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Spills and releases

Spill and release prevention helps keep the environment and our communities safe

We prioritise being an exceptional environmental steward throughout our operations. Our stewardship extends from employing comprehensive practices to prevent and control releases from current operations to responsibly managing historic environmental releases. Should a release from current operations occur, we deploy aggressive control and mitigation techniques to minimise any environmental impact. We understand the human and ecological impacts associated with potential environmental releases, along with the economic and legal implications. Protecting our employees and the communities where we operate is paramount to our philosophy and drives our zero-incident focus.

Consistent and aggressive prevention or remediation of releases

Eaton has established policies to ensure that its operations are conducted in keeping with good corporate citizenship and with a positive commitment to the protection of the natural and workplace environments.

Our operations involve the use and disposal of certain substances regulated under environmental protection laws. We continue to modify processes on a regular basis in order to reduce the impact on the environment, including the reduction or elimination of certain chemicals used in, and wastes generated from, operations. Specifically, we manage chemicals as part of our Management of Environment, Safety, Security and Health (MESH) programme.

MESH is a globally deployed, unified management system designed to take our EHS programme to levels of excellence. Our facilities worldwide share common goals, apply the same metrics, set targets for improvement and identify and exchange best practices. Most importantly, MESH has elevated EHS from a series of isolated activities to a responsibility shared by all Eaton employees.

Within our MESH system, Planning, Risk Assessment, Change Management, Chemical Management, Hazardous Material Management, and Emergency Response elements work together to reduce future spill risks and ensures safe spill response. The MESH programme includes training and internal audits for chemical management.

With respect to historic releases, and as noted in our Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements, Eaton is involved in remedial response and voluntary environmental remediation at a number of sites. We became involved in many of these sites through our voluntary decision, in connection with business acquisitions or as a result of government action.

Remediation activities and risk management

Remediation activities, which generally involve soil and/or groundwater contamination, include pre-clean-up activities such as fact finding and investigation, risk assessment, feasibility studies, design and action planning, performance (where actions may range from monitoring, to removal of contaminants, to installation of longer-term remediation systems), and operation and maintenance of a remediation system. Our teams also use state-of-the-art methods to reduce our liability while minimising our environmental impact. These methods include:

  • Removing the contaminant.
  • Applying bioremediation techniques, which enhance the natural environment and utilise microorganisms to control and digest the contaminant.
  • Performing in-situ oxidation on contaminants resistant to bioremediation. In-situ oxidation entails injecting chemicals into the contaminant to oxidise it.
  • Other novel techniques, including thermally enhanced vapour extraction.

Environmental liabilities are included in our annual risk management process. Each remediation site is reviewed regularly, in line with accounting and legal protocols. Remediation costs are reported regularly through our financial reporting.

Eaton EHS management—continuous improvement for environment, health and safety

EHS policy

Eaton is committed to minimising the environmental impact of our operations and products wherever we do business and to continuously improve our Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) performance. It is the responsibility of every employee to meet this EHS policy.

To that end, Eaton applies a standard group of practices worldwide for ethics, energy and water consumption, waste generation, product quality, employee safety and more. We specifically direct our EHS efforts in the following areas:

  • EHS management system: Eaton is guided by MESH (Management of Environment, Safety, Security and Health), a globally deployed, unified system which consolidates existing programmes into one integrated management system. All Eaton facilities worldwide work toward consistent goals, applying the same metrics, setting targets for improvement and identifying and sharing best practices. Most importantly, MESH elevates EHS from a series of isolated activities to a responsibility shared by all Eaton employees. MESH is also designed to conform with international standards such as ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001/ISO 45001.
  • Environmental sustainability: 
    We are committed to minimising the emissions to air, water and land resulting from our operations. Eaton's Senior Leadership Council drives our sustainability strategy, optimises our resources and ensures that we focus on the environmental risks and opportunities that are most important to our customers, investors, communities and employees. We establish goals for reducing our environmental impact and measure, review and report our progress to the public.

    Eaton supports collective actions that will lead to the worldwide reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to address the risks of climate change. Using guidelines established by the Global Reporting Initiative, we set annual targets for reducing our energy consumption and carbon emissions worldwide. Progress is audited by a third party and reported to the public.
  • Health, safety and security: Working safely is a condition of employment at Eaton. Our goal is to provide a secure and safe work environment for all of our employees, contractors and visitors. Eaton is committed to meeting or exceeding all relevant regulatory and company requirements, in line with our policies on ethics and compliance. We work to create a “zero incident safety culture” and to continuously improve our health and safety performance through the implementation of MESH. Safety rules apply to all third parties performing activities at any Eaton location, including suppliers, contingent workers, contractors, vendors, visitors and all other non-Eaton employees.
  • Business integration: We integrate EHS into all phases of the Eaton Business System (EBS), which provides Eaton’s foundation for a high-performance culture through an integrated operating system. EBS encompasses the core values, policies and processes used to conduct business and to continually measure, assess and improve performance. EHS excellence is integral to all of our business strategies and we consider stakeholder expectations in our decision-making process.
  • Compliance: We are committed to meeting or exceeding all relevant regulatory and company requirements in line with Eaton's policies on ethics and compliance. We work to create a “zero incident mindset” and to continuously improve our performance through the implementation of MESH.
  • Sustainable products: Our businesses are committed to creating innovative products and processes that help customers, suppliers and consumers improve their energy efficiency, reduce emissions and protect health and safety. We are committed to continuous improvement through various programmes, including Design for Environment (DfE) and Lifecycle Assessment (LCA), two scientific processes that both identify a product's environmental aspects and the potential impacts throughout its life cycle.
  • Stakeholders: Eaton is committed to stakeholder engagement as a key part of our sustainability efforts. Having regular and open dialogue with our employees, investors, customers, suppliers, governments, local communities and others allows us to gain a common understanding of issues that are important and to work together to achieve the highest possible levels of environmental and safety performance.
  • Supply chain: Eaton recognises the significance of the supply chain in our own sustainability performance, and strategically engages with suppliers on important issues such as managing emissions, improving safety and increasing efficiency. Our governance processes further ensure that our suppliers are held to the same values regarding ethical behaviour, compliance, environmental responsibility and footprint reduction.
  • Transparency: Increasing the transparency of our EHS performance makes Eaton a stronger, more sustainable company. We are committed to measuring, reviewing and reporting our performance to the public in our company Annual Report/Sustainability Report, on our Eaton.com web site, and by working with organisations that collect and disseminate EHS and other sustainability data to the public.
  • Community: We are committed to making power management products in safe workplaces that are environmentally responsible. We participate in—and contribute to—local and government initiatives around the world that improve the quality of life in the communities where we live and work.
  • Employees: We are committed to raising awareness, encouraging involvement and providing appropriate training and education for all employees regarding EHS issues, programmes and performance.
  • Emergency preparedness/contingency planning: Eaton’s MESH programme provides processes to identify key EHS risks and impacts, develop operational controls, and prepare emergency response and contingency plans. Eaton facilities provide planning, equipment and training for on-site incidents, and our employees work with local community safety units to prepare for combined responses.

The Eaton Senior Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety is responsible for implementing the EHS policy. The Governance Committee of the Eaton Board of Directors has oversight regarding significant public policy with respect to our relationships with shareholders, employees, customers, competitors, suppliers and the communities in which we operate. These issues include EHS concerns as outlined in the Eaton EHS policy.

Governance

Eaton is proud to have strong internal processes and controls for managing our sustainability performance. Many of these controls connect individuals and teams across our company and include management at each level of the organisation.

How we measure success

Our goal is to have zero spills and releases. We track the number of reportable spills according to regulatory agency requirements. We also evaluate how effectively we remediate the spills that do occur and invest in technologies that enhance our performance, including:

  • In-situ oxidation by ozone injection.
  • Enhanced reductive de-chlorination.
  • Combined use of in-situ ozone injection and soil vapour extraction.

The EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) is a public database containing information on disposal and other releases of over 600 toxic chemicals from thousands of US facilities.  Information about how facilities manage those chemicals through recycling, energy recovery and treatment, is also provided.  One of the TRI's primary purposes is to inform residents about toxic chemical releases in their communities.

Each year, companies across a wide range of industries (including the chemical, mining, paper, oil, industrials and gas industries) that produce more than 25,000 pounds or handle more than 10,000 pounds of a listed toxic chemical must report it to the TRI. The data is then posted on the EPA’s TRI web page. 

Eaton reports annual TRI data from all US facilities.  The following table summarises the company's total TRI releases for the past two years. More details are available on the EPA’s TRI web page.

At Eaton, on-site releases are primarily to publicly owned treatment works (POTW) from industrial wastewater. Off-site treatment and disposal is primarily disposal to landfill of industrial wastewater and sludges. The amount of landfill waste containing chemicals covered by TRI is less than 1 % of the total waste we send to landfills every year. Off-site recycling includes mainly the recycling of metals such as copper and nickel.