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Copper: Critical Today, Tomorrow, and Forever

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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.

Uses of copper infographic

Trilogy Metals

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:

  1. High conductivity
  2. Pressure resistance
  3. Corrosion resistance
  4. Antimicrobial properties
  5. Ductility

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 TransportationWhere Copper is UsedCopper's Role
AirplanesWiring and equipment
  • A single Boeing 747-200 Jet contains 632,000 feet of copper wire.

  • Copper is used to make busbars and lock wires for aircraft.

  • Landing gear parts and bearings make use of copper alloys to withstand high pressures.
Electric Vehicles (EVs)Wiring, voltage transmission, and motors
  • Electric vehicles can contain up to 368 kilograms (813 lbs) of copper, depending on their size and type.

  • EVs rely on copper’s electrical conductivity in batteries, wiring systems, and charging stations.

  • High-speed trains use copper alloys to maintain electrical contact at high speeds.
Cars and other modesWiring, radiators, brake-tubing, and motors
  • The average luxury car contains 1.6 km (5,249 feet) of copper.

  • Using copper in motors increases efficiency, resulting in higher power generation and longer distances.

  • Brake-tubing systems utilize copper’s anti-corrosive and pressure-resistant properties.

  • Copper makes heat radiators smaller, lighter, and more affordable.

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 FoundCopper's Role
HospitalsCopper’s ability to kill bacteria improves the safety of high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs and bed handles.
Daily DietsCopper 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:

  1. Corrosion Resistance: Copper-nickel alloy coins do not tarnish.
  2. 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/MaterialAmount of Copper Contained (kg)
Building Wire88.5
Plumbing tubes and fittings68.5
Air conditioners 23.5
Heat Pumps21.7
Built-in appliances and other hardware21.0
Dishwashers2.2
Refrigerators2.1

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.

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Operational Health Tech: A New Billion Dollar Market

Operational health tech is poised to be a multi-billion dollar industry. This graphic breaks down how its disrupting healthcare as we know it.

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Operational Health Tech: A New Billion Dollar Market

Many lessons were learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but what has become most apparent is the need to invest in healthcare on all fronts. In fact in just a few short years, businesses, governments, and consumers have had to entirely reassess healthcare in ways not quite seen before.

What’s more, this elevated importance placed on health could be here to stay, and one area in particular is poised for significant growth: operational health tech.

The graphic above from our sponsor Bloom Health Partners dives into the burgeoning market that is operational health tech, and reveals the key driving forces behind it.

What is Operational Health?

To start, operational health is an industry that provides health services to employees to help keep companies running smoothly.

A critical piece of operational health is workplace health, which is expected to soar in value. From 2021 to 2025, the market for workplace health is expected to grow 200% from $6.5 billion to $19.5 billion.

The industry is undergoing a tremendous amount of innovation, specifically in relation to technological advances.

Operational Health Tech: Disrupting Healthcare

The operational health tech industry is disrupting traditional healthcare by providing direct services to employees in the workplace.

For decades now, the U.S. has increasingly become a statistical outlier for healthcare spending relative to health outcomes. For instance, the average American incurs $9,000 in healthcare spending per year, nearly twice that of OECD countries, yet life expectancy is flatlining while other countries see rises.

A worsening and increasingly expensive health dynamic makes the environment ripe for disruption and is allowing for new ideas to be brought to the table.

In addition, people are already responding to these inefficient practices by shifting greater emphasis on health within the job market. For example, studies show that workers care more about healthcare benefits over the salaries when choosing an employer.

Going forward, employees will gravitate towards employers that provide standout health benefits like workplace healthcare options offered by operational health. Here are some additional factors that act as catalysts for this space.

1. Healthcare as Smart Business

What do companies that rank as some of the best to work for have in common? First, they all tend to outperform relative to the S&P 500 on a cumulative stock performance basis. Second, many offer superior healthcare benefits.

Moreover, from 2012 to 2022, companies that were the best to work for saw shares appreciate nearly 500%, compared to around 300% for the broader market. Data like this suggests investing in healthcare and keeping employees happy is smart business that pays dividends.

2. Healthcare as a Differentiator

Since 2020, labor markets have changed dramatically. As a result, employees now have more options and are much more selective about where they work. This is evident from the difference between job openings and hires which has risen to unrecognizable levels. For example, the data shows that there are nearly 12 million job openings, but only around 6-7 million hires in 2022.

Altogether, with an oversupply of jobs relative to workers, employers will have to find new ways to differentiate. One way to stand out is through healthcare and initiatives around operational health tech.

3. The Looming Mental Health Epidemic

Today some 700 million people suffer from some form of a mental health condition and COVID-19 has continued to exacerbate the problem.

Moreover, the cost of mental health for the global economy is estimated to be a whopping $6 trillion by 2030, over double compared to the $2.5 trillion figure in 2010.

Under the umbrella of services operational health tech covers, mental health will stand to benefit. Especially in the years to come as we look for new ways to combat its mounting costs.

Investing in Operational Health Tech

Bloom Health Partners is an operational health tech company looking to revolutionize workplace health by supplying employers with data to better understand their employee base and business.

One way Bloom stands out is with Bloom Shield—its flagship cloud-based big data platform for employee health data management. With Bloom Shield, new health insights become available to make better decisions. Employers can get insight into demographic data and age trends within the workplace, pre-screening detection for cancer and diabetes, and testing for management to tackle the spread of disease.

Click here to learn more about investing in operational health tech with Bloom Health Partners.

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How Environmental Markets Advance Net Zero

The global price of carbon increased 91% in 2021. Below, we show how environmental markets are supporting a greener future.

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Environmental Markets

How Environmental Markets Advance Net Zero

In 2021, roughly 20% of global carbon emissions were covered by carbon pricing mechanisms.

Meanwhile, the global price of carbon increased 91%, bolstered by government, corporate, and investor demand. This puts traditional fuel sources at a disadvantage, instead building the investment case for renewables.

This infographic from ICE, the first in a three part series on the ESG toolkit, explores how environmental markets work and their role in the fight against climate change.

What are Environmental Markets?

First, meeting a goal of net zero carbon emissions involves limiting the use of the world’s finite carbon budget to meet a 1.5°C pathway.

Achieving net zero requires us to:

  • Change how we utilize energy and transition to less carbon-intensive fuels
  • Put a value on the conservation of nature or “natural capital” and carbon sinks, which accumulate and store carbon

Environmental markets facilitate the pathway to net zero by valuing externalities, such as placing a cost on pollution and placing a price on carbon storage. This helps balance the carbon cycle to manage the carbon budget in the most cost-effective manner.

What Is the Carbon Budget?

To keep temperatures 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, we have just 420 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO₂ remaining in the global carbon budget. At current rates, this remaining carbon budget is projected to be consumed by 2030 if no reductions are made.

Carbon Budget1.5°C1.7°C2.0°C
Remaining GtCO₂4207701270
Consumed GtCO₂247524752475

Each scenario based on a 50% chance of success
Source: IPCC AR6 WG; Friedlingstein et al 2021; Global Carbon Budget 2021

Across three different scenarios, the above table indicates the amount of carbon emissions humanity can emit to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

What are Negative and Positive Externalities?

Second, when companies compensate for CO₂ emissions, they can fall across two categories: negative and positive externalities.

  • Negative externalities include pollution. Carbon cap and trade programs, using carbon allowances, put a cost on pollution.
  • Positive externalities include renewables, such as wind and solar power that generate carbon-free electricity. The value of renewable energy can be expressed with a renewable energy certificate.

Natural capital is another example of a positive externality, which involves the capturing and storing of carbon. The value of this type of natural capital can be expressed using a carbon credit.

Environmental Markets and the Energy Transition

Next, environmental markets can drive the transition to cleaner energy sources by ascribing a cost to pollution and putting a premium on renewables, to change how we use energy.

As one example, in 2013 the UK government introduced the Carbon Price Support mechanism to complement the emissions cap and trade program and weaken the investment case for coal. Between 2013 and 2020, Britain’s overall CO₂ emissions fell by 31%.

Here’s how coal was phased out of the UK’s energy mix, while renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and bioenergy played a greater role.

DateCoal Gas Wind and SolarBioenergy
Q1 200031 TWh40 TWh0 TWh1 TWh
Q1 200541 TWh36 TWh1 TWh2 TWh
Q1 201031 TWh47 TWh2 TWh3 TWh
Q1 201528 TWh23 TWh13 TWh6 TWh
Q1 20203 TWh27 TWh28 TWh9 TWh

Source: Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES); BP; EMBER via Our World in Data (2021)

Today, less than 5% of the UK’s electricity is coal-generated, with remaining plants expected to be decommissioned by 2024.

How Environmental Markets are Advancing Net Zero

Finally, as governments increase their commitments to net zero, carbon prices are rising towards a level that requires industries to decarbonize and meet those goals.

In fact, between 2014 and 2021, the global price of carbon has increased over sixfold.

DateGlobal Carbon Price (Year End)Annual % Change
2021$47.7891%
2020$24.9637%
2019$18.16-7%
2018$19.56102%
2017$9.6729%
2016$7.52-24%
2015$9.887%
2014$9.2432%

As indicated by the ICECRBN Global Carbon Price (CPW Weighted)
Source: ICE (Apr 2022)

As companies begin to treat their carbon footprints as liabilities, there will be increasing demand for environmental attributes, such as carbon allowances and carbon credits.

Managing Risk and Opportunity

Quoted markets like ICE Futures Exchanges and NYSE allow stakeholders to precisely value positive and negative externalities to:

  • Manage emissions cost effectively
  • Hedge climate transition risk
  • Allocate capital to facilitate the energy transition and build carbon sinks
  • Create an asset class for Natural Capital
  • Invest in assets to meet climate obligations

Everyone is exposed to climate risk which means it needs to be measured and managed.

That’s why balancing the carbon cycle will be critical to managing the world’s carbon budget. Markets are providing greater access, liquidity and opportunity in supporting net zero ambitions.

In part two of the series sponsored by ICE, we’ll look at four motivations for using ESG data.

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