Embracing the ESG opportunity

Kal Tire takes pride in focusing on all aspects of ESG. Miles Rigney talks about the company’s ongoing efforts to do this.

Kal Tire takes pride in focusing on all aspects of ESG. Australian Mining spoke with managing director Miles Rigney about the company’s ongoing efforts to be a responsible employer of choice.

It seems a simple proposition for a company: ask employees what they think you’re doing well and what could be done better to make them more comfortable in their job.

And, as Kal Tire managing director Miles Rigney told Australian Mining, that simple proposition can be an incredibly effective tool.

“If we have a workforce that feels we’re inclusive and they’re a part of things, then that helps us become an employer of choice,” he said.

“One of the initiatives we put in at the end of last year was, when we do our annual performance reviews with our team members we included a couple of questions around diversity and inclusion for the first time.

“That’s proved to be very enlightening, to hear the feedback from our team about what they think we’re doing well in the diversity and inclusion space, and to also hear their thoughts about what we could be doing that we’re not currently doing now.

“The process is not quite finished yet, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the feedback we’ve received from our team members will help steer the direction we move in over the next year and beyond.”

The evolution of environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices and the push towards a more sustainable industry have undoubtedly been key drivers of the resources sector in recent years.

Australian mining long ago realised the importance of sustainability, and the sector is a leader in the journey towards zero emissions. However, it’s important to remember that ESG is not limited to ‘environmental’.

Kal Tire is very aware of that reality, which is why the tyre services company continues to take major steps in developing its social and governance practices to create a safe and appealing workplace.

“There’s been a number of programs that we’ve run in the last 12 months which I think have really helped in that area,” Rigney said. “Particularly around the professional development of our team members and showing them a pathway that we’re prepared to invest in their ongoing development to become future leaders in our business.”

That professional development has focused on two key areas. The first is a trainee program that helps people new to the company learn how to complete maintenance activities safely and efficiently. The second is a focus on training more experienced team members to become our future leaders.

“That means we’re fuelling our own growth,” Rigney said.

“In the competitive market we’re in at the moment, for us to be successful we must be the employer that our current team members choose to stay with because they appreciate that we appreciate them.

“I like to think we do well in that area, but we’re always going to continue to try and improve. We’re never going to get to the point where we say, ‘okay, tick, we’ve done that’.

“The foot never comes off the throttle. We’ve always got to listen.”

But Kal Tire’s social and governance practices are not solely directed inwards. The company is driven by its AIMS, a set of principles that “guide us to make the right decision”.

“These AIMS have been around for a very long time and it’s something that Kal Tire has continuously worked at,” Rigney said.

It was these principles that led the company to support the Small Steps 4 Hannah initiative, an Australian organisation – named for Hannah Clarke and her children – that works to halt the cycle of domestic violence. And it was through this support that Kal Tire ultimately became a sponsor of the Small Steps for Hannah Annual Lunch.

“The support of International Women’s Day correlates directly with the Small Steps 4 Hannah initiative,” Rigney said.

“We attended a charity launch for the Small Steps for Hannah Foundation last year and we listened to the various speakers they had, the work they were trying to do, and it became very easy for us to say, ‘we think this is really, really important work’.

“So the decision to upgrade from being an attendee to becoming a sponsor was very simple.”

Looking outward, Kal Tire understands the need for continuous improvement and to be innovative for its customers, particularly in the area of sustainability. This thinking drove the company’s new Maple Program, which kicked off at the start of 2022.

“The Maple Program is based on a carbon calculator that we built and has been independently evaluated and accredited by SCS Global Services, a leader in sustainability standards and third-party accreditation. Essentially it’s a way of calculating CO2 and oil savings, in terms of kilograms, tonnes, barrels, litres,” Rigney explained.

Under the program, when Kal Tire is able to help a customer by repairing a tyre with its proprietary Ultra Repair process, they can then provide that customer with a certificate that outlines how much CO2 and oil was saved by getting that tyre back into service versus purchasing a new tyre.

Kal Tire - Maple Program

Kal Tire is also very conscious that repairing and recycling tyres is not the start of the journey with its customers. The company’s expertise comes into play far earlier and is designed to maximise tyre life and minimise environmental impacts.

“The start for us is helping our customers firstly determine the most appropriate product or tyres for them to use: what tyres are most likely to deliver them the productivity that they’re ultimately looking for?” Rigney said.

“Once the tyre has been delivered to the operation, our area of expertise is understanding the capabilities of the tyre and putting management and maintenance practices around that tyre so the customer is able to get the most value from it, the most productivity.

“In a perfect world the tyre doesn’t get damaged, but it’s not a perfect world and tyres do get damaged … and that’s when the repair business kicks in.”

Once a repair is done, the tyre is returned to service and sees out the rest of its life. Only then does recycling come into play.

As a member of Tyre Stewardship Australia’s Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme, Kal Tire understands the importance and value of recycling tyres, rather than burying them in the ground.

That understanding is on display with the company’s tyre recycling plant in Chile, where the government has mandated the recycling of off-the-road tyres. While Australia currently has no such legislation, Kal Tire is already looking at a similar local facility.

“We have to move at the right pace and make sure that when we do establish a facility that there’s an understanding that there’s no value in waste tyres,” Rigney said.

“At the moment when the tyres are being buried, they don’t represent a pile of gold. The reality is that the value of the offtake is less than the cost of the process, so customers have to pay.

“What will be the driver going forward for us is working with one, two, three, four customers who understand and are okay with that, and ready to enter into a long-term commitment to enable us to go off and build our first facility in Australia.

“Those discussions have started and I expect we may see some momentum build.”

This feature appeared in the April issue of Australian Mining.

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