Mapping the Environmental Footprint, Identifying Economic Benefits, and Creating a Bigger Impact
“There is a huge potential in the bioenergy industry which can create briquettes for boilers, which can convert the current agro-waste from fields. Through an extrusion process, it becomes a commercially viable material to give to the industry through certain processes to make it consistent. And that will enable overall improvement in the agricultural field because the farmer will also get remuneration.” - Bipin Odhekar, Head- Sustainability & Operations Excellence, Marico Limited
In the Sustainable Circular Economy Series – Doing Well by Doing Good conducted by ProMFG in collaboration with BiofuelCircle, Bipin Odhekar shared his insights and best practices that have been implemented within the company to create an ecosystem of sustainability and circular economy.
Question: Please walk us through the steps that Marico has taken towards sustainability.
Marico, being an FMCG company, has been around for 25 to 26 years now. Our journey towards sustainability started long back around 2007-08 when we drafted our purpose statement, which speaks about all the three important elements of ESG, and part of it is sustainability. After that, the initiative started, but real external reporting started in 2015 when we published our first sustainability report, and after that, the journey started with taking different roles in different areas. We moved on to the integrated solution. When we completed our materiality analysis, we observed that there are certain critical areas normally called material issues, which need to be incorporated into annual targets. Few of our units are also carbon neutral and the journey is weighing ahead 80% of the energy that we consume is renewable. Three interesting target areas which are part of our events are - first, project up-cycle, where our value-added products or foods are packed in plastic, it becomes our important responsibility to work in this particular area. We looked at the Ellen MacArthur model, which speaks about various stages of an element, which is to be recycled in a circularity model. Inspired by that model, we have identified four ways to improve the value of plastics throughout their lifecycle. Then it comes to improving the design to reduce consumption. The second element is the usage of recyclable material. As of order, 95% of our material is recyclable, and we aim to make it 100% by another 3-4 years. The third aspect is the usage of recycled content in primary and secondary packaging. And fourth is of course EIP, we did a very interesting project in the eastern part of India to collect fat from our modules and convert it into plastic poly pellets, which can be utilized in our own factories.
The second important project we're working on is called Kalpavriksha. We being the biggest buyer of coconuts in India, it is our moral responsibility to work for these farmers who are providing coconuts. So we started a program called 'Kalpavriksha' which aims at improving the yield and remuneration of these farmers. We have environmentalists on our board to go and meet farmers to understand their farming practices and help them in doing it scientifically whether it's soil condition, water management, pesticide management, disease management, or high yield variety trees. So, the entire amount of knowledge that we have gathered is transferred to them, and the intention is that if as a country, we are able to improve the yield of coconut, then all these farmers, as well as the country, will benefit.
The third interesting area in which we have recently started working is called as Product Sustainability Index. For every product that we are using, through an NCA tool, we identify its entire environmental footprint. That footprint is conveyed, everybody knows it is calculated in 8-10 environmental parameters, all these parameters are normalized and converted into one single number. And then it is further normalized to an economic benefit, the retail price of that product. We compare all the products together and on the basis of that, we identify certain threshold where we can find some products or sustenance products and some products, which need improvement. Because of these things, there is a huge amount of opportunity in front of us to look at the formulations, look at the manufacturing practices and then we can look at how we can improve the overall footprint of our products. It will create a bigger impact.
Question: Would you like to throw some light on the Energy-Mix undertaken taken at Marico?
We have a similar product profile and we have thermal and electrical energy which is replaced as of now around 80% of our energy is coming through renewable sources and primarily it is biofuels, wind, and solar. We aim to go for 100% renewable in 2-5 years' time. We started, long back in 2001, we converted our boiler to biofuel based at that time baggase was a predominant fuel. And as we added Thermax was our partner at that time. As we progressed, the availability of a variety of baggage shortened. We started getting fuels like groundnut husk, safflower husk, then straws of corn. We have found that there are many other things which are available. So, along with setting up boilers for biofuels, there is a huge potential in the bioenergy industry which can create briquettes for boilers, which can convert the current agro-waste from fields. Through an extrusion process, it becomes a commercially viable material to give to the industry through certain processes to make it consistent. And that will enable overall improvement in the agricultural field because the farmer will also get remuneration.
Coming to the thermal part, we have almost converted from 95% of energy to biofuels and as a policy, we are going ahead with that any new requirement will come it has to be catered through biofuel. In the electrical area, the policy in India will play a very, very big role. Then there are many issues, whether it is related to the percentage of energy that can convert to solar or whether it is net metering not allowed for industries in some of the states, or there could be some limitations on the wheeling charges. WWF got a good opportunity to work with the Ministry of Environment affairs to do certain policy changes, we hope that this will come out with a positive result. If they streamline the policies, a lot of things will come up. There's an opportunity to improve the solar farms because there are a lot of places for this, fields are available, and people would be interested to buy electricity from them if the grid is to be established in eight weeks. But overall, the amount of electricity isn't a critical area, as most of the companies have already moved to biofuel. But electricity is still an area of concern.