Atlas Copco was recently named to the 2013 Global 100 Most Sustainable Companies list. The honor marks the seventh time the company made the list.National Drillerrecently caught up with North America President Jim Levitt to hear his thoughts on sustainability and what it means to the company.
An international group called the Corporate Knights named Atlas Copco in January to its 2013 Global 100 Most Sustainable Companies list. Atlas Copco ranked 18th, and it’s the seventh time the company made the list. The honor was presented Jan. 23 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
National Driller recently interviewed Jim Levitt, president of Atlas Copco North America LLC, about the honor, and here are his thoughts on sustainability and what it means to the company.

Q. Companies are judged on a dozen criteria-ranging from energy and water use to innovation to turnover-to rise past the shortlist for this index. Can you talk a little about which of these criteria Atlas Copco excelled at?
A. Innovation would be a good place to start. Atlas Copco’s 2011 annual report cites a separate line item for research and development at approximately $278 million (USD)-which equates to more than two percent of the company’s revenues. This is a primary reason the company has been recognized the past few years by Forbes, Thomson-Reuters and Newsweek, among others for its commitment to innovation.
Also in 2011, the Patent Board of Global Industrial Equipment Manufacturers recognized Atlas Copco for the quality of their patent portfolio-placing the company 13th on their global list. This commitment to research and development didn’t begin recently; it has been ingrained in the company’s culture from the beginning.
When we look at more traditionally focused sustainability issues such as decreasing CO2 emissions, we are seeing our U.S. operations emissions decreasing by more than 20 percent in the past two years, due to a heavy focus on continuous improvements in our process. We also have some manufacturing plants in the United States with recycling rates in the plus 90 percent category.
Gender diversity is another stand out area for Atlas Copco within this prestigious list. We do have a high proportion of female board members and managers when we benchmark ourselves against some of the other companies on the list, but we are keen to keep this as a focus area for improvement. 
Q. Atlas Copco will need to keep improving to make the list for an eighth year. Are there specific criteria Atlas Copco plans to work on with an eye toward getting on the 2014 list?
A. Atlas Copco has a list of specific goals through 2020. We recognize that continuous development and improvement is the only way we will meet these goals:
  • Decrease CO2 emissions from transport of goods by 20 percent in relation to cost of sales by 2020.
  • Keep water consumption at current level.
  • Decrease CO2 emissions from operations by 20 percent in relation to cost of sales by 2020.
  • Reuse, recycle and recover 80 percent of waste.
We will also continue to focus heavily on safety in 2013; safety is one of the criteria for the list and we are launching a new global campaign aimed at improving safety procedures in the workplace.
Q. Can you talk about how the efforts toward being a “sustainable” company help in the competitive arena? That is, if Atlas Copco was judged well on, for example, carbon productivity, how does reducing carbon emissions help the company compete against its peers?
A. There is a fantastic business argument in being a sustainable company. A 20 percent reduction in emission does offer a considerable cost saving and is just one of the ways that we can put more money into research and development. All sustainability programs come with startup costs along with running costs, but ultimately, the payback makes for a great business argument.
It’s also very positive from an employer brand perspective and helps us to attract and recruit talented people into our organization.
Finally, the focus on being a “sustainable company” creates an atmosphere of awareness to all of our employees. A great example of this is our employee run Water-for-All organization that helps to provide clean drinking water in many countries throughout the world. U.S. donations to this charitable organization will surpass $200,000 in 2013.
Q. It looked like Atlas Copco was the only drill tools and rigs maker on the list (I understand AC is in a lot of other segments, too). Is that correct? If so, can you talk about what sustainability means to this segment in particular?
A. Yes, it seems that there are no other companies with such a portfolio of products on the list. Atlas Copco holds world-leading positions in compressors, construction mining and equipment, power tools and assembly systems. Our experiences during the past 14 decades have guided us to our focus today on sustainable productivity.
The mining segment is no different from other business segments where sustainability represents a real business case. We can name several products which have been developed in line with these sustainable principles. One great example is our Smart Crawler Rig products that offer our customers high productivity, outstanding safety and ergonomics, and many environmental friendly features. 
We are playing our part here with an initiative between Atlas Copco Secoroc and the U.S. Department of Energy. As part of President (Barack) Obama’s challenge to generate 80 percent of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources by 2035, we are developing a down-the-hole (DTH) hammer design capable of low-cost, high-production drilling in the high temperatures of deep geothermal wells.
Q. Atlas Copco is about to celebrate its 140th anniversary. Can you talk about any plans the company has to mark the occasion?
A. We feel the best way to celebrate 140 years is to acknowledge the employees and customers that made it possible, and deliver on the company's commitment to innovation, sustainability and customer service.
Atlas Copco CEO Ronnie Leten will mark the company’s 140th anniversary by ringing the opening bell at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York’s Times Square on Feb. 21 at 9:15 a.m. EST.
The bell ringing signifies the beginning of the day’s trading and the start of a yearlong anniversary celebration for the company. Leten will be accompanied at the event by Maureen Ellis, an employee celebrating more than 40 years with Atlas Copco in the United States, select customers and other company management and stakeholders.
We also have a global party taking place that week. We will use the opportunity to review our history with all employees and run global workshops on innovation to uncover even more ways to improve in the future.