstrate its sustainable attributes. Through responsible stewardship, we have differentiated ourselves from our peers for our customers. We have achieved significant milestones, including the EcoVadis Gold rating recognizing our best-in-class performance, notably in fair business and labor practices. We took on greater leadership with our peers, and worked with other industries. Our work with the Sustainable Leadership Forum (SLF) in the USA and the UK enhanced our profile, as does being represented at the Vice-Chairman level at our industry body, the International Carbon Black Association (ICBA).
We have further engaged in FY2017 with two of our key stakeholder groups: our customers and our suppliers. For instance, we entered into a partnership with a company specializing in nanotechnology to create more resilient tires. We also held Customer Leadership Dialogues with large Indian customers to align our sustainability expectations. In terms of our supply chain, the management of risks, particularly ethical risks, is key to be a preferred supplier. Building on our work in FY2016, we are strengthening our vendor due diligence by implementing a third party screening program.
A key concern for us and our stakeholders is water. It is important that Birla Carbon focuses on water because we operate in some areas where it is not abundantly available. We are in the process of improving our water management, including how we access, measure and ensure efficient use of this resource.
Other key environmental areas for us are air quality, energy use and carbon conversion efficiency. We lead the way in our industry in terms of pollution control technology and aim to be as efficient as possible in our carbon mass balance efforts; the more efficient we are, the more effectively we capture and utilize the carbon in our feedstock and we reduce our impact on the environment.
We constantly look to the future and the megatrends that we think will impact our business. The trends that we can see show an ageing global population, a growing middle class in developing countries and an increased demand for mobility and communications. Our partnership with Forum for the Future is helping us to anticipate what these external factors could mean to our industry.
Our people and stakeholders are fully engaged and are contributing to ensure we continue to steward resources responsibly. We have been a reliable partner with our customers for over 150 years and we intend to remain so for the next 150 years.