Climate & Good corporate governanceIn Colombia, Diana Pet Food, one of Symrise Nutrition business units, was previously represented by a single sales office. But in 2020, the company opened a plant there as well – and it can serve as a model. The unique environmentally friendly production process emits significantly less CO2 than comparable facilities – just one of the many sustainable properties of the state-of-the-art production. Hereʼs a look behind the factory gates.
Along the long and wide access road are older industrial buildings: Boxy, monochrome structures built purely for utilitarian purposes. Others are newer, with clean sheet-metal facades. And then the new Diana Pet Food plant comes into view, where palatability enhancers and health and nutrition ingredients for pet food are manufactured. The building has large windows, gray walls, and suspended ceilings covered with bamboo cane. The natural material on the facade already hints at what makes the factory special. Here, 30 kilometers north of the Colombian capital of Bogotá, Diana Pet Food has built a production facility that is environmentally friendly in all respects. Its history shows that even ambitious ideas can be realized if the partners really want it.
An idea leads to a project: Everything began in 2015, with the “Future Generation” program. This brought together young senior executives from across the Symrise Group to work on specific projects. One of them was Fernando Putrino, at the time Operations Manager responsible for the factories in Latin America. Since August 2020, he has been General Manager of the pet food business unit in Brazil. “Two things came together: We wanted to build a factory in Colombia anyway, to serve the growing market in the Andean region,” says the production expert. “Symrise had also already begun to produce more sustainably. We linked these two approaches together.”
No one had much experience with this. Until then, Fernando Putrino explains, the company had only implemented such large-scale measures in existing factories – to minimize CO2 emissions, for instance – or it had focused on individual sustainability objectives for new plants. “But we wanted to develop a holistic sustainable production, from the construction to supply and production to the products themselves,” says Fernando. With Claus Oliver Schmidt as a mentor – who, as a Vice President at Symrise, is responsible for global quality control and innovation management – Fernando and his three colleagues Catherine Orain, Edison Diaz and Jenny Weissbrodt started a concept in 2016 based on six criteria. “We analyzed energy management, waste and water management, building management, supply chain, and social justice, and considered measures we could take to become increasingly sustainable in these areas.”
We have chosen to become a place for education and networking.
The unique environmentally friendly production process emits significantly less CO2 than comparable facilities – just one of the many sustainable properties of the state-of-the-art production. Hereʼs a look behind the factory gates.
A result: overall, CO2 emissions from the highly automated facility, in which only around 20 people work, have been reduced by a third compared to similar plants. The power supply contributes to this: there are 240 solar collectors installed on the roof, which generate 13 % of the required electrical energy. “During phases when we don’t consume so much power, we feed the electricity into the public grid,” says Christophe Salaün, the General Manager in Colombia. Another focal point is water: “Like many factories, we have a high demand for water – to generate steam or cool our processes, for example,” says Christophe Salaün. He was involved from the beginning and knows the plant inside and out. “To avoid burdening the municipal waterworks, we drilled a well 170 meters deep that allows us to use the groundwater.” The proprietary water treatment plant also returns half the process water to circulation. Diana Pet Food also uses collected rainwater for the plant’s sanitary facilities.
In order to both assess and control the effectiveness of the measures, Diana Pet Food worked with an eco-design matrix that the company developed in the last few years. This makes it possible to assess how ecological the manufacturing of products is along the entire value chain. The sustainability experts compare various factors for individual products: water consumption, land use, emissions of CO2 and particulate matter, acidification of soil and water, abiotic resource consumption (such as the use of fossil fuels) and the enrichment of the ecosystem with nutrients. “We can adjust various factors to find out how we can make the products more sustainable,” says Christophe Salaün.
One result, for example, is that products manufactured in Colombia and distributed in the Andean region have shorter transport distances and are therefore more sustainable than imported goods from Argentina, where Diana Pet Food also operates a plant. In addition, the company also obtains its raw materials – byproducts from chicken meat production that are not consumed by humans – from the immediate vicinity. “In this way, we provide many small companies with the opportunity to sell us their products while building a long-term relationship with us,” explains the Frenchman, who has been working at Diana Pet Food in Colombia for 18 years.
The plant was built to comply with the strict Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1998. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the certification process has been delayed. The company expects to be notified about the quality level the construction has achieved in the first quarter of 2021. This is all the more impressive because only a small percentage of industrial plants are LEED-certified, as compared to office buildings, hotels and warehouses.
Heading back outside, to take another look at the building: its walls and roofs have been covered with plants. Depending on outside temperatures and humidity, the greenery has an insulating effect against heat or cold. In addition, Fernando Putrino explains, many building materials such as the windows, concrete and paneling came from the surrounding area. Incidentally, all the glass doesn’t just serve to make the building look light and airy: Because it lets in plenty of daylight, it makes the factory transparent. “This is completely intentional because we also want to do something for society. We have chosen to become a place for education and networking,” emphasizes Fernando Putrino, who also points out 500 trees planted by Diana Pet Food in the immediate area. A glass corridor on the upper floor provides a view of the production. “We invite schools and universities to visit, for example, so they can get an idea of what this kind of production looks like. Something like this is relatively uncommon in Colombia.”
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