Sustainable manufacturing is gaining ground on the corporate agenda. In 1987, the United Nations World Commission on the Environment and Development defined sustainable development as “meets our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs”. That relationship marked three dimensions: economic development, environmental protection and social equity. This is why we talk about it today “triple impact”pointing to each of these axes.
On the other hand, the new generations of consumers are asking for actions in the same direction and companies are taking note of adapting their business to the standards that favor reconciling business with care for the environment and the development of the population in general. KPMG conducted a study on trends in consumer behavior and concluded that 50% of people say sustainability is more important today than it was 12 months ago.
“Producing sustainably” was the topic chosen to discuss in the second talk of the cycle “The world to come” organized by clarionwhich was held this Thursday under the guidance of the editors of the Economy of this newspaper, Daniel Fernández Canedo and Luis Ceriotto.
This panel was attended by José Fonrouge, global director of sustainability at Ternium; Carla Sabbatini, Executive Director of the UNESCO Chair (UDESA); Sebastián Bigorito, Executive Director of CEADS (Argentine Business Council for Sustainable Development) and Rocío Mellas, Content and Sustainability Director of Kompost.
The talk is part of the 10 scheduled meetings between company executives, public officials, social leaders, experts and entrepreneurs, to analyze the main challenges that companies face today in Argentinaand which has the main support of Telecom, OSDE and DESA, as well as the patronage of Afarte and Pan American Energy and the support of the Government of the City of Buenos Aires.
Founrouge explains that the challenge for the steel industry is very great. “Steel is part of our daily life”, he introduces himself, alluding, among others, to the production of an input used by cars, the packaging of many products and construction. But this “has a problem and that is that it emits a lot of carbon and globally it represents 8% of the total contribution of greenhouse gases“, He says.
In this regard, Founrouge explains that “the steel industry is a key player in the energy transition to renewable energies” and adds that his company’s goal is “reduce emissions by 20% by 2030”. Such a percentage, he adds, “for an intensive industry (in carbon emissions) is a lot,” reports the senior executive. For example, he mentions that Ternium has two plants in Mexico prepared to capture carbon which they emit and transform it into a vital product for the production of soft drinks and beers, for example.
Recycling materials is another of the pillars of the sustainable movement and one of the most visible to people. In this regard, Mellas points out that “Argentina generates a mountain of garbage equivalent to Aconcagua every year”. Within that, “we will find 50% is compostable material, such as organic waste, kitchen scraps, dry leaves, cardboard and paper,” she lists. Much of it, she adds, “can make its way back to earth and have a positive effect on the environment.”
In turn, Bigorito underlined that corporate sustainability and environmental responsibility are aspects highly appreciated by the new generations, especially after the pandemic. He says, by way of example, that when a young person is looking for a job, he prioritizes “not just benefits and salary, but also that the company has goals and values that are aligned with them.”
It is not an isolated fact. The Trends report on “Impact+ Online Consumption (2022)” showed that among the 10,000 searches on the Mercado Libre platform over the past year, products with a positive impact appear repeatedly.
70% of these users expressed concern about the materials from which the products are made, whether or not there is the possibility of reusing the packaging, design or functionality. Popular products include bicycles, thermo flasks, solar water heaters, menstrual cups, water filters, compost bins, solar panels and reusable coffee pods.
“Consumer habits are changing very strongly”, underlines Bigorito and adds that “when it comes to the health of the planet there is awareness of what food is”. There has been progress in this direction in education. Sabbatini says that “there are some interesting indicators”, but he clarifies it “It is a necessary but not sufficient condition to generate improvements”.
The specialist argues that setting the theme is the big challenge for political leadership in general. “There is a perception that addressing sustainability in education is something incidental. It seems that teaching about caring for the planet is far behind in the priority scale,” he concludes.
However, in many developed countries, new regulations and requirements are advancing so that companies are committed to respecting the environment with the use of clean energy in their production lines. Bigorito notes that Argentina is no stranger to the process. “Last year, 24 companies have issued tradable obligations of some environmental or sustainable bond“, He says.
Mellas recommends “thinking about what we are leaving for future generations. You have to move from the cost-benefit table”. Because “the new generations leave consumerism aside”.
Charles Arterburn is a seasoned business journalist for News Rebeat, where he provides comprehensive coverage of the latest trends and developments in the world of finance and economics.