Panchakanya Steels, one of the leading steel producers in Nepal situated in Bhairahawa, uses a greasing automation system, recycled industrial water, and high-quality machinery parts to reduce the volume of waste produced. Unilever Nepal Limited (UNL), a multinational company, is collecting plastic packages of different products that have been left undisposed to pollute the environment; the company aims to collect 20 percent of such packaging materials this year. Bottlers Nepal Limited (BNL), the bottler of Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite in Nepal, uses innovative technologies in heating, ventilation, cooling, air-conditioning at its plants in Balaju, Kathmandu and Bharatpur, Chitwan, to increase energy efficiency and also gives priority to recycling the pet bottles of its soft drinks brands.
At a time when climate change has become one of the top concerns the world over for policymakers and ordinary people, businesses are also trying to change their old ways of doing business. The environmental and ecological disasters that have occurred over the past two decades have led countries to seriously think about and act for the "green economy" in order to save the earth's future. As a country that is also experiencing the increasing effects of global climate change, voices are also growing louder in Nepal in this respect and businesses here have started to adopt sustainable production practices.
According to Our World in Data, an international online publication that focuses on statistics related to global issues including climate change, poverty, disease and war, Nepal's share in global Co2 emissions stood at 0.05 percent in 2020. Though the Himalayan nation's Co2 emission is negligible on the global scale, the country lies between two giant economies and hence it is on the receiving end of the impacts caused by other economies. So, it has become necessary for businesses here to think about their operation, consumption of natural resources and how to manage the daily waste that comes from activities related to production.
As part of good corporate governance practices, some manufacturing businesses operating in Nepal are working to integrate sustainability into their business. The approaches being adopted include the efficient use of energy, adoption of innovative technologies, sustainable waste management and using products less harmful to the environment. Nevertheless, rapidly changing the way industries operate is likely to be challenging and expensive. So, the companies are gradually using new technologies in production, waste management and energy efficiency.
UNL, for instance, which produces various popular brands like Dove, Sunsilk, Lifebuoy, Lux, Ariel and Surf, among others, in its portfolio has a Sustainable Living Plan which aims to stimulate the growth of the company by leaving a positive social impact. UNL has been running various projects to explore ways to utilise commercial waste and create value for the company. “Making the environment a sustainable living place for all is the purpose of UNL. We are working on various social and environmental projects as part of our CSR initiatives,” said Amlan Mukherjee, managing director of UNL. In June this year, the company collected five tons of solid waste after cleaning Mount Dhaulagiri in collaboration with the Nepal Army.
In the meantime, Panchakanya Steels is also focusing its efforts on sustainable manufacturing practices. "We are working rigorously on resource optimisation and increasing the efficiency of our production. All the machines and equipment we use are of high-quality and reliable to ensure that they run for a long period of time and our plant produces less waste," said Ujjwal Kumar Shrestha, executive director at Panchakanya Group. "Greasing automation system is being used to recycle grease and oils used in high-end machines. Likewise, high-quality furnace oils produced by Indian Oil Corporation Limited and Bharat Petroleum Corp Limited are used to reduce air pollution while melting billet."
The steel industry is considered as one of the largest carbon emitters. Globally, energy-related emissions of the iron and steel industry accounted for 7.2 percent in 2020. Though steel is a recyclable product, induction furnaces, steel melting processes produce harmful chemicals that pollute the air.
Currently, many manufacturing companies and other businesses across the world are prioritising the waste management strategy labelled R4 (Reduce, reuse, recycle and recover). Companies are concerned about how their final products are being packaged, how plastics are disposed of and the volume of waste generated during the production process. For example, the US multinational soft drinks maker Coca-Cola has pledged to collect and recycle 100 percent of its packaging worldwide to realise the company's commitment to the 'World Without Waste' project. BNL, the bottlers of Coca-Cola products in Nepal, is active in the PET bottle recollection initiative and waste collection campaigns in mountains. Similarly, Panchakanya Steels recycles and reuses its wastewater.
Besides industrial production, shipping products from one place to another is getting expensive with each passing day. Fuel prices have spiked internationally over the last couple of months. Adjusting to the rising prices, Nepal Oil Corporation has also been increasing petroleum product prices every couple of weeks. Given this increase, the logistics sector is also in a dire need of innovation. “Nepal's road infrastructure doesn't support electric vehicles to transport heavy products. However, if we have electric options, we will focus on it in every segment that reduces cost and supports environmental conservation,” opined Shrestha.
With consciousness growing among business community members to make their business practices more environment-friendly, cement manufacturers are also gradually adopting sustainable practices in cement production. For a long time, the cement industry has been cited as an emitter of carbon dioxide on a significant proportion. In 2020, the Chinese cement industry alone generated 858 million metric tonnes of Co2. Since the demand for cement is expected to double post-pandemic as the construction of stalled and new projects is likely to gather momentum, concerns about air pollution are growing. In Nepal, too, large infrastructure projects that are currently under-construction and the projects that will be constructed in the future will require millions of metric tonnes of cement.
Given this rising demand for cement, cement manufacturers are becoming mindful of the impact of producing the essential construction material on the environment. “It is our prime responsibility to focus on the conservation of the environment. To control industrial pollution, we are using state-of-the-art technology like electrostatic precipitation which collects dust during cement production. Similarly, we have focused on greenery and tree plantation around our premises to equate with the pollution caused,” informed Subash Khatiwada, head of Brand & Promotions at United Cement.
Industrialists say that the climate action initiatives taken by them are not just for welfare or charity purposes. Instead, they think that the activities today will be important for their own business operations in the long run. The major benefits of environment-friendly measures adopted by the companies have helped in increasing productivity, achieve better business performance and focus on innovative ideas. According to Shrestha, the use of new technologies has reduced the labour and administration costs of Panchakanya Steels. "Moving along this way, we will see better business results in the years to come," he said.