As we go about checking our phones for the latest updates, watching our favorite television shows, or even cooking our daily meals, we often don’t think about the uses of copper and other metals that fuel, power, and drive our modern lives.
From electrical appliances to jewelry, healthcare, and transport—we use copper everywhere–and its applications are only growing as the world moves towards sustainable technologies.
The Material for a Modern Economy
Today’s infographic comes to us from Trilogy Metals and shines a light on the varied uses of copper and the important role it plays in enabling a cleaner, greener future.
Understanding the Role of Copper Today
Modern economies rely on infrastructure, transportation, healthcare, construction, and energy utilities. Copper is critical to each one of these industries—supporting economic growth, urbanization, higher living standards, and a sustainable future.
How does copper do all this?
The element has five key properties that make it an integral part of the modern economy:
- High conductivity
- Pressure resistance
- Corrosion resistance
- Antimicrobial properties
Let’s look at how these properties factor into major uses of the red metal today.
Copper Builds: Construction and Infrastructure
The construction and infrastructure industries use more than 40% of all copper produced. Copper’s properties make it the optimal choice for various construction activities:
- Roofing: Copper’s wind resistance, aesthetic appeal, and sustainability make it a great roofing material.
- Tubing: Residential heating and water systems use copper tubes for copper’s high thermal conductivity and antimicrobial properties.
- Electric grids: The generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption of electricity all rely on copper wiring for its electrical conductivity and malleability.
In addition, copper lightning conductors are the longstanding protectors of buildings when lightning strikes—a further testament to its electrical properties.
Despite its widespread usage, copper remains highly affordable. Without copper, powering, wiring, and protecting our homes would prove costly and difficult.
Copper Moves: Transportation
From gas-powered cars and electrical vehicles (EVs) to trains and airplanes, copper is an essential part of our daily commute.
Here are some interesting uses of copper in transportation:
|Means of Transportation||Where Copper is Used||Copper's Role|
|Airplanes||Wiring and equipment||
|Electric Vehicles (EVs)||Wiring, voltage transmission, and motors||
|Cars and other modes||Wiring, radiators, brake-tubing, and motors||
As the global population grows, more transportation services will be required—and copper will continue to play a crucial role.
Copper Cares: Healthcare and Hospitals
Did you know that copper can kill 99.9% of E.Coli within two hours of exposure?
This, alongside the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, makes copper’s antimicrobial properties and healthcare applications more important than ever.
Copper helps us lead healthier lives in many ways.
|Where Copper is Found||Copper's Role|
|Hospitals||Copper’s ability to kill bacteria improves the safety of high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs and bed handles.|
|Daily Diets||Copper is vital to the normal development of the brain, and adults require 1-2mg of copper in their daily diets.|
More than 500 antimicrobial copper alloys are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. With further research, copper could play an even bigger role in healthcare.
Copper Strengthens: Jewelry and Coinage
Copper’s durability and aesthetic appeal make it ideal for usage in jewelry and coinage, where it’s present in significant quantities.
For instance, 18K gold jewelry typically contains 75% gold, 15% silver, and 10% copper. Not only does copper strengthen gold and silver jewelry, but its alloys (brass and bronze) are also commonly used to make jewelry items that are affordable and appealing.
Furthermore, many of the coins we use are made from copper and its alloys. To be precise, two properties of copper are key to producing durable and safe coins:
- Corrosion Resistance: Copper-nickel alloy coins do not tarnish.
- Electrical Conductivity: Copper-nickel coins have specific electronic signatures that help prevent fraud in vending and coin-handling machines.
Copper Comforts: Homes and Households
The average single-family home contains around 200 kilograms (439 lbs) of copper.
Here’s how it breaks down, along with the amount of copper in general appliances:
|Appliance/Material||Amount of Copper Contained (kg)|
|Plumbing tubes and fittings||68.5|
|Built-in appliances and other hardware||21.0|
But that’s not all.
In addition to home appliances, copper also plays an important role in objects that we use on a daily basis. According to BBC, a typical iPhone contains 15 grams of copper on average—approximately 10% of the phone’s weight.
Copper is an integral part of the modern economy today. Its unique properties enable urbanization and economic development at low costs—and the story doesn’t end here.
Why Copper Tomorrow?
As the world transitions towards a cleaner energy mix, copper will be an essential material in empowering a more sustainable future.
Copper in Renewable Energy
According to McKinsey, a whopping 73% of global power generation will come from renewable energy sources by 2050—and copper has a significant role to play in this transition.
Solar and wind energy farms are heavily dependent on copper. Cabling and heat-exchange in solar and wind farms are the primary applications of copper in renewable energy generation.
For starters, wind farms can contain anywhere between 4 to 15 million pounds of copper. Moreover, solar photovoltaic farms require 9,000 pounds of copper per megawatt of energy. To put that into context, India’s solar power generation capacity is 31,696 megawatts—which alone would require about 322 million pounds of copper.
Copper in Electric Vehicles
As the standard benchmark for electrical conductivity, copper is indispensable for EVs. The growing EV market could bolster copper demand in the near future.
Copper is used in EV batteries, coils, wiring, and charging stations. As per current growth projections, by 2030, more than 250,000 tonnes of copper will be needed as part of the windings in electric traction motors in on-road EVs.
The transition to clean energy, coupled with urbanization and economic development, implies that copper is critical for the future.
However, copper’s importance to the future is a double-edged sword and raises concerns about the sustainability of its supply—will there be enough?
Copper Forever: Sustainable Material
From the 5.8 trillion pounds of known copper resources, only 12% have been mined throughout history—and thanks to copper’s recyclability, almost all of that is still in circulation.
Not only does recycled copper offer the same quality and benefits as newly mined copper, but it also saves a massive 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Additionally, copper recycling uses 80-90% less energy than mining, and a total of 8.5 million tonnes of the red metal are produced from recycled scrap each year.
Copper’s recyclability makes it reusable for years to come, complementing the path to sustainable development.
Copper: Critical Today, Tomorrow, and Forever
The exceptional properties of copper allow for widespread applications, which continue to grow as the world shifts towards clean energy.
And since we need copper for all aspects of life, its demand will always persist.
An Introduction to MSCI ESG Indexes
With an extensive suite of ESG indexes on offer, MSCI aims to support investors as they build a more personalized and resilient portfolio.
An Introduction to MSCI ESG Indexes
There are various portfolio objectives within the realm of sustainable investing.
For example, some investors may want to build a portfolio that reflects their personal values. Others may see environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria as a tool for improving long-term returns, or as a way to create positive impact. A combination of all three of these motivations is also possible.
To support investors as they embark on their sustainable journey, our sponsor, MSCI, offers over 1,500 purpose-built ESG indexes. In this infographic, we’ll take a holistic view at what these indexes are designed to achieve.
An Extensive Suite of ESG & Climate Indexes
Below, we’ll summarize the four overarching objectives that MSCI’s ESG & climate indexes are designed to support.
Objective 1: Integrate a broad set of ESG issues
Investors with this objective believe that incorporating ESG criteria can improve their long-term risk-adjusted returns.
The MSCI ESG Leaders indexes are designed to support these investors by targeting companies that have the highest ESG-rated performance from each sector of the parent index.
For those who do not wish to deviate from the parent index, the MSCI ESG Universal indexes may be better suited. This family of indexes will adjust weights according to ESG performance to maintain the broadest possible universe.
Objective 2: Generate social or environmental benefits
A common challenge that impact investors face is measuring their non-financial results.
Consider an asset owner who wishes to support gender diversity through their portfolios. In order to gauge their success, they would need to regularly filter the entire investment universe for updates regarding corporate diversity and related initiatives.
In this scenario, linking their portfolios to an MSCI Women’s Leadership Index would negate much of this groundwork. Relative to a parent index, these indexes aim to include companies which lead their respective countries in terms of female representation.
Objective 3: Exclude controversial activities
Many institutional investors have mandates that require them to avoid certain sectors or industries. For example, approximately $14.6 trillion in institutional capital is in the process of divesting from fossil fuels.
To support these efforts, MSCI offers indexes that either:
- Exclude individual sectors such as fossil fuels, tobacco, or weapons;
- Exclude companies from a combination of these sectors; or
- Exclude companies that are not compatible with certain religious values.
Objective 4: Identify climate risks and opportunities
Climate change poses a number of wide-reaching risks and opportunities for investors, making it difficult to tailor a portfolio accordingly.
With MSCI’s climate indexes, asset owners gain the tools they need to build a more resilient portfolio. The MSCI Climate Change indexes, for example, reduce exposure to stranded assets, increase exposure to solution providers, and target a minimum 30% reduction in emissions.
An Index for Every Objective
Regardless of your motivation for pursuing sustainable investment, the need for an appropriate benchmark is something that everyone shares.
With an extensive suite of ESG indexes designed specifically for sustainability and climate change, MSCI aims to support asset owners as they build a more unique and personalized portfolio.
Tracked: The U.S. Utilities ESG Report Card
This graphic acts as an ESG report card that tracks the ESG metrics reported by different utilities in the U.S.—what gets left out?
Tracked: The U.S. Utilities ESG Report Card
As emissions reductions and sustainable practices become more important for electrical utilities, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting is coming under increased scrutiny.
Once seen as optional by most companies, ESG reports and sustainability plans have become commonplace in the power industry. In addition to reporting what’s needed by regulatory state laws, many utilities utilize reporting frameworks like the Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) ESG Initiative or the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards.
But inconsistent regulations, mixed definitions, and perceived importance levels have led some utilities to report significantly more environmental metrics than others.
How do U.S. utilities’ ESG reports stack up? This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council tracks the ESG metrics reported by 50 different U.S. based investor-owned utilities (IOUs).
What’s Consistent Across ESG Reports
To complete the assessment of U.S. utilities, ESG reports, sustainability plans, and company websites were examined. A metric was considered tracked if it had concrete numbers provided, so vague wording or non-detailed projections weren’t included.
Of the 50 IOU parent companies analyzed, 46 have headquarters in the U.S. while four are foreign-owned, but all are regulated by the states in which they operate.
For a few of the most agreed-upon and regulated measures, U.S. utilities tracked them almost across the board. These included direct scope 1 emissions from generated electricity, the utility’s current fuel mix, and water and waste treatment.
Another commonly reported metric was scope 2 emissions, which include electricity emissions purchased by the utility companies for company consumption. However, a majority of the reporting utilities labeled all purchased electricity emissions as scope 2, even though purchased electricity for downstream consumers are traditionally considered scope 3 or value-chain emissions:
- Scope 1: Direct (owned) emissions.
- Scope 2: Indirect electricity emissions from internal electricity consumption. Includes purchased power for internal company usage (heat, electrical).
- Scope 3: Indirect value-chain emissions, including purchased goods/services (including electricity for non-internal use), business travel, and waste.
ESG Inconsistencies, Confusion, and Unimportance
Even putting aside mixed definitions and labeling, there were many inconsistencies and question marks arising from utility ESG reports.
For example, some utilities reported scope 3 emissions as business travel only, without including other value chain emissions. Others included future energy mixes that weren’t separated by fuel and instead grouped into “renewable” and “non-renewable.”
The biggest discrepancies, however, were between what each utility is required to report, as well as what they choose to. That means that metrics like internal energy consumption didn’t need to be reported by the vast majority.
Likewise, some companies didn’t need to report waste generation or emissions because of “minimal hazardous waste generation” that fell under a certain threshold. Other metrics like internal vehicle electrification were only checked if the company decided to make a detailed commitment and unveil its plans.
As pressure for the electricity sector to decarbonize continues to increase at the federal level, however, many of these inconsistencies are roadblocks to clear and direct measurements and reduction strategies.
National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource for all things decarbonization in the utilities industry. Learn more.
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