SAFETY, HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT
Thai Union has many initiatives in place to help ensure we operate responsibly and manage some of our most material issues. In line with the UN Sustainability Goals, we are focused on SDG 12 for Responsible Production and Consumption, and SDG 13 for Climate Action. Looking to 2020 and beyond, we believe these SDGs will play an even more important role in our sustainability strategy.
Global environmental risks such as climate change, resource consumption and plastic waste management have an increasingly negative impact on our oceans which, in turn, threatens the marine species on which we depend. The way we operate has to be environmentally responsible and also show a duty of care for our workers in how we operate.
We have initiatives in place that contribute to water reduction, energy consumption, waste to landfill reduction, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and accident reduction. We want everyone who works for Thai Union to play an active role in delivering our safety, health and environmental goals—we see safety and environmental protection as everyone’s business. We also strive to make advances in our occupational health and safety policies, continually strengthening our safety standards, procedures and processes. For more information on Thai Union’s environmental performance, please see here.
As part of our commitments under SeaChange® we set several targets for 2020, including 0.5 Long-Term Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR) by 2020 as well as a 30 percent reduction in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions; a 20 percent decrease in water consumption, and 20 percent reduction in waste to landfill. By 2020 we had succeeded in achieving all of these with the exception of GHG emissions, which we missed by only 2 percent. There is more information below about our activities to reduce GHG emissions and how we intend to achieve this target.
Tha Union is committed to ensuring the ongoing health, safety and wellbeing of all employees, partners, suppliers, customers and local communities. Like many companies around the world, Thai Union’s operations have been affected by COVID-19. However, since the start of the pandemic, Thai Union has taken every step possible to safeguard those involved in our supply chains, from catch to processing to consumption and to mitigate the impact on our operations. (SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being)
In 2020, we implemented comprehensive measures to prevent infections inside our factories. These included social distancing, wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as workforce clustering. These measures were designed to minimize the impact on employees should there be a case in a factory. When cases were detected, we immediately put in place protocols to launch contact tracing, quarantine close contact employees, isolate the affected area and conduct thorough sanitization. Throughout 2020 we have also conducted regular safety and cleaning drills in all factories to ensure our readiness. Additionally, in 2018 and 2019 we conducted crisis communication and response training throughout our operational centres and business units. Having this in place meant that we were able to mobilize quickly during the pandemic, following agreed procedures and processes locally under the auspices of a central, global Crisis Management Team.
SAFETY AND OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH
In 2020 we also focused on building safer workplaces to reduce the risks of injuries and fatalities. This work is ongoing and is concentrating on setting up systems and changing working culture to prioritize safe workplaces. Emphasizing the importance of safety for employees and contractors for good health, safety and environment, Thai Union continually analyzes our historic data to ensure we address and mitigate the risk. Based on our assessment of past serious accident data*, we have identified fire, forklift, working at height, machine, slip, trolley, and material handling as our top hazards. At the same time, we are seeing high frequencies of workers receiving cuts even though the historic data does not show serious injuries.
A key focus of 2020 was to reduce fire risks at our factories. We began by assessing fire and life safety at all our manufacturing facilities in order to identify the gaps and risk mitigation measures at both a corporate and site level by using the “cheese risk mitigation model”. This included the development of an investment plan as well as strengthening our internal operation controls. For example, we set minimum requirements for our building materials, developed an investment plan for a fire protection system, and strengthening incident management.
We are committed to reducing our Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR) though the implementation of our Group SHE Management Guidelines, adhering to SHE mandatory requirements, and top three issue and root cause analysis including near miss programs. This resulted in a decrease of our LTIFR from 0.89 cases per 200,000 hours worked in 2016 to 0.45 cases per 200,000 hours worked in 2020, a reduction of 49 percent, with no employee fatalities. In 2020, our Total recordable incident rate (TRIR) was 0.63 cases per 200,000 hours worked. Moreover, we also maintained our occupational illness frequency rate for employees at zero.
However, our LTIFR in 2020 is higher than to 2019 due to the expansion of reporting coverage to new businesses in Germany, Lithuania, and Thailand. This has also resulted in a higher frequency rate.
To see details about Thai Union’s environmental performance see here.
Despite our work on enforcing Safety, Health and Environmental policies, on 21 May 2020 there was a fire at our plant in Val Comeau, Canada. An evacuation was safely conducted and there were no injuries reported. The plant was not operational throughout the remainder of 2020. One was a slip and one was a cut. This emphasizes the need for continuous action to keep our workplace safe.
Thai Union is committed to protecting the environment by minimizing our consumption of natural resources, reducing adverse impacts on the environment. In 2020, we exceeded our targets for water consumption reduction and waste to landfill reduction. We reduced our intensity of water withdrawal and waste disposed to landfill by 26 percent and 70 percent respectively, compared with 2016 levels.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY MANAGEMENT
Thai Union is committed to protection the environment. Environmental initiatives in 2020 placed a strong focus on reducing energy consumption, operational efficiency as well as increasing consumption of renewable energy. Key initiatives included:
- Increasing the energy efficiency of steam production in the end-to-end process, starting from sourcing high-quality coal and using big bags to reducing moisture, improving our steam pipeline by installing an insulator and reducing the pipe size, using RO water, PRV to reduce steam pressure and utilizing steam usage in steam cookers and retorts.
- Reducing electricity consumption in our refrigeration systems by improving energy management in cold storage, installing inverter compressor fans, providing an anti-room and high-speed shutter doors. In 2020, Thai Union joined EP100, a Climate Group initiative, which supported our refrigerant management audit and recommendations.
- Promoting renewable energy such as biomass boilers which use wood chips as fuel for steam production to replace bunker oil at Songkla Canning, electricity generated from biogas from the wastewater treatment plant at Thai Union Frozen and Thai Union Manufacturing. We have also continued the Sun Seeker Project to install solar rooftops in our factories. Since 2017, we have achieved a total solar capacity of 8.3 MW, producing 15,101,588 kWh. This has resulted in greenhouse gas reduction of approximately 7,853 tons CO2 eq. per year. The Sun Seeker Project will continue in 2021. (SDG 13 – Climate Action and SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy)
As a result of our efforts to promote renewable energy usage throughout our production process, in 2020, GHG emissions per production unit decreased by 28 percent compared to 2016. Thai Union is moving toward becoming a low-carbon organization and reducing the impact of GHG on the environment and society. In 2021 we will announce our Climate Change Strategy, including setting a goal in line with the Science Based Targets Initiative.
Project to Reduce Single-use Plastic among Employees
Thai Union emphasizes the importance of reducing the use of single-use plastic and promotes reuse of packaging, starting with lifestyle changes. We raise employees’ awareness of resource optimization so that they are aware of their roles to conserve the planet, use plastic mindfully and manage waste appropriately in order to reduce environmental impacts. We also work carefully with our suppliers to reduce packaging, in particular especially plastic bags and corrugated paper boxes.
Thai Union has applied the circular economy principle in waste management in order to reduce waste in production process while optimizing the use of resources. We aim to not only reduce, but also to add value to waste using the following approaches: using food scraps for feeding animals, using sludge from water treatment process for composting, and sending used or contaminated oil to incineration with heat recovery.
At Thai Union Group, Thai Union Manufacturing, Yueh Chyang Canned Food, Songkla Canning, Okeanos Food, Thai Union Seafood, Pakfood Asia, and Thai Union Feedmill (Mahachai), sludge from the wastewater treatment process was used as a soil amendment, leading to a reduction of 8,042 tons of waste per year. Consequently, waste disposal to landfill reduced by 70 percent in 2020, compared to 2016.
Water is essential to continuity in the food business thus responsible water management is critical to the future of Thai Union’s business, especially in water stressed areas where we operate. We facilitate sustainable management of water catchments around our factories by improving water usage efficiency and reuse & recycle water in production process.
WATER STRESS RISK ASSESSMENT AND MANAGEMENT
In 2020, Thai Union assessed water scarcity risks by the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas 3.0 developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI). We take actions to reduce the impact by setting a water reduction target and providing alternative water sources.
Water Consumption throughout the Production Process based on the Circular Economy Principle
All of these efforts not only reduce the operational risks of both Thai Union and our suppliers, but can also play a role in reducing any impact on the communities in which we operate at times when water is scarce, which is a possibility in the future.
Carbon Searo – leave no trace
As a company producing a wide range of products for consumers, we naturally have to think carefully about the environmental impact of every single unit we produce. Packaging is an important component of any product and contributes significantly to our overall environmental impact. Under SeaChange® we recognize this and understand that we must reduce our environmental footprint by developing and implementing sustainable packaging initiatives. As part of our Responsible Operations we have committed to ensuring 100 percent of our branded packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 and 30 percent average recycled content in our branded packaging by 2025.
In 2020, to help achieve this aim, our UK brand John West developed a Sustainable Packaging Roadmap. The John West Carbon Searo Program delivers a clear path to meeting our combined 2025 Packaging Commitments. It takes into account a range of factors, from regulation to consumer trends and incorporated interviews with our key stakeholders and consultation with partners such as the Ellen Macarthur Foundation to develop the program.
The roadmap includes a full review of our branded products and their packaging, as well as research into the best possible materials and packaging solutions. John West is working closely with the Thai Union Global Innovation Center (GIC) to research and test sustainable packaging, including the use of alternative materials (ensuring compostability or recyclability) or alternative designs to reduce and eliminate unnecessary materials. The program sets out a timeline towards delivering on these goals and commitments.
The roadmap to meet our 2025 Commitments is just the beginning. In particular, John West’s vision is circular thinking for a carbon neutral future, looking beyond 2025 to becoming a net zero carbon emissions business. We must always seek opportunities to reduce waste and our carbon footprint (SDG 13 – Climate Action), which means we will focus on three strategic pillars:
- How we can optimise the planet’s resources
- How to be a pioneer while also collaborating with experts to drive towards carbon neutrality
- How to Close the Loop after consumption, contributing to a circular economy, rather than a linear one
We must understand that packaging is only one part of our commitment to Zero Carbon and we are also looking at other areas, including how we source and transport our products. We also recognize that this will not be a journey that is achieved in one year but will take dedication and investment. We cannot do this alone and will continue to develop our relationships and partner network to truly live up to our responsibilities, delivering real and lasting change to further support Thai Union Group’s vision of ‘Healthy Living, Healthy Oceans’.
Au naturel at ESIP
Thai Union recognizes the importance of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission intensity. For example, since 2017, our Sun Seeker Project to install solar rooftops in our factories has achieved a total solar capacity of 8.3 MW, producing 13,651,603 kWh. This has resulted in greenhouse gas reduction of approximately 7,099 tons CO2 equivalent per year and will continue in the coming years.
However, one particular area of concern for the Group has been producing steam. Boilers in our plants are responsible for the production of approximately 40 percent of our Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions so we have been working hard to find ways in which we can switch from bunker oil-based boilers to those that use more renewable forms of fuel. Reducing our use of bunker oil has been a key part of this, particularly in our plants in Thailand. At Songkla Canning we generate electricity through wood chips rather than bunker oil and in Thai Union Frozen and Thai Union Manufacturing we are using biogas generated by our waste water treatment plants. (SDG 13 – Climate Action)
In 2020, this program moved to Europe. Our plant in Portugal, European Seafood Investment Portugal (ESIP) has also been looking into reducing its use of bunker oil. As a result of this, last year, the plant purchased a natural gas boiler. Over the last year, there has been a gradual handover from the bunker oil boiler to the natural gas boiler and the plant has now reached the point where it is able to produce 100 percent of its electricity with the natural gas boiler, eliminating the need for bunker oil, seeing a GHG emission reduction of 115 tons CO2 equivalent/year. The next step of the project at ESIP is to convert the existing bunker oil boiler to burn natural gas.
Tackling food waste in Norway
Food waste is a global issue that has been gaining recognition in recent years. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), there is an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food, or roughly 30 percent of global production, that is lost or wasted annually. In times where Action Against Hunger states that approximately 690 million people are chronically undernourished (defined as less than 1,800 calories a day), despite the fact that more than enough food is produced globally to feed them, it is more important than ever that we take steps to ensure that food is not wasted and no-one goes hungry. Thai Union is committed to this, particularly through our work on SDG 2 – Zero Hunger.
In 2017, the Norwegian government joined forces with food production companies with the aim to reduce food waste in Norway by 50 percent by 2030. The challenge is called the ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ and has the aim to adapt all food systems to eliminate loss or waste of food. A number of domestic and international companies and organizations pledged to support this, including five government ministries and more than 100 companies. Thai Union brand King Oscar was no exception, making sure that it worked to reduce its own wastage and reporting this annually to the Ministry of Climate and Environment in Norway.
King Oscar’s plan set clear targets for food waste with the vision of reaching zero waste. This included looking closely at all parts of the organization, from supply chain to finance to marketing and product development and sales. It was important to make sure that everything was measurable and achievable and included measuring factories on their food waste amounts and making sales directors accountable for scrapping finished goods. The aim was to be able to utilize all the raw materials from production and making sure that co-products, as well as surplus or poor-quality fish were also used for goods such as fish meal and cod liver oil. Other production issues were also addressed in factories.
This initiative was taken to heart by King Oscar and its employees, who have worked tirelessly on reducing wastage. As a result, we can proudly say that from 2017 to 2020 there was no scrapping of finished goods at King Oscar Norway.