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Atlas Copco looks to the future as it celebrates 150 years of sustainable innovation

On 21st February 2023, the Atlas Copco Group celebrated 150 years as a global leader of industry and a pioneer of technology and  engineering.  Atlas Copco Industrial South Africa joined subsidiaries around the world in celebrating this historical milestone. The company’s Jet Park, Johannesburg, head office parking area was transformed into a ‘Home of Industrial ideas’. A stylish stretch-tent housing home-style seating areas welcomed employees, customers, suppliers, distributors and other business partners as well as beneficiaries of the organisation’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. 

Proceedings kicked off with a stimulating panel discussion during which representatives from the company’s respective business areas talked about the organisation’s global and local successes. The key note address, delivered by the Swedish Ambassador, Hakan Juholt, was followed by a flag hoisting ceremony where the South African and Swedish flags were raised alongside the specially designed 150th anniversary flag.

Hakan extended his congratulations to Atlas Copco on achieving this historical milestone and touched on the deeply integrated history shared by the organisation and Sweden. Drawing synergies between the two, he pointed out that when Atlas Copco was established as a small business in Stockholm in 1873, Sweden was one of the poorest in Europe. However, this was also the rise of globalisation and the 2nd Industrial Revolution. Hakan attributed Sweden’s development to the growth of companies like Atlas Copco that bring innovations and technologies, create jobs and new skill sets and attract investors.

“Atlas Copco is described in Sweden as the crown jewel of Swedish Industry,” continued Hakan, noting that this was particularly fitting as the founding of Atlas Copco coincided with the gold rush in Pilgrims Rest in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province. “Today Sweden is one of the richest countries in the world and Atlas Copco is one of the largest and most successful Swedish companies globally; both are respected for excellence around the world.”

Few companies can claim a 150 year milestone; key drivers for Atlas Copco’s success – innovation, sustainability, values, ethics, employee wellbeing, safety, diversity & inclusion, customer experience and environmental responsibility – were unpacked during the panel discussion facilitated by Conversation Host, Katlego Ntsie (Digital Communications Manager – Compressor Technique). Wendy Buffa Pace (MD – Atlas Copco Industrial South Africa (Pty) Ltd. and Vice President: Sub-Saharan Africa), Zandra van der Westhuizen (BLM – Compressor Technique), Byrone Thorne (Sales & Marketing Manager – Rand Air); Cornelius “Corrie” Coetzee (Regional GM – Industrial Technique) and Faouzi Belgharbia (GM – Power Technique) took up the narratives around how these key drivers assist Atlas Copco as an influencer and forward-thinking company that is committed to shaping the future for generations to come.  

“As the ‘Home of Industrial Ideas, we are masters of adaptability, change and agility; we are driven by service; this is what makes us leaders of industry,” stated Wendy. “Over 150 years we have proved that innovation is in our DNA and this is what makes us sustainable. Our ability to successfully incorporate advanced technologies into our products enables us to offer customers state-of-the-art solutions with the purpose of empowering them to grow sustainably and to drive society forward.”

Corrie takes the sustainability dialogue further, noting that for Atlas Copco, as a solutions and service provider, sustainability extends from the materials used on product fabrication all the way to product application. “Our sustainability strategy puts us and our customers firmly on the circular economy path.”

“People are the engine that drives the company and we embrace a culture of employee well-being, safety, growth and learning which are deeply ingrained within the organisation,” affirmed Wendy. “Employees must be able to take care of themselves and their families before they can take care of work.” Wendy highlighted their effective 20-year partnership with Reality Wellness Group in looking after employees’ physical and mental well-being.

Aligning with its growth and learning culture, Atlas Copco offers great opportunities including an online training programme, Learning Link, that equips employees with the necessary competencies. Faouzi observed that “When it comes to product and technology, it is in employees’ own interest to hone their skills and knowledge so that they have the confidence to showcase our products, technologies and services through our brand promise of quality and reliability for sustainable productivity.”

Atlas Copco strongly believes in recruiting new and developing existing talent. The company’s highly successful, long-standing Internship Programme adds value for interns, Atlas Copco and customers. Atlas Copco offers interns real-world, hands-on work experience, amalgamating their class room theories and equipping them with the necessary tools to start their career journeys. A number of interns are permanently employed at Atlas Copco, contributing to the company’s growth and improving the customer experience.  

The Atlas Copco Group’s global Diversity & Inclusion target is to reach 30% female representation by 2030. “As a region, we are currently sitting at 31% and we are very proud of the fact that Atlas Copco South Africa is 37% female!,” enthused Wendy. “Furthermore, we have recruited 35% females over the past three months. In a traditionally male dominated industry we believe it is very important to develop a pool of talented young women and to continue growing their skills.” Byrone added that Rand Air currently stands at 42% female diversity. “We also make sure that males are equally included and intentionally highlight the complementary strengths that females and males bring to the work place.”

Moving on to their green culture, Wendy confirmed that the Atlas Copco brand aligns globally with UN environmental sustainability goals. “Having set environmental targets for ourselves, including a 46% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, we are enforcing a culture of maximum carbon impact shrinkage, not just at the work place but also in our personal capacity. We operate in a green building, we are switching to hybrid company vehicles and we are reducing business flights. But it does not end with us. It is also about our customers. Through the development of energy efficient products and non-stop R&D, we make sure that the end-product that reaches customers is sustainable.” 

Faouzi points out that they always closely follow the strict international emission rules when it comes to Power Technique’s diesel-driven portable energy products. “As a result, our engines consume less fuel compared to their counterparts. We have also introduced clean energy products such as our solar light towers and the ZenergiZe battery energy storage system and we encourage customers to invest in these cleaner solutions. Our continued investment in efficient products delivers ROI to customers.”

Zandra also highlighted Compressor Techniques’ products that incorporate energy efficient technologies. “Take our air compressors’ Variable Speed Drive technology for example, which can cut a plant’s energy consumption by half.  Our Energy Recovery systems also deliver significant energy savings for end-users.”

Taking up the safety narrative, Corrie affirmed that prioritising employee safety in the work place and at customer sites as well as the safety features engineered into products form part of Atlas Copco’s safety mandate.

The panel discussion wrapped up with a quick overview of Atlas Copco’s CSR initiatives. “We are passionate about giving back to society and communities by investing in sustainable projects in collaboration with Tirisano Trust,” stated Wendy. Atlas Copco is particular proud of its long-standing, employee-driven Water for All initiative that sustainably changes lives.

Atlas Copco aligns with like-minded suppliers, distributors and other business partners. With a solid focus on people, planet and profit, the organisation pledges to build on what it has accomplished over the past 150 years. Through ongoing innovation, investment in people, products and technology, and an unwavering focus on net zero carbon goals, Atlas Copco will continue to add value to customers’ sustainability and create an inspirational work space and green environment for future generations.

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