Setting new sustainability standards: The potential of manufacturing

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Setting new sustainability standards: The potential of manufacturing

Did you know what one of the primary forces behind industrialisation was? It was the new use of materials such as iron and steel, along with new energy sources! Since the time of industrialization, with the advent of better production cycles, the demand for metals and energy sources has steadily and exponentially increased.

In the past 10–12 years, India's steel sector has expanded significantly. Production has increased by 75% since 2008, while domestic steel demand has increased by almost 80% . Additionally, a new report has revealed that global aluminium demand will increase by almost 40 per cent by 2030 and that the aluminium sector will need to produce an additional 33.3 Mt to meet demand growth in all industrial sectors. This increase in demand directly translates into an increase in energy usage. In direct proportion, worldwide coal consumption rebounded by about 6% in 2021 as the global economy recovered rapidly from the Covid pandemic. That sharp rise contributed to the largest-ever annual increase in global energy-related CO2 emissions, putting them at their highest level in history.

But there is a different face to the trends as well. Countries across the world are pledging to Net Zero emissions and taking concrete steps to reduce their carbon footprints. PwC reports that Industrial giant ABB Ltd. is linking compensation policies for senior management to the achievement of sustainability targets. Holcim, the world’s largest cement maker, is combining sustainability and innovation into one C-suite job. Indian conglomerate Tata Group is using sustainability to quantify brand equity.

These are just a few signs that the vast global industrial network is equipping itself for a new era in which sustainability is seen no longer as a cost but as a critical value differentiator. But what is the biggest piece of the puzzle that we haven’t leveraged yet?

The search for the missing piece

It is no secret that the manufacturing industry serves as a criterion for growth and progress for almost every country. With technology entering the ground, manufacturing presents an opportunity to create systems that are optimized to be less resource intensive, have less impact on the environment, and be more flexible to adjust to changing designs and material streams. And one such system that adheres to these goals is the circular economy model.

The circular economy can help achieve various benefits simultaneously. It can be introduced to manufacturing through the 4 Rs - Reduce, Refurbish/Reuse, Recycle and Recover, where each of the four Rs contributes to a more sustainable model of manufacturing.

First, by minimising resource consumption, the circular economy model can automatically help to reduce costs. Second, as sustainability becomes more and more important to consumers, it can help open up new customer and market segments. Third, the circular economy can increase supply security as dependency on raw materials is reduced. All of these factors will play a role in not only reducing costs but also energy consumption!

What the finished puzzle looks like

Employing and making the circular economy model a default was a key founding factor for Runaya. In just four short years, we already have a sustainability and metal recovery project currently operating in Odisha, where 100% of aluminium dross is processed into value-add products, adhering to the 4 Rs. Additionally, the dross recycling plant at Jharsuguda provides an end-to-end green solution for the recovery of aluminium and processing residual waste from aluminium smelters, addressing one of the biggest challenges facing the aluminium industry and the environment - handling, evacuation, processing and disposing of dross in a safe manner. We also use recyclable, wooden spools and are planning to shift to biodegradable spools in the future along with recyclable bags for our packaging.

Apart from our recovery plants, Runaya has also taken up a target to reduce carbon emissions by relying on renewable energy sources. Close to 25% and 70% of our energy consumption is currently derived from solar energy at Runaya Private Limited and Runaya Refining. We are aiming to do better and use 100% renewable energy throughout our operations by 2030!

Since, the entire premise of our collaboration with ground support and geotechnical solutions giant Minova, was built upon the ethos of giving back to the community and helping the stakeholders reduce their carbon footprint through the help of technology, we fulfil 66% of our plant’s energy requirement through solar energy and aim to reach the goal of 100%. This not only ensures progress without costing the environment but helps our clients and partners meet their sustainability goals without compromising on quality!

In today’s landscape, one cannot talk of sustainability without speaking of ESGs. The few roles we check off to stay ESG compliant include:

The bottom line is that new standards and business models are needed to help the industry achieve its circular economy goals. This circular economy vision will challenge manufacturers to rethink how they design, produce, and ship products away from the old way of the linear economy (take, make, waste) to a more regenerative process to align with the consumer demand for more sustainable products. While this change may seem mighty, it is one that is necessary to stay ahead of the times.