Sustainability continues to be a growing theme in the corporate environment. What does Beko mean by this term? And what is Beko doing specifically to make its production as environmentally friendly as possible? This is not the only topic that Arçelik’s Chief Commercial Officer Ragıp Balcıoğlu talked to us about.
Sustainability is such an incantation today. But what does it mean for manufacturing?
Arçelik, Beko’s parent company, has long worked to integrate sustainability practices into both business operations and products. Adopting sustainability into a business model requires not only commitment, but also a transformation of thinking and significant investment. To be specific, our smart washing machine factory in Romania is one such example of how to implement efficient manufacturing processes. It is such a harbinger of a new industrial revolution. You will find smart heating and cooling systems, efficient lighting solutions using daylight, solar panels, a wastewater treatment plant and even a rainwater harvesting system. What’s more, we use 100% green energy in our manufacturing plants in Turkey and Romania.
Overall, our global production uses 75% green electricity. Of course, we are also focusing on other areas, and because of all these activities, we have become carbon neutral in our global manufacturing operations for category 1 and 2 (editorial notice: Emissions are divided into three categories. The first includes direct emissions from the core activity, the second includes indirect emissions from the purchase of energy for operations, and the third includes consumption emissions from the operation of suppliers and the use of the product produced.) in 2019 and 2020 with our own carbon credits generated by our carbon finance project for energy efficient refrigerators. An equally important aspect is waste management and the now much discussed circular economy. First and foremost, we strive to develop new solutions to reduce the amount of waste generated by our production processes and increase collection and recycling. Indeed, we have two electrical waste (WEEE) recycling plants in Turkey.
What about the consumer aspect?
In this area, we are particularly pleased that we are succeeding in “democratising technology”, which means that as many people as possible have access to it. Our aim is to develop powerful, durable and at the same time affordable home appliances that are environmentally friendly. That’s why we launched a whole new range of products last year that are very eco-friendly in the spirit of sustainability. We use recycled materials such as fish nets and plastics, as well as bio composites in its production. The appliances offer water and detergent saving technologies.
I would also like to mention one more thing that will undoubtedly be appreciated by both our business partners and consumers. And that is that our leadership in sustainability and decarbonisation has been confirmed by the Terra Carta seal of HRH The Prince of Wales. We were the first company in our sector to receive it. This seal is only awarded to companies with credible plans for transitioning to carbon neutrality by 2050, plans underpinned by globally recognised science.
In the past appliances have lasted 20 years. Today the cycle for buying new ones is closer to 5 years. Let’s say it’s between 5 and 10. Wouldn’t it be more sustainable to produce a more expensive appliance with a longer lifespan? More frequent replacement of appliances means more transport, more materials… How did the market come to the point where you can buy a washing machine for 200 euros?
Of course, I agree that the longevity of the product is a key factor in sustainability. When we look at the life cycle of a household appliance, most of the carbon footprint is generated during the use phase. The energy consumed in the use phase has an impact on the environment, and the more efficient the product is, the better it is for the environment. If a product has a longer lifetime, this contributes to sustainability because there will be fewer emissions from transport, manufacturing, and end-of-life processing. In addition, products with longer lifetimes mean fewer materials need to be used in production. So, yes, extending the lifetime of appliances clearly contributes to sustainability.
„The long life of appliances is not enough. They must be environmentally friendly in operation.”
Ragıp Balcıoğlu, Arçelik’s Chief Commercial Officer
However, this raises another issue that affects sustainability. I am referring to the fact that consumers use a product with the same energy efficiency class for many years, even when new technologies and more energy-efficient solutions are available. So, when we assess the sustainability of a product based on its potential to cause global climate change, having a less energy-efficient product for a longer period can lead to more emissions than switching to a more energy-efficient product, say, every ten years. Given those technological developments are enormous, today’s Class A energy efficiency is potentially the Class F of the future.
Moreover, sustainability is closely linked to consumer behaviour. While durability may be more important to one consumer, energy efficiency may be a key factor for another. One of our studies on consumer trends and sustainability showed us that people associate sustainability with higher price. Our goal, therefore, is to spread awareness of eco-friendly behaviours in the home and offer energy-saving technologies to the masses.
Beko has announced a big step towards sustainability by reusing plastics, replacing materials that would be harmful to the environment, and more. What does this mean for your supply chain and production? How difficult has it been to apply these changes to your production facilities and to your product design?
To reduce Category 3 emissions in our products, we are increasing our use of recycled materials. Here we support a circular vision. This is also reflected in the fact that we work with trusted raw material suppliers, sharing the chemical composition of recycled materials with our partners.
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