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Investing in sustainability enhances brand value

Investing in sustainability and The Carbon Trust Standard is not only a risk management tool, believes Dr Mehran Zarrebini, CEO of PFE International, holding company of Van Dyck Carpets. Being recognised as an independently verified environmentally sustainable organisation enhances brand value and can also drive innovation.
Dr Mehran Zarrebini, CEO of PFE International
Dr Mehran Zarrebini, CEO of PFE International
Zarrebini was speaking at the official launch of Carbon Trust Africa at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton late last month as director of a South African company with The Carbon Trust Standard certification. This recognises success in reducing carbon emissions and provides a framework for organisations to enhance their operational sustainability.

“The Carbon Trust Standard has enabled Van Dyck to manage and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions effectively, recognise new business opportunities, challenge our conventional wisdom and untap new market spaces ripe for growth,” he said.

Sustainability-based management

There was no doubt that today’s operating environment was complex, uncertain and ambiguous and that modern businesses required sophisticated sustainability-based management, he said.

Zarrebini cited his own company, Van Dyck Carpets, as an example. “This is an organisation that has an extensive history in South Africa, having first opened its doors in 1948 manufacturing soft floor coverings in Durban. It has evolved over the years to a company manufacturing and distributing a diverse portfolio of flooring products, not only in South Africa but to different parts of the world.”

Their journey towards adapting their business model began in 2012, after implementing an environmental management system during 2011.

“We had realised that the management system, while a step in the right direction encouraged incrementalism in a consistently documented manner, something any business should avoid. A more far-reaching approach to adopt faster and deeper improvements was required.”

“At the time, we had recognised that climate change risks could significantly impact on our operations in many dimensions such as resource scarcity and they were largely out of our organisation's control. Disruptions in the supply chain would dramatically affect our production processes.”

Accounting for its emissions

Van Dyck began accounting for its greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, following the methodology prescribed in the Green House Gas Protocol.

“Our level of detail extended beyond the certification needs of Scope one and Scope two emissions and included many of the voluntary reporting requirements such as employee and airline travel together with emissions associated with the transportation and distribution of our goods throughout South Africa and beyond,” Zarrebini explained.

It was also imperative for Van Dyck to associate itself with an independent certifier such as The Carbon Trust that could provide a framework for Van Dyck to enhance its operational sustainability, improving energy efficiency at the same time as cutting costs.

The insight offered by monitoring data provided Van Dyck with a broad range of opportunities that could achieve carbon and energy savings in areas such as heating, cooling, lighting and resource performance. This focus on energy conservation helped the company reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20.7% in absolute terms and 24.5% as a function of intensity during the period 2012 to 2014.

“We are currently at the stage of our first re-certification and our estimate for the period of 2014-2016 is that we have made a further 20% absolute reduction over this period.”

“Since 2012, our carbon footprint has reduced from approximately 11,200 tonnes per annum to 4,200 tonnes per annum, a saving of more than 6,500 tonnes, resulting in significant savings in both energy costs and emissions.”

Sustainable manufacturing

Regarding business growth, Zarrebini said that redesigning processes to meet environmental standards and certification requirements had offered new opportunities.

“Van Dyck has successfully embedded sustainability into the manufacturing of its soft flooring and acoustic flooring. The carpet tiles manufactured at our Durban plant incorporate 40% recycled content into the backing of the product as a substitute for bitumen. The backing utilises fly ash or pulverised flue ash, a by-product of coal combustion.”

Van Dyck’s recently established sister company, Mathe Group is now one of the largest recyclers of post-consumer and post-industrial truck tyres in Southern Africa, something it would never have envisaged creating a few years ago.

“Legacy tyres are an environmental hazard that have blighted the landscape, landfill sites and previously disadvantaged areas in South Africa for many years. The recycled rubber is used to manufacture a patented self-adhesive acoustic underlay at Van Dyck eliminating the need to use wet adhesives.”

The acoustic underlay is now exported to more than 30 countries worldwide and is favoured in cities where there are stringent legislative requirements to reduce noise pollution in high-rise buildings and offices.

The group’s newest business venture uses recycled truck tyres to manufacture outdoor paving mats for driveways and pavements manufactured from recycled rubber.

Zarrebini concluded, “We are moving to a world of scarce resources if we haven’t already done so, in which companies will increasingly need to consider their total return, not just on assets and equity, but on resources and their efficient use.”

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