Sustainable business practices for a better tomorrow
Businesses must reconnect company success with social progress.
Although the term Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was officially coined during the 1950s, evidence of businesses' concern for society can be traced back to practices originating from the Industrial Revolution.
The idea and practice of CSR has evolved from charity to a necessity for a successful business. In the 1800s, there was growing concern about worker wellbeing and productivity among philanthropic business leaders. However, CSR truly began in the 1970s as the concept of the 'social contract' with an obligation to contribute to the needs of society; in contrast to plain donation.
In the last few decades CSR has expanded beyond the board room into communities; incorporating social interests and sustainability in their everyday business practices.
Several large companies have announced climate pledges, environmental goals, social responsibility initiatives for a sustainable future. In the wake of the current crisis, each of us including the consumers, have become increasingly aware of the impact our choices have on the world around us, both immediately and in the long term. It has long been recognised that multinational organisations focus on sustainable progress and these industry leaders have embraced sustainability as part of their global and local process.
Japan Tobacco International (JTI)
JTI has a global outlook with an Asian heritage, which makes the organisation not only dynamic and creative but also precise, quality-driven, and always thinking of the long term. The foundation of every decision and the core of how they do business is simple: respect for human rights, improved social and environmental impact, and good governance.
At JTI, sustainability is about more than just ambitious ideals – it's about seeing meaningful, tangible results where they matter the most. That is why they have chosen four focus areas considered to be essential for the sustainability of their business: Products and services; People; Supply Chain; and Regulatory environment and illegal trade of tobacco.
To reduce the impact on the environment and ensure a transparent supply chain, JTI has developed sustainability commitments taking into consideration their business long-term needs while also addressing nine of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Nearly 33% of the company's electricity is generated from renewable resources and 70% of its waste is recycled. This has reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 14% and water consumption by 6% since 2015. JTI works very closely with tobacco growers to support them in managing their crops responsibly and promoting fair labor practices.
JTI employs 44,000 people in 81 countries representing 115 nationalities. They have been certified as Global Top Employer for six consecutive years and Top Employer in 63 countries. In 2019, almost 80% of JTI's factories have achieved zero lost time injuries. Vehicle accident rates have declined by 21% since 2018 due to effective ongoing driver safety trainings.
JTI supports the communities where they operate by investing in what is known as 'WASH' programs aiming to provide 1 million people with access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries by 2025.
JTI entered the Bangladesh market in 2018 and, since inception, has ensured that its business and resources are utilized sustainably. They have carried out a post-acquisition Human Rights and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) assessment to identify actual and potential impacts on people across all of its operations nationwide.
JTI Bangladesh has achieved an annual reduction of 81.20 metric ton of CO2 emissions; 9,600 liters of diesel usage; 4,992 m3 of water consumption through various initiatives in its Leaf and Factory Operations. They have used tobacco waste to create 1.5 million Kgs of renewable energy briquettes for tobacco farmers, thus saving 1,275 ton of wood. They distributed 200,000 tree saplings this year to tobacco growers and are working with agricultural experts to plant fast-growing trees to replenish the wood used by tobacco growers for curing. The launch of the company's Agricultural Labor Practices (ALP) ensures the sourcing of tobacco leaves in a sustainable way and without any involvement of child labor.
JTI considers employee wellbeing to be key in creating a sustainable working environment for all. JTI Bangladesh has introduced various initiatives and awareness campaigns to create a working environment completely free of accidents and injuries. LifeWorks, which is an innovative wellbeing platform offering personalized programs, has been made recently available to all employees and their families. It is designed to support wellbeing holistically, which JTI recognizes as important to motivate and reenergize employees for everyone's benefit.
Investing in clean technologies, ensuring product safety, increasing energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy sources to reduce CO2 emissions from transporting products and from freezers in retail stores- the brand has been doing everything.
In terms of product safety, Unilever's long-established Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) has been working with teams across the company to assess the safety and environmental sustainability of products, and the processes used to manufacture them.
Engaging on a wide number of concerns such as animal testing, plastic packaging and the ingredients used, the brand works with external organisations and authorities to develop more rigorous products by carrying out vulnerability risk assessments and counter measure programs, tracking and monitoring of consumer and customer feedback to proactively address potential product quality or safety issues.
As part of energy conservation and reducing carbon footprint, 50% of Unilever's manufacturing energy is being generated from renewable sources.In the UK and Ireland, Unilever's food and drinks factories have been powered by a combination of renewable electricity from the grid and renewable biomethane (also known as biogas) since 2017. The biomethane is generated from anaerobic digestion, which converts inedible food waste and sewage into energy.
To cut down emissions from the logistics process the company has worked closely with its logistics partners to depend on efficient vehicles and lower-carbon alternative fuels. Each journey is planned to choose the most efficient route, trucks and containers are filled as full as possible to optimize use of space and weight allowances. Increased truck load fill rates in Mexico by over 10% through smarter route planning and pallet configuration, double-decker trailers enabling 16% more products to be transported per journey in the Philippines, and in India, improved selection of load trucks to picking the right vehicle for each job has enabled the brand to cut down its environmental impacts from its business operations. Furthermore, logistics suppliers are encouraged to train their drivers on eco-efficient driving techniques.
To support drivers' health and well-being, facilities across 148 warehouses were reviewed globally to ensure safe and secure parking zones, comfortable rest areas and good toilet facilities.
Locally, Unilever Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) have rolled out initiatives, to work together on four Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) and six national performance indicators, to improve the livelihoods of a million apparel workers.
As part of its sustainable business practice the brand has been constantly setting standards to remain a leader in product stewardship, reducing carbon footprint, eliminating harmful ingredients from operations, employee safety, as well as process innovations for energy and raw material efficiency.
Investing in unprecedented innovation in enhancing product safety and sustainability the company has put efforts in formulating nature friendly products to enhance the positive attributes of paint while arresting its negative impact on the environment and maintaining high quality and safety standards.
The brand has been able to introduce a holistic working environment through various initiatives entailing worker safety and occupational hazard such as Behavior-Based Safety (BBS), Touch on Safety (TOS), Life-Saving Behavior (LSB), the brand has been able to move towards zero accidents.
Seat belt provision for driver and passenger safety, bus route with safe stoppage for employee, Safe driving training for driver/conductor every 6 months, ensuring first-aid box, firefighting equipment etc. checking driver for fitness certificate, insurance, registration etc. vehicle hygiene checklist, alcohol tests for drivers randomly every fortnight, are some highlights of the brands sustainable business practices entailing worker safety and workplace accident reduction.
Globally, Asian Paints has replenished 827 million liters of water against the consumption of 583 million liters of water in FY 2017-18. 22+ million units of electricity has been consumed in FY 2017-18 was generated from renewable sources. They have achieved a31% reduction in total carbon emissions in FY 2017-18 versus FY 2013-14.
As part of its commitment to the environment, Asian Paints in Bangladesh hasrevamped their ETP (Effluent Treatment Plant) to optimize the effluent treatment process. The new ETP equipment has been designed to be monitored continuously for efficient operations while delivering enhanced parameters of treated water with improved reliability.
What we need to understand
The environment has a direct influence on its business, just as any business has an impact on the environment. Although environmental issues have increasingly been imposing challenges across the world, sustainable approaches also protect the economy and the society.
The organisations that make up this list have made significant strides toward sustainability, but there is much more that needs to be done.It is time for all organisations to act on sustainable practices to shape a better world for tomorrow.
It's time to make the future a cause of the present.
The writer is a communication, social, youth and women enabler professional.