Sustainability in the developing world step-by-step

Many resources are becoming ever more scarce. Organisations will need to contend with increasing prices, public pressure and regulation, and consider the payback of resource use as well as their returns on assets and capital.

My first blog on sustainability in the developing world looked at taking a long-term approach to sustainability. (Needless to say, these approaches also work in the developing world.)

Approach 2: Step-by-step
Organisations can also become more sustainable by making small process changes that often target conserving a limited resource. Eventually, the accumulated cost savings can fund more expensive, advanced technologies to make production even more efficient.

When it began operations in 1985, India’s Shree Cement invested in a diesel-generating plant to protect its operations against disruptions to the electricity supply and went on to tweak its production processes to reduce the amount of electricity it needed. Shree then turned to using its kilns less to save energy.

Most of Shree’s savings came from innovating better ways of working to cut expenses and emissions. As the small-change savings added up, the company could invest in more sophisticated technologies (Approach 1). One such investment enabled recycling the hot exhaust from kilns to power a separate electrical plant that generated electricity much more efficiently than the local energy producer, and selling its excess electricity on the open market.

Shree now produces a ton of cement with 9% less energy than the average Indian cement manufacturer and 15% less than the global average. From 2005 to 2009, its revenues grew five times faster than the global cement industry’s revenues and Shree is now one of the top five cement manufacturers in India.

Stay tuned for my third and final  blog on sustainability in the developing world which will look at a third approach: devising new business models that incorporate customers or suppliers.

Question for discussion

What small process changes might you be able to make in your organisation in order to conserve a limited resource or boost sustainability?