It is our ambition to have positive contributions from our operations and supply chain by 2030 – that is the aim of our operations with impact stream.
At each of our sites, we aim for carbon neutral business activities and we endorse the principles of circular economy, which means resources are conserved and repurposed wherever possible. In addition, we aim for our supply chain partners globally to operate along the same corporate social responsibility standards as Beckers.
The way to achieve these ambitious aims is not through a single huge step, but through many small initiatives that work strategically towards our goals. In 2020, we had some key projects that positively impact our production and supply chain activities, from reducing transport emissions to investing in the circular economy.
It is increasingly clear that, if we are to meet our climate goals, our economy must shift from a linear model of production, consumption and disposal to a more circular model of use and reuse. But although this is now widely accepted, shifting to these new models is not without challenges and examples of success are still rare. Nevertheless, we understand the imperative and, in 2020, we made several key steps in this direction.
A good example for circular economy is the winner of the 2020 Sustainability Award for Operations with impact: our waste management initiative at our site in Beckers UAE. The local team collaborated with suppliers, customers and third parties to reuse drums and reduce waste. Meanwhile, our team in Nghe An, Vietnam initiated a project to reduce waste in the factory, focusing on plastic. Many plastic items used in daily operations were replaced with more sustainable alternatives, for example, water bottles, handwash bottles, washing powder containers, coffee supplies, and bags. Even the wrapping for drums is now a reusable hard cardboard alternative. Those are only two of the initiatives we have seen throughout Beckers trying to eliminate, reduce, reuse or recycle waste.
Reducing the use of packaging is a major topic in the circular economy. Our paint is mainly sold in steel drums. Manufacturing a new drum creates around 30kg of CO₂ emissions. We use hundreds of thousands of steel drums every year, adding up to a big carbon footprint. In 2019 we therefore introduced our reconditioned drum initiative together with the supplier DRUMDRUM in Belgium, which is now being rolled out to our sites in France and Germany. In addition, our Beckers India team in Goa and Nagpur devised an efficient and sustainable way to reuse 2,000 drums that contained imported crosslinking resin. In the past, crosslinking resin imported from Changchun in Taiwan was delivered in close-mouth 200-liter barrels, which were disposed to scrap dealers after the material was used. As part of the sustainability project, the team explored the possibility of importing the resin in open-mouth drums, which are suitable for reuse. After successful negotiations with the supplier, the resin is now provided in open-mouth drums sealed with a ring and clamp arrangement. Once we have used the contents, the drums are cleaned thoroughly inside and out before being refilled with finished goods. In 2020, Beckers India reused 2,217 drums in total. Key to these successes is that in all of these projects we have collaborated with other companies to make a real impact. We cannot do this alone.
We‘ve got the (green) power!
Our site in Germany moved to green electricity in 2020 and the sites in France, United States and Poland have all signed contracts to move to green electricity during 2021. Where renewable-based power from the grid is available, this is an easy step to take. In countries where this is not so easy, we are looking into other solutions such as installing our own solar stations like the one we already have at our site in Malaysia.
Optimization of workshop heating
In France, our colleagues at our site in Feignies set out to reduce their gas consumption by 15%. The project was so successful that, as a result of the innovative measures they introduced, they were able to reduce consumption at their site by nearly 20%. They arranged for pipes to be insulated, put in a variable flow pump, and installed time controllers and programmable thermostatic valves so that office and locker areas can be heated separately and the workshop is no longer heated round the clock.
New VOC abatement system in China
Reducing volatile organic compounds (VOC) is key to achieving our aim of carbon neutrality for our sites. To do this, we use abatement systems – this means that wherever possible VOCs are combusted, recovered and refined, and air released to the atmosphere is purified. In line with the increasing standards of environmental protection in China, Beckers China installed a new VOC abatement system on the site in Guangzhou. The new system is based on RCO (regenerative catalytic oxidizer) technology. A molecular sieve is used instead of activated carbon absorption technology. This reduces the generation of hazardous waste by an estimated 106 tons per year. VOC capture on the shop floor was also optimized. Environmental regulations are getting stricter in China, but as a result of these efforts, we are ahead of the game.