Using the automobile industry as an example, Vinay Deshmukh, Executive Director & CEO, Forbes Facility Services explains how sustainability has become innate in FM contracts, and how investing in it pays off even in the short-term.
What has the automobile’s industry’s response been to the call for sustainability?
I believe one of the most important contributions of Covid pandemic – on the positive side – is the focus on sustainability. The modified Force Majeure clauses and the ‘Business Responsibility & Sustainability Report’ (BRSR) are great examples of this rapid rise in interest in the manufacturing sector.
The auto and ancillary industries have a large slice of this pie and have come to the fore in a big way. They have been among the fastest in pioneering sustainable initiatives. Being a large employer, their impact on society is multifold. This industry has put in efforts to ensure they help the cause of ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ to the maximum possible level.
Both the automobile industry as well as the facility management sector that caters to it have exponentially embraced sustainable measures. For example, the sustainability report of a leading automobile manufacturer like Toyota commits to meeting 89% of its water requirement with recycled and harvested water. This comes right from the top.
The auto industry is serious about achieving specific sustainability goals and is investing in whatever is needed to achieve them; as facility management partners, we have our role clearly defined for us.
What are the measures they have implemented to be more sustainable?
Their teams have innovated consistently to help the cause of tree plantations, conserving water and recycling it. They have willingly taken up responsibilities to supply it to nearby villages. The development of agriculture and helping society have the means to reduce dependence on rainwater is another contribution from them.
We attempt to set up kitchen gardens at all sites; this helps us save on transport costs and reduces the amount of fuel used on it.
Our tree plantation drive has been running for 16 years and we plant around 100,000 trees every year.
The KPIs of FM at a leading manufacturer’s facility include changes in energy and water consumption, and changes in carbon dioxide and specific VOC emissions.
Bajaj Auto Limited has a ‘Green Purchasing Policy’ which lists the company’s expectations from suppliers pertaining to water, energy and natural resource conservation. 35 vendors have installed roof-top solar projects (cumulative 33 MW capacity) at their premises. It gives preference to local vendors wherever possible and has identified certain vendor clusters which are near each of its plants. 135 of these members are ISO 14001/OHSAS 18001 certified. Going forward, it plans to make these certifications a mandatory requirement for all onboarded vendors.
What inroads have they made into water and energy independence?
Switching to alternate sources of electricity through the deployment of solar power, wind energy and other forms of green energy is an area where they have been in the forefront. There are many known instances where they have also shared this green energy with others in the vicinity.
We see companies like Toyota commit to targets such as relying on renewable sources of electricity for 88% of their power requirements, being net-zero when it comes to water consumption etc. They have clearly defined timelines and a crisp roadmap to reach there. The movement is afoot and irreversible. Water and electricity initiatives have not only made the auto industry self-reliant but also helped it reduce their costs.
The growing acceptance of Electric Vehicles (EVs) as a whole make their future prospects bright. The impetus for this is coming from the understanding of the greenhouse effect, the role of fossil fuels and our overall responsibility to protect our planet and preserve it for the next generations.
The HVAC system is one of the toughest obstacles in the path of sustainability. How can this be made less daunting?
If we want a building to function as a green building, we need to understand and measure energy consumption, the effects of the glass façade, how the heat permeates inside, what is going to be the load on the HVAC system etc. If we decide to adopt green energy, there are many agencies willing to offer financial support for energy management. In many cases such as solar power, funding can also pay for Capex rather than Opex solutions.
How do we make sure that sustainability initiatives do not remain only on paper?
Continuous monitoring is integral to every sustainable initiative. Unless we monitor, we cannot hope to improve. We cannot afford to let the mechanisms which we have already set into motion come to a halt, and we need to ensure that there is accountability for whatever actions are taken, whether it is the customer, consumer or we who are responsible.
How would you convince still-reluctant clients to join the sustainability bandwagon?
Today, the fact is that consumers are also waking up to the fact that sustainability is important. A Unilever study has found that one-third of all customers would prefer to buy products from brands based on their social and environmental impact. Gen X is well aware of and keeps abreast of sustainability trends; they can test the credibility of any claims made in this domain. Sustainability affects sales, and has a direct impact on profitability. What more incentive is needed?