It’s Not Easy Being Green – Scott Hand, Former Chairman and CEO Inco Limited

Scott Hand, former Chairman and CEO of Inco Limited gave this speech at the Pollution Probe Annual Gala on November 13, 2003, at the Royal York Hotel, Toronto, Canada. 

Scott Hand

Last year I had a milestone birthday. Born in 1902. I turned 100 years old.

Not many Canadians have lived so long. So I celebrated. And reflected on a century of life. What had I accomplished? What did I leave in my wake?

Was I a force for good in the world? Or an instrument of harm?

Tough questions.

The truth is my life hasn’t been perfect. I’ve left a few footprints.

Tonight, I have come neither to blow smoke about our achievements over the century. Nor to apologize for our legacy. You won’t hear me say how “committed” I am. I won’t be pleading for patience and understanding.

You’ll hear a little straight talk, which I hope adds something to the discussion.

First, let me say that that 100-year-old Canadian is Inco. Inco is me. And around the world, there are 10,000 people just like me.

Man, that thought terrifies my wife!!

As a group of 10, 000 people, we’re totally focused on the responsible mining and processing of nickel–in Canada, in Indonesia, the UK, China, and soon in New Caledonia.

Basically, nickel’s good stuff. It’s the reason stainless steel is stainless. Nickel is in the batteries of cell phones; like the ones that will probably ring while I’m up here.

It’s in the batteries of hybrid/electric cars. It’s in kitchens, airplanes and medical instruments.

To make nickel, we dig it out of the ground – in open pits and in underground mines.
The process creates waste – tailings. And it uses energy — less than it used to, but still a lot.

In some places we emit sulphur dioxide, or SO2 — less than we used to but more than we’d like.

Is the world better off for having nickel? I think it is.

But to meet public expectations, to address today’s environmental and social standards, we’ve got a lot of work to do. And a lot of that work involves catching up. Dealing with the cumulative impact of 100 years of operation.

Take Port Colborne. During World War II, our Port Colborne refinery produced 90 percent of the world’s nickel and helped in the war effort. Today, it’s a smaller operation – and it no longer produces nickel.

But the legacy of those earlier years remains in the surface soil. Where, in some areas, there are elevated levels of nickel. What should a company do? How do we deal with something that happened more than half a century ago?

First, we accept responsibility. Step up to the plate. Acknowledge our role in creating the problem.

Second, we act responsibly. Do the right thing. Take action. Bring the best minds and science to the problem. Involve the community. Stick it out until it’s resolved. And pay for it. We’ve helped establish a Community Based Risk Assessment program in Port Colborne. We’re paying for two years of scientific and medical studies at a cost of $17 million.

We’ll accept the studies’ recommendations and remediate where remediation is called for. We have a longstanding offer to clean up properties next to the plant. But let me be frank: not everyone has been satisfied with these efforts. So here’s the question I always ask myself: is Inco doing the right thing?

I believe we are. And I’m determined to stay the course. Speaking of staying the course, I’d like to recognize and thank Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badaway who is here tonight. His resolve and support and commitment to this difficult process has been

In Sudbury, a similar community program is examining the impact of nickel in the soil.
And like Port Colborne, we’re accepting responsibility and addressing concerns emerging from those studies. It’s the same approach we used with land reclamation.

You’ll recall the Sudbury moonscape of 30 years ago. It’s different now. The regreening of Sudbury has been a success. Together with government, we’ve worked on a massive revegetation program that’s considered a model for the world. In Sudbury, we face another issue that Pollution Probe has identified as important.

SO2 — the gas we emit from our smelter.
As my teenage daughter says: It’s not a good thing. A hundred years ago, nobody thought anything about SO2. It was the price of progress. Today, we know better. But knowing better and solving the problem are two different things.

I go back to our two basic principles: Accept responsibility. Act responsibly. In Sudbury, for the last 25 years, we’ve undertaken one of the largest environmental clean up projects in Canadian history. We’ve spent over $700 million achieving something we believe in — clean air. And we now contain 90 percent of our emissions.

But that’s not enough. The job isn’t done! We’re spending another $115 million to lower our SO2 emissions a further 34 percent by 2006. We will continue to be one of the top 10 air emitters in North America until we can figure out a way to fix it completely.

Governments don’t like these emission levels. Neither does Pollution Probe. And neither do I. But solutions? Taking the next step with SO2 is going to take more than just money. Existing technology simply does not provide a clear fix. Our scientists and researchers are aggressively pursuing innovative and technical solutions, with the aim of achieving a 75 percent reduction of our current S02 emissions by 2015.

It’s a tough challenge. Can we get there? At this point, we don’t know for sure – but that’s our goal. One thing we do know is that we can’t do it alone. We’ll need the creative energy of others to finally resolve this issue.

For example, our federal and provincial governments are searching for new regulatory tools beyond the traditional command and control approach. Ken Ogilvie and I have also talked about what role Pollution Probe might play.

I don’t expect Pollution Probe, or any other environmental organization for that matter, to be an apologist for Inco. Let’s just tackle the problem head on. Let’s think out of the box. Let’s look for solutions and results. And let’s do it together.

Ken, I look forward to continuing our conversation. We may surprise a few people.
I’d also like to thank you and Pollution Probe for inviting me tonight. Not honoring me – but inviting me and hearing what I have to say. As I said, not everyone agrees, and I respect that. For my part, I can only keep doing what I think is right.

A hundred year old man, like myself, would like to believe that he has learned something in all the years he’s spent on earth. And I know we have. In the sixties, I had the privilege of serving in John F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps.

I was a teacher in Ethiopia and learned a lot. The Peace Corps taught me many things but the most valuable lesson was to respect different people and the different ways people think and live. I have carried that lesson with me ever since.

It’s a lesson that has helped build the relationship we have with the Innu and Inuit in Labrador; a relationship that is very gratifying. We’re deeply involved with the Aboriginal people of Labrador in building Voisey’s Bay. And we’re providing them with hope.

And, as I’ve said to Peter Penashue of the Innu Nation, we’ve gone from being like this (gesture of opposed fists) a few years ago, to being more like this (gesture of clasped hands).

In New Caledonia, we’re working with the Melanesian people on a Good Neighbour Agreement that will help them realize the benefits of our Goro project. We’re not as far along as we are in Labrador, but we know the path and we will get there. Accepting responsibility. Doing the right thing. We’ve worked to make that our unofficial motto.

Like that great philosopher Kermit the Frog says, “it’s not easy being green”. And it’s something I can’t lay claim to.

But, with the encouragement and support of people like Mayor Badawey, Ken Ogilvie, and Peter Penashue…. With the tremendous team that I lead at Inco… I hope to get there before I’m too much older.

Thank you.