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ISCC Certification, the standard for ethical consumerism

Hankook Tire becomes the first company among tire manufactures to receive the ISCC PLUS Certification

We live in a world where conscious or ethical consumerism directly benefits companies. The certification awarded after a rigorous evaluation acquires the customers' minds and gains a share of their wallets. Greensumers, value consumers who want to select eco-friendly products, pay attention to the details of the raw materials in a product, including the eco-friendliness of the material, origin, and reliability, when making purchase decisions.

ISCC PLUS, a standard for ethical consumerism, is an international sustainability certification program for bio-based and circular (recycled) raw materials under the European Renewable Energy Directives (EU RED). European consumers generally have a higher appetite for ethical consumption, hence the higher recognition and trust in ISCC certifications. The certification can only be awarded after proving the eco-friendliness of the entire process, including using eco-friendly and recyclable materials, requiring the stringent regulations of carbon emissions during production, and encouraging the recycling of the final product.

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International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) provides an international, practical and transparent system for the certification of biomass and bioenergy.

ISCC PLUS, recognized globally, provides options to expand the sustainability certifications to even bioenergy applications (such as solid biomass) in addition to textiles, foods, animal feed, and chemicals.

The sustainability certifications aid to enforce corporate activities and strengthen the market position. However, more importantly, it is bound by the philosophy that the efforts to maintain eco-friendly business practices is a duty as a member of the global society.

Eco-friendly vehicles are emerging as a trend in the automotive industry. Volkswagen is re-emerging as an electrification company with dedicated electric vehicle chassis. BMW produces genuinely eco-friendly cars with electric motors without the rare earth materials, battery cells produced with eco-friendly electricity, and interior materials made from recyclable biomass materials.

In line with this trend, eco-friendliness has been the main focus in the automotive parts industry. As manufacturing a car requires tens of thousands of parts to complete, the transformation of these component manufacturers is only natural. Hankook Tire, who produces tires, one of the key components, announced on November 11th, 2021, that it was awarded the ISCC PLUS Certification. This is the first certification issued to a tire manufacturer in the world. We met with people who worked hard to earn the certificate and asked about the value of the ISCC PLUS Certification, one of the most stringently evaluated certifications that can be earned.

Interview

Jungyup Park (Quality Planning Team), Kiwon Hwang (Sustainable & Future material Development Project Team), Gilyoung Lee (Raw Material Development Project), Soyoung Han (Product Strategy Team)

+ Control Union Korea- Sawon Shim (Bio-energy Team)

Q. Congratulations on winning the first ISCC PLUS certification in the industry. What was the process and what does it mean?

Many products subject to the ISCC Certification are household goods, including plastics, food, and cosmetics. Hankook Tire is the first to be awarded the certification within the tire industry. There was no "Tire" category, and the certification authority created it to register us in the system. The certification process required much more action from us than simply applying. The entire process, from purchase to production and sales performance, was rigorously reviewed to ensure that the factory uses certified raw materials and adheres to the procedure correctly. The evaluation repeats annually to renew the certification. It was well worth the effort as the company responded to an eco-friendly agenda and persuaded customers globally.

Control Union Korea- Sawon Shim (Bio-energy Team)
Established with the objective of expanding the use of reusable raw materials, ISCC has 40 certification offices globally, as of 2021, and Control Union Korea has the only auditor in the country. Thanks to Hankook Tire, ISCC PLUS now has incorporated the Tire category, and the expansion of applicable areas for certification is expected. When we evaluated the Hankook Tire system, the ERP system was in fact highly transparent in the entire process, from raw material purchase to sales and production. Also, the company was properly prepared for the audit, so the certificate was granted sooner than expected. If the development of new technology influences the number of raw materials, we will conduct an additional audit to reflect such changes to the certification. Being certified with an ISCC PLUS grants certification marks on the company logo and the product. As the ISCC Association operates marketing campaigns in Europe, Hankook Tire's recognition will surely increase.

Q. What are the key elements in the audit process?

The most important thing is how eco-friendly all the production and distribution processes of the products subject to certification are and how cyclical the supply chain structure is. Therefore, through the ISCC PLUS certification system that audits both the material input and output of the production process, being a certified product is proof of contribution to environmentally sustainable production. Certifying raw materials has been actively readied in the European market, with the global market beginning to adopt such an idea. Although using eco-friendly materials may incur a higher cost and more time in the short term, Hankook Tire's plan to continuously invest in their usage will not falter. To this end, raw material suppliers are reporting their material development status, and we are continuing our development to implement such changes in materials. The current certification is for the eco-friendly material used in the tread area of a tire that came with performance improvements. Indeed, the product achieved being both high performance and eco-friendly.

Q. What tire materials have been replaced with eco-friendly certified materials?

Natural oil is a good example. It is easy to think that tires are made of rubber, but, to be exact, they are made of a compound, that is, a "composite material." Of the materials used in tires, it just so happens to be that natural and synthetic rubbers account for the most significant proportion of the materials used. In addition, there are dozens of other materials used to achieve the target performance of tires; of these materials, the existing petrochemical-based oil has specifically been replaced with natural oil. The ISCC PLUS certification process audited all of the processes from the cultivation of raw materials to the refining process for producing oil and from being used as a raw material for tires to produce the final products. The certification is an example of proving the eco-friendliness of using tires made of natural materials.

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ISCC PLUS requires using certified materials such as these as the raw material from the production stage.

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Bio-based Polymer and soybean to be used as the raw material to produce natural oil.

Q. What raw materials other than natural oil did you get certified?

There are biochemicals (bio-based polymers). The existing product is a Styrene Butadiene Rubber SBR made from the precision synthesized macromolecules of petroleum-based monomers, Styrene, and Butadiene. However, the ISCC PLUS certified SBR produces bio/recycled monomer products. These biochemical products are called eco-friendly polymers because the production process uses less raw materials and generates less byproduct, carbon dioxide, compared to the existing products produced from distilling crude oil. Also, the high-performance polymer is used on the tread, the tire's contact patch, to improve upon the various performance requirements. The bio-based polymer was used in the ISCC PLUS certified products and enhanced fuel efficiency and durability. The tire is paving the new direction for eco-friendly tires by using eco-friendly materials and increasing sustainability with reduced frictional heat loss and increased tire abrasion resistance.

Q. What are the ISCC PLUS certified products?

These are all-weather tires, the Kinergy 4S 2 and Kinergy 4S 2 X (SUV tire). As previously mentioned, these are eco-friendly and high-performing tires. In general, cold weather hardens the rubber and reduces the grip of the tires, but these tires show much-improved winter performances. The tires are completed with compound technology that satisfies both the safety performance and eco-friendliness requirements by reducing the hardening of the tread rubber at low temperatures in order to increase traction and achieve reduced rolling resistance. The Kinergy 4S 2 series is already being sold in Europe and has received favorable reviews from many automobile magazines, including being selected as the "2021 Tire Manufacturer of the Year" as the best tire of the all-weather tire category of "Auto Bild," the most prestigious magazine in Europe. As a follow-on product, we are developing tires for high-performance electric vehicles. As we are constantly developing tires for electric cars, the eco-friendly certified electric vehicle tires to be released in the future will have a higher performance.

  • Hankook Tire & Technology-Technology in Motion-ISCC Certification, The standard for ethical consumerism-5
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  • Hankook Tire Kinergy 4S2, the first in the global tire industry to receive the ISCC PLUS certification

Q. What’s next? Will the eco-friendly materials be used in the high-performance tires?

That is also one of our tasks. High-performance tires need to consider the high-performance vehicle that pushes the physical limits and road conditions that these vehicles drive on. Satisfying both the performance requirements and eco-friendliness is not an easy feat. The most important thing that tires need to deliver is safety, and the related performance cannot be compromised. However, even at this very moment, the R&D organization is testing numerous materials and advanced technologies to apply eco-friendly materials to the high-performance tires while satisfying the customers' performance requirements, as shown with the Kinergy 4S 2 series. In addition, based on the technological brand philosophy of the "E-Circle," we are considering sustainability in the entire product lifecycle, from product planning to development, production, and disposal. Like the ISCC PLUS certification we received, our product strategy to contribute to society through eco-friendly production, in addition to delivering high-performance tires, which remains unchanged.

To sustain the tire manufacture industry and develop eco-friendly tires, the technology developed by the R&D team has to be a strong foundation. It is necessary to discover and develop eco-friendly raw materials that have undergone a strict certification and aim for a sustainable value chain that can be considered after the product performance improvement and, ultimately, product disposal. While the certification only included natural oil and bio-based polymers in our product, we continue to research applying the various eco-friendly materials to resin, filler, and cord. We plan to achieve 55% of sustainable materials in our products by 2025 with various technological advancements and ultimately reach 100% by 2050.

Q. What are some of changes that the eco-friendly certification ISCC PLUS can bring?

From the perspective of the automotive industry, it is similar to forming an eco-friendly alliance. Automakers, tire manufacturers, and raw material producers collaborate to fulfill the social responsibility. Companies share corporate responsibilities with eco-friendly structures, and the consumers can confirm the contribution through public certifications. Both the consumerism trends and carbon tax-caused business environment changes exemplify how society is changing to attain a better environment. While the certified eco-friendly raw materials are more expensive, we are not passing on the increased cost to our customers but mitigate it with improved technology. While not having the ISCC PLUS certification does not prevent one from selling into the European market, we acted preemptively to lead the eco-friendly era. After the Paris climate agreement, carbon dioxide reduction has become a vocation of the times. Still, there is also the possibility of sanctioning market entry if there is no eco-friendly certification in the future.

Stay true to the topic of sustainability

As a global company fulfilling its responsibilities as a corporate citizen, Hankook Tire & Technology regards ESG as the foundation of the organizational culture and management. In fact, as a result of such ESG management, Hankook Tire was included in the ‘2021 Dow Jones Sustainability Indices World,' the world's most authoritative sustainability evaluation index, and set a record for being named for six consecutive years. In particular, in 2021, it achieved the highest score in 'Auto Components' and became the number one global company.

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We are also actively leading product strategy. In 2018, we announced the E-Circle Declaration, comprised of a sustainable material technology development strategy. We implement the changes to product planning, research, design, raw materials, manufacturing, disposal, and sustainable materials and technology strategies that cover the entire lifecycle. Efforts are being made to reduce the environmental impact throughout. In 2021, we revised the natural rubber policy to align with the Global Platform for the Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) guidelines, which began to build a more robust value supply chain.

Earning the first ISCC PLUS ever awarded to a tire company and named in DJSI World for six consecutive years is perhaps a natural outcome for a company leading the sustainability that encompasses financial performance, social contributions, and environmental management. Environmentally-friendly business practices apply to all, but not all can achieve it. The future happens to everyone, but only those who lead can ever shape it.