Environmental footprint

Our sustainability focus areas:
Enabling products | Social handprint | Environmental footprint

Our aim is to reduce the negative impact of our own operations to the environment and climate.

Our contribution to the SDGs

Promote sustainable production and contribute to mitigating climate change through responsible operations based on circular economy, energy and material efficiencies, responsible use of chemicals, waste management and responsible supply chain management. ​​

Key policies and standards

  • Corporate values
  • Code of Conduct, Supplier Code of Conduct
  • Quality, Environment, Health & Safety Policy
  • Chemical Policy
  • ISO 14001/2015 (environmental management) and ISO 9001/2015 (quality management)

Energy efficiency and reduced emissions

Exel Composites’ greenhouse gas emissions from own operations are mostly carbon dioxide that is formed in own use of fuels, heating, and transportation of materials.

In addition to production, heating has a major impact on the total energy consumption as our largest production sites are situated in northern locations.

Our long-term target is to reduce our total use of energy proportional to production. The primary energy source is electrical energy, out of which approximately a third is estimated to be from renewable energy sources.

Circular economy and waste management

Recyclability and implementing circular economy principles in our operations is one of the most pressing topics for Exel.

The main operational efficiency goal for Exel Composites is to reduce operational or composite waste, which is inevitably generated as part of the regular production process. Exel has a waste management plan in place and aims to continuously reduce the amount of waste produced. The amount is dependent on the product mix and is therefore volatile. As products are mostly developed on-demand and in close cooperation with customers, the use of raw materials is as efficient as possible. Factors such as product design and complexity, size of production batches and the quality of raw materials also contribute to the amount of surplus. Continuous dialogue with the customer in the early design stages and throughout production is therefore critical from a quality and production point of view as well as from a waste management perspective.

Exel is committed to preventing landfilling surplus materials from own production by recycling and/or reusing, for example, surplus resin mixes whenever possible.

The composite waste that cannot be reused is recycled through combustion where possible. In this process, about a quarter is recycled as energy and the remaining ash is currently landfilled. In Central Europe, among others, incineration of waste is widely used, but not currently feasible in Northern Europe. Other than composite waste is recycled whenever possible.

Where logistically, technologically, and economically possible, composite waste goes to recycling for example in the production of cement. This is possible today for example in some locations in Central Europe, but in Northern Europe the relatively low volumes of composite waste combined with long distances have set limitations.

Production KPIs1)

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

Energy usage, GWh 25.1 21.4 22.1 19.9 18.7
Energy usage, change from previous year, % 17.1 -2.8 11.0 6.3 -3.4
Energy usage in proportion to production, change from previous year, % 4.1 -3.5 -17.0 -15.0 -15.0
Energy usage is impacted mainly by the number of manufacturing units and their geographical location (i.e. heating need) as well as production load
Composite waste per ton produced, change from previous year, % -23.2 -11.8 -5.3 26.6 -26.8
The amount of composite waste is dependent on the product mix
Reused waste, % 60.6 40.4 33.7 43.3 64.2
Possibilities to reuse composite waste vary from country to country.

1) Figures include only those production sites that have been operational as part of Exel Composites Group during the entire financial year.

Water consumption

Producing composites is not a water intensive process.

Water is used mainly for sanitary purposes and to minor extent for cooling, where water is reused in a closed circuit. Except for the manufacturing site in Joensuu, Finland, no Exel factory is in a groundwater area. The Joensuu area was proclaimed groundwater area after the factory founding in the 1980’s and, according to the environmental permit, the company has built an extinguishing water recovery system to protect groundwater in the event of a factory fire. Also, the operations elsewhere in the Group are strictly governed by requirements of the environmental permits.

Sustainable supply chain

Exel Composites sources components and materials for its manufacturing processes from multiple sources and multiple countries. Most of the company’s supply chain is composed of large, international manufacturers or their distributors that often have established processes and high sustainability standards.

In addition, these suppliers and manufacturers are systematically audited by Exel as well as several other stakeholders. All Exel’s suppliers are chosen with care and based on objective factors such as quality, reliability, delivery, and price, in addition to ethical standards and sustainability. All suppliers receive the Supplier Code of Conduct as part of their agreement with Exel and they are required to operate in compliance with it.

Exel Composites conducts supplier audits primarily through factory visits where an initial self-assessment is verified. The audit topics include human rights, employee health and safety, and monitoring of dangerous particles, among others. Suppliers are selected for audit based on purchase volume, the criticality of the supplier as well as its location. In case of violations action is taken either to allow time for corrective action or to terminate the relationship.

As part of our circular economy initiative, Exel researches and evaluates the use of alternative raw materials in production that are sustainable. These include bio-based resins and fibers, such as flax, as well as the combinations of virgin and recycled raw materials. Bio-based raw materials are part of our offering already today and they are used for example in some sporting goods. Interest is expected to grow, but volumes are still small as bio-based raw material often comes with a premium price. The use of recycled fibers in pultrusion, on the other hand, is limited by the fact that the technology is precisely based on long, continuous fibers. When recycled, the fibers are usually cut or crushed short and therefore they are best used in other technologies, such as extrusion, when also product properties are different.

Climate-related risks and opportunities

RISKS

OPPORTUNITIES

Policy and legal

  • Regulation, which radically reduces consumption in general.
  • Regulation changes impacting composite production specifically, e.g. regarding chemicals or their risk classification.
  • Regulation hampering adaptation to composites or delays in the implementation of favorable standards.
  • Regulatory differences in Europe, America, and Asia.

Products and services

  • Composites are non-toxic, durable, and maintenance-free products, and therefore climate friendly. A composite product does not leak or emit anything into the air or the ground.
  • Regulations mitigating climate change increase demand for composites.
  • Climate friendly product design and use in customer acquisition.
  • Leveraging and expanding collaboration with research centers and universities.

Technological

  • Favoring other materials and not considering the climate-impact on the full lifecycle of the end-product.
  • Potential new, climate friendlier production technologies e.g., solvent-free technologies.

Resource efficiency

  • Increasing energy efficiency.
  • Innovation in recycling and reuse of composites.
  • Increasing the use of bio-based raw materials.
  • Climate-friendly developments in production technology, e.g., closed bath impregnation of fibers.

Market and reputation

  • Reputational risk due to the challenging recycling of pultruded composites.
  • Reputational risk due to misunderstanding composites as merely “plastics”.

Markets

  • Increasing demand of products that mitigate climate change.
  • Building awareness about the benefits of composites and production technologies used by Exel.
  • Expanding into new applications and industries where possibilities of composites are yet to be unveiled.

Physical risks

  • Extreme weather conditions that cause interruptions in production or in the supply chain.

 

Climate-related risks and opportunities both could potentially have a significant financial impact on Exel Composites’ business and financial planning in terms of revenue gain or loss, unexpected expenditures, or investment requirements. Climate-related risks could also impact the valuation of Exel’s assets or ability to obtain financing. Strategically, climate-related risks and opportunities may potentially impact the company’s decisions regarding its geographical footprint, expanding into or focusing on certain product applications or customer industries as well as expanding into or focusing on certain production technologies.

MAIN THEMES

OUR PROGRESS IN 2021

Energy efficiency and reduced emissions
  • Actions to reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency.
  • Commissioning of a solar plant at the Joensuu unit in Finland.
  • Energy efficiency rating of A+ for the new manufacturing unit in Austria.
Circular economy and waste management
  • Reduction in the amount of landfilled production waste in the Group, other actions initiated within the circular economy initiative.
  • Collaboration in industry initiatives promoting recyclability of composites and enabling recycling in some regions, for example through the KiMuRa project in Finland. The project aims to find a viable recycling process for industrial composite waste in the cement industry.
Water consumption
  • Low water consumption and protection of groundwater on site.
Sustainable supply chain
  • Five supplier audits during the year.

 

Annual Financial Report 2021

Enabling products

Learn more

Social handprint

Learn more

Environmental footprint

Learn more