Sustainability, environmental protection, energy and climate, occupational health

Sustainability as part of the company strategy

Sustainable conduct and economic activities are central components of Aurubis’ company strategy and man-agement. This involves having a conscientious attitude towards the environment and limited natural resources. It also includes responsible interactions with employees, suppliers, customers, neighbors, and the plant areas and communities where Aurubis is active.

Responsible business practices are also the foundation of our operating business. Together with growth, this forms the foundation for sustainable economic success and a secure future for the company.

Internal regulations and management systems, the PRIMA company values and statutory provisions create the basis of our sustainable activities. PRIMA represents the Group’s corporate values: Performance, Responsibility, Integrity, Mutability and Appreciation.

Aurubis respects human rights and advocates for their protection. Compliance with the internationally recognized core labor standards of the International Labour Organization (ILO) are of fundamental significance for us. Aurubis has participated in the United Nations Global Compact since December 2014, thereby committing to implement the principles of the Global Compact. Aurubis is also listed in the Global Challenges Index, a sustainability index.

Sustainability as part of the corporate culture

We integrate sustainability into our corporate culture throughout the Group and across business processes. We have initiated a variety of measures to minimize the possible impact of our business activities on the environment, but also on employees and society, as much as possible. Sustainability is also a fixed component of vocational training in the Group.

Aurubis developed a comprehensive Sustainability Strategy in fiscal year 2012/13, which establishes the main areas of activity for the coming years. Based on this strategy, we have developed targets in the categories of economy, environment and people, as well as action plans and measures for individual areas. Many of these have already been implemented. For example, various copper-based materials and innovations were developed, the emissions targets for water and air were met and the proportion of complex recycling materials processed was expanded further. Additionally, we increased occupational safety measures again, dealt more intensively with responsibility in the supply chain and reinforced dialogue with our interest groups around Europe, for instance regarding the topic of the circular economy.

The increasing number of questions and requirements from our stakeholders validates our efforts. For instance, customers are increasingly placing a stronger emphasis on environmentally friendly products and climate protection, but also on modern production processes and a secure and responsible raw material supply. This is also demonstrated by the fact that it’s not just investors, but also customers who value Aurubis’ participation in the investor initiative for climate protection, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). After the CDP named Aurubis Best Newcomer Germany in 2015, the company was given an “A-” rating in the 2016 CDP Climate Performance Leadership Index. At the same time, the CDP classified Aurubis as one of the top seven companies in the MDAX.

Recycling expectations from suppliers, policymakers and interest groups have also increased. In this area, resource efficiency, environmentally friendly recycling management and multi-metal recycling solutions play a role. The Aurubis Sustainability Day, which has taken place annually since 2014, once again provided a dialogue platform for representatives of government, business and society in November 2015. We addressed the topics of the circular economy and the prevention of illegal waste transports.

Organizational structure

Sustainability is a Group responsibility at Aurubis and is part of Corporate Communications & External Affairs. Sustainability Management carries out the daily work in this area together with representatives from all of the Group’s departments.

Comprehensive sustainability reporting

The fifth Aurubis Group Sustainability Report was published in April 2016. It provides an extensive and detailed sustainability balance of the two previous fiscal years, 2013/14 and 2014/15, and is supplemented with online reporting.

The report’s alignment with the internationally recognized reporting standard Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) makes the company’s reporting on sustainability and the Sustainability Strategy more transparent and easier to compare. In addition to the relevant key parameters, the Sustainability Report outlines successes, targets, the degree of target achievement and challenges.

The current Sustainability Report follows the reporting requirements of GRI G4, and simultaneously serves as the Communication on Progress for the UN Global Compact (UNGC). In the course of producing the report, the company’s main sustainability issues were addressed in a targeted manner. A materiality analysis that was conducted after surveying internal and external stakeholders in fall 2015 confirmed the action areas and targets included in the Aurubis Sustainability Strategy.

Aurubis is therefore also well positioned to fulfill the EU Directive on Non-Financial Information Disclosure (“CSR Directive”), which will be transposed into German law by December 6, 2016 and will then impact fiscal years that start after December 31, 2016. The Sustainability Report and Annual Report are already produced with close cooperation between the relevant departments.

Environmental protection in the Group

Raw material processing and production in the Aurubis Group are carried out using state-of-the-art plant technologies that reflect very high environmental protection standards and conserve natural resources. New investments are aligned with these principles. The environmental protection issues include constantly improving air quality, energy efficiency and water pollution control, as well as conserving natural resources for future generations. These topics are established Group standards, but there are also concrete targets for individual sites (see the Environmental Report and the Aurubis AG Environmental Statement).

Capital expenditure for environmental protection in
Aurubis copper production


At € 15.2 million, capital expenditure for environmental protection in calendar year 2015 was lower than the previous year (€ 34.4 million). This is due to the fact that capital expenditure is often related to larger facility standstills, which weren’t carried out in calendar year 2015. 

Environmental management systems (in accordance with ISO 14001 in particular; supplemented by the participation of Aurubis AG in the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, EMAS) support the implementation of the targets. Standards are continuously recorded, deviations are evaluated and corrective measures are initiated and monitored for effectiveness. Moreover, we have implemented and certified energy management systems in accordance with ISO 50001 at several sites. The annual external audit offers us the opportunity to have our environmental protection and energy efficiency measures validated by an independent third party in order to identify and utilize potential for improvement.

Environmentally sound copper production from primary raw materials, such as copper concentrates, and multi-metal recycling underpin the establishment of a responsible and demand-oriented copper supply in Europe. Copper is a crucial raw material that is also used for renewable energies in the expansion of electricity grids. Demand is rising, but resources are limited. Metal recycling is therefore not an end in itself but an important source of raw materials. Aurubis has globally recognized expertise in this area and the suitable technologies to recycle copper scrap and complex materials for recycling, such as electrical and electronic scrap. The objective is to return not just copper, but the by-metals to the economic cycle as well.

The group-wide environmental protection standards have been achieved in all areas; the expected emission reductions were significantly exceeded.

For example, specific dust emissions for primary and secondary copper production have fallen by 96 %, while SO2 emissions in primary copper production have been reduced by 85 % (reference year: 2000). When compared internationally, the Group is therefore a forerunner in reducing specific sulfur dioxide emissions.

We have also made significant improvements in water pollution control. We have reduced metal emissions to water in copper production processes from 7.2 to 1.0 g per ton of copper output since 2000, or by 87 %. Compared to the previous year alone, emissions to water were reduced once again by more than a fifth. Our goal now is to maintain this low level into the future as well.

The following measures were implemented in fiscal year 2015/16 and are examples of actions that contributed significantly to improvements in environmental protection:

  • The emission reductions established in voluntary agreements with the city of Hamburg were achieved, and the success of the implemented course of action was validated with measurements.
  • A new off-gas treatment plant was commissioned at the Bulgarian site in Pirdop. It has been in normal operation since March 2016 and contributes to reducing sulfur dioxide and fugitive emissions further.
  • At Aurubis Stolberg, the consumption of purified water was significantly decreased through optimizations in the processes. It was more than 40 % lower in 2015 compared to the previous year. Once implemented measures have fully taken effect, further reductions can be expected.

Aurubis continued its open dialogue with authorities and citizens across the Group again in 2015/16, in addition to various environmental projects: for example, we are participating in the three-year testing and development phase of the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) together with the overarching European metal industry association Eurometaux and the European Copper Institute (ECI). The goal of this collaboration is to develop and test the methods for determining the environmental footprint. On this basis, the European Commission is striving to create a single market for “environmentally friendly products” and “environmentally friendly organizations”.

Corporate Environmental Protection topics

Chart: Topics in Group environmental protection until 2016

In Hamburg, we have been a member of the Environmental Partnership since 2003, and a member of the Partnership for Air Quality and Low-emission Mobility, which is coordinated by the city of Hamburg. The goal of the latter partnership is to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions, which are caused by transport in particular. For this purpose, we also participated in the German model project Mobil.Pro.Fit® in collaboration with the environmental organization B.A.U.M. e. V. The goal of the project is to develop a sustainable and climate-friendly mobility concept.

We continue to raise employees’ awareness of all issues connected to environmental protection. A high level of individual environmental awareness is ultimately a key condition for successful environmental protection in the entire company.

Striving for energy and resource efficiency and environmental protection can nevertheless lead to conflicting goals. For instance, while processing complex recycling materials is very resource-efficient, it usually requires high energy consumption. To reduce our environmental impact to a minimum, we continuously work on further developing our environmental and climate protection measures.

Our Environmental Report contains more information on environmental protection in the Aurubis Group. It is available on the company website in the Responsibility section.

Energy supply, energy efficiency and climate change issues are of fundamental importance

Copper production entails very energy-intensive processes, meaning that developments in the energy sector were once again of great relevance to Aurubis in 2015/16. The German energy turnaround, the implementation of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive and the third European emissions trading period took center stage yet again.

Companies that emit carbon dioxide must have the appropriate permissions to do so. The competitiveness of European industry is impaired by additional local CO2 costs. To balance these effects, so-called carbon leakage sectors were established, including the copper industry. This status currently softens the effect of the general reduction of allocated CO2 certificates to a great extent.

Aurubis has participated in the survey distributed by the Carbon Disclosure Project investor initiative since 2015.We were placed in the initiative’s leadership category in 2016. This distinction includes those copper products that contribute to increasing efficiency in applications, as well as effective production processes, energy management and investment in energy and CO2 efficiency optimizations.As an energy-intensive company, the efficient use of energy isn’t just an environmental responsibility for Aurubis, but also an economic one. All of the Group sites thus utilize energy as sparingly as possible.

In 2007 the EU member states agreed to reduce primary energy consumption by 20 % by 2020. The EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) went into effect on December 4, 2012. It outlines activities to strengthen energy efficiency that must be implemented by the member states. This includes the execution of mandatory energy audits. Currently, all of the main German sites in the Aurubis Group have developed an energy management system, carry out energy audits and are certified in accordance with DIN EN ISO 50001. We therefore fulfill the basic conditions to continue being subject to a lower German Renewable Energies Act (EEG) reallocation charge and lower energy/electricity taxes.

To enable the plants to communicate with each other about their experiences, we regularly carry out energy management and energy efficiency workshops, take part in the energy efficiency network of the German association WirtschaftsVereinigung Metalle and the Hamburg Industrial Association, and are also active within the networks at other Aurubis sites.

The city of Hamburg is striving to reduce its CO2 emissions by 40 % in 2020 compared to 1990 and by 80 % in 2050. The city is also seeking to make its district heating supply more climate-compatible in the medium term, and has hopes of using industrial waste heat to achieve this. At the Aurubis plant in Hamburg, a CO2-free waste heat potential of about 60 MW and roughly 500 GWh p. a. were identified for district heating delivery in the sulfuric acid facility. The HafenCity East building development area is located close to the plant and is well-suited for taking one-third of our waste heat for its heat supply. Currently, we are negotiating with the relevant heat provider regarding heat delivery, and are also in discussions with additional interested parties and funding providers regarding ways to utilize all the extracted heat in a sensible way, achieving potential CO2 savings of around 140,000 t p. a. and reducing discharge into the Elbe River.

Exceedingly volatile electricity from renewable energy already makes up about 30 % of gross electricity production in the German electricity mix and suppresses conventional electricity since it is preferentially fed in. The result is that expensive gas power plants are rarely key to pricing these days, with the focus instead on mainly brown and hard coal power plants. Electricity exchange prices in the countries bordering Germany are also affected. The Aurubis Group bases its electricity supply in Germany on a virtual “power plant slice” based on hard coal. We therefore don’t benefit from the price reduction effects of renewable energies, but from falling coal prices worldwide and the low CO2 price level. The coal price fluctuated in the course of the fiscal year but remained at the same level overall.

The level of fees, especially those of the northern transmission grid operators and thus indirectly the distribution system operators, has increased significantly in the last several years. In light of scheduled grid expansions and increasing bottleneck measures (renewable energy load reductions, decreases in power plant capacities, international load balancing), a considerable increase should still be anticipated. Because of its consistent electricity consumption profile, Aurubis pays an individual grid charge, which is why general increases in charges don’t impact us fully.

In order to protect international sectors like the copper industry from competitive disadvantages, the EU has already authorized limited compensation for electricity price increases stemming from CO2 emissions trading. Some EU member states, such as Germany, have passed corresponding funding guidelines. However, the compensation approved in Germany is only 50 % effective due to EU regulations in the copper industry.

After the wholesale prices for natural gas decreased by nearly half in the previous fiscal year, the downward trend continued in the past fiscal year as well. The reason for falling prices was first and foremost the good supply situation in Europe as well as the effects of lower oil prices. Due to the start of LNG (liquefied natural gas) imports from the US in 2016, we also expect a good natural gas supply in Europe in the future, despite decreasing production in the region. Experts thus expect natural gas prices to stay at the current level for the next few years.

By comparing key figures between different sites, significant savings potential has been calculated and developed for the water supply and water treatment. In addition to technical optimizations, an improved approach to water consumption has also led to lower water and water treatment costs without additional investments.

Health protection in the Group

The responsibility of Corporate Occupational Safety & Health is to provide technical, organizational and personal conditions that prevent all work-related accidents and illnesses.

Among Aurubis employees, the accident frequency in fiscal year 2015/16, LTIFR (1-n) (Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate = number of work-related accidents with at least one lost shift per one million hours worked), decreased by 27 % compared to the previous year. The LTIFR (1-n) fell to 4.6, from 6.3 in the previous fiscal year, while the absolute number of accidents declined from 64 to 45.

With great sadness, we had to report a fatal accident involving an employee from an external company in fiscal year 2015/16.

We have been setting short-term and medium-term occupational safety targets since 2010 and are working towards Vision Zero, a completely accident-free work environment. In the medium term, an LTIFR (1-n) of ≤ 3.0 should be achieved by 2022 at the latest. In light of the favorable development in recorded accidents, we intend to adjust this objective and reach Vision Zero even faster.

Accident frequency

Chart: Accident frequency