Even as sustainability takes centre stage across the value chain in a conscious effort to minimise the impact on the environment, governments are leveraging regulatory frameworks as powerful catalysts for fostering eco-conscious change. At this pivotal juncture, corporate leaders are faced with an essential decision; to acknowledge sustainability as a corporate duty and a strategic necessity.
Nils Andersson, Sustainability Consultant at Opticos, sat down with Göran Kördel to discuss various aspects around sustainability, opportunities, challenges, and get an insght into Boliden’s journey in this important area.
Boliden is a leader in the sustainable extraction and processing of base and precious metals. Through technical innovation and expertise in mining and smelting, Boliden delivers high-quality products such as zinc and lead ingots, copper cathodes, gold, and silver granules. Their operations span across the Nordics and include prospecting, mining, smelting, and delivery to industrial customers in Europe. Read more about Boliden.
Orchestrated under the capable leadership of Göran Kördel, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Boliden, the company has a unified IT organisation, where the CIO is responsible for aligning IT with the business goals. With a career spanning over two decades, Göran´s journey through the IT industry is marked by transformative roles and influential leadership, making him a driving force in adapting technology for modern challenges. Göran Kördel´s journey into the IT world began at Ericsson and then continued to Sandvik, where he held positions as President, CIO and Vice President. Göran has paved his way through the industry, and in his current role as CIO at Boliden, he continues to be a leading force in adapting technology and IT for the mining industry and beyond.
The strategic adoption of digitalization is a fundamental driver for achieving sustainability goals within any organisation. Recognising the significance of digitisation in the pursuit of sustainability, Boliden has focused on transforming its operations to become more sustainable, where the IT function plays a crucial role in the company’s success.
The company’s primary focus is on production, resulting in an emphasis on Operational Technology (OT). While we discussed the digitisation of Boliden’s operations, Göran emphasised that there are three important aspects to digitising the company operations:
Sustainability within an organisation can’t be the sole responsibility of a single department; it requires a collaborative effort. When it comes to inter-departmental collaboration to support the company´s sustainability goals, Göran identifies two cornerstones that shape his work:
Focus on sustainable production: Boliden aims not only for electrification but also for sustainable metal extraction. Despite the company already establishing itself as a leading player in sustainable mining globally, they are striving to challenge themselves by raising the bar. “We are currently producing metals with a significantly lower CO2 footprint than the industry in average, but we must continue to evolve and improve,” Göran emphasized, with goals such as a 40% reduction in absolute CO2 emissions in Scope 1 & 2 by 2030 compared to 2021 as the base year and carbon neutrality by 2050 as guiding principles for their corporate strategy.
We are a big contributor to the circular economy by recycling electronic scrap, car batteries, and steel mill dust. While we explored the role of technology in advancing the company’s sustainability objectives, Göran highlighted two significant challenges Boliden encountered on its sustainability journey.
Firstly, the deployment of electric vehicles for transportation, while technologically feasible, presents a formidable task in replacing diesel-based vehicles.
Secondly, the transformation of core processes, such as smelting and blasting, particularly in endeavors like green steel production, necessitates a protracted process development timeline, illustrating the complex nature of process transformation in achieving sustainability goals. These challenges underscore the nuanced interplay between technology and operational change essential for sustainability success in the mining industry.
IT can play an important role for organizations in their sustainability operations. Göran identifies two cornerstones that shape his work:
With the implementation of a data-driven sustainability program, sustainability reporting has become an increasingly important part of business operations. “We´ve reported on sustainability for many years and have various environmental permits that need to be reported to authorities. Also, we have investors demanding more and more sustainability reporting,” Göran shared. The increasing emphasis on sustainability takes on a new form.
The European Union’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) is a directive for sustainability reporting, and the requirements for quality and follow-up are becoming increasingly equivalent to those for financial reporting. “Sustainability reporting isn´t new, but the new legislation increases the requirements on what should be reported as well as traceability and frequency. Previously, sustainability reporting could have been done using standard tools like Excel and was somewhat less structured. Now it has to be done in a more controlled way, which requires systems,” he explained.
In line with increased transparency and accessibility, data reliability has become more important. “We´ve been working on setting up a data platform in a mesh structure where we can conduct data governance. It´s about defining who owns the data, quality-assuring the data, and so on,” he explained. He further describes their efforts to automate more of the process to reduce manual effort. “We´re trying to automate wherever possible, so there’s less manual intervention. Of course, manual uploads are still needed sometimes, but we’re trying to automatically gather data from primary sources or sensors.” These efforts encompass not only general data management but also now emphasise sustainability data, reflecting the growing importance of data management for the company.
While discussing the amount of data to be collected in sustainability reporting and its complex nature, Göran said,“The actual challenge lies in collecting data and knowing where to fetch and harmonise the data. The challenge isn´t the output, but rather the collection of data. When talking about CSRD, it covers the entire spectrum of data. For example, the EU demands hundreds of KPIs across the entire ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) spectrum. This means a double materiality analysis must be carried out to identify what´s important – both financial and other influencing factors. Therefore, it involves a significant amount of environmental data, like CO2 emissions, and different types of water and air quality, which are important for us.”
When asked about Boliden’s preparedness for the EU´s new sustainability legislations, such as CSRD, and upcoming legislation like Eco-design for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR), Göran said, “We have been preparing for the EU´s sustainability reporting, CSRD, for a year as we recognised that it would take a long time. Further, we’ve been using basic reporting tools until now; moving forward, a comprehensive solution would be required in line with the growing complexity.”
When asked about how Göran´s role as CIO has changed with the increased importance of sustainability aspects, he said, “The significance of IT has grown and become more prominent over time, and sustainability is the latest and important metric in IT”. This trend is visible across many companies, and Boliden is no exception. However, with the increased presence of IT within the business, collaboration between IT and other departments needs to be closer and more integrated than ever before. While sustainability holds a significant place in the company´s strategy, according to Göran, it hasn´t necessarily fundamentally changed the CIO’s role. He sees it as an opportunity for IT to step forward and make meaningful contributions.
Speaking about the focus of CIOs moving forward Göran said, “It´s hard not to mention AI and advanced analytics, as these technologies enable more selective and enhanced process management. They assist in identifying, understanding, and optimising changes that can lead to a better environment. As for other trends, I believe an extremely critical success factor is a close collaboration between IT and the business. This isn´t unique to sustainability itself, but I consider it of tremendous importance”.
Finally, Göran believes that the three most important aspects a CIO needs to consider while addressing sustainability goals are: