More sustainable industry, healthier urban environment

As a strategy to develop a healthier environment in the city, the environmental authority of Bogota supported a cluster of companies, which benefited from a UNEP / SETAC Life Cycle Initiative’s programme to learn and implement life cycle thinking. The benefits of implementing this approach were significant, enabling the companies to improve their environmental as well as economic performance.

The Challenge

Contribute to a healthier city environment in Bogota, through encouraging companies to improve their sustainability performance

The Process

Train a cluster of companies and encourage their exchanges of experience and collaboration in developing a life cycle approach

The Result

Companies could implement improvement projects that enable tangible results, in terms of environmental impact and economic benefits

Secretaría Distrial de Ambiente (SDA) is the environmental authority for Bogotá City. Its traditional responsibilities are to design, develop and deploy environmental programs to ensure compliance and promote a sustainable future for the city. But it also facilitates a network of companies that have implemented environmental management systems (EMS) and achieved a high level of performance. The companies collaborate on projects and share their experiences to promote continuous improvement.

A long-term process

48 member companies participate in the network, on different projects. For the project dedicated to developing a life cycle approach, 22 companies started the process. Approximately 90% of them are Colombian, and two thirds are small and medium sized enterprises (SME). Most of those companies are engaged in manufacturing, and the food sector is the most represented (approximately one third of the companies). The other sectors represented include transport, soap, pharmaceuticals, and packaging. While the companies predominantly operate in the Colombian market, some companies do export and have suppliers outside the country.

All the companies had completed a program with SDA to establish processes to ensure compliance, learn clean production methods, and to implement a local EMS called District Environmental Excellence Program (PREAD). Most have been certified to ISO 14001, as well as ISO 9001.

Developing capacity

The cluster of companies benefited from a UNEP / SETAC Life Cycle Initiative programme, designed to help SMEs build their capacity to implement a life cycle approach.

The goal was to use a life cycle sustainability perspective to more effectively link environmental programs to business decision-making, to go beyond legal requirements and contribute to make the city environmentally healthier.

In the context of the UNEP / SETAC Life Cycle Initiative programme, the companies received the support of a Life Cycle Management coach, and were introduced to the “Life Cycle Management Capability Maturity Model” (LCM CMM), a methodology developed by the UNEP / SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, specifically for SMEs to enable them to implement a life cycle approach.

The objective for the group of companies was to apply this LCM CMM to develop potential improvement projects. The companies were trained and supported in conducting Life Cycle Assessments, and in implementing Life Cycle Management.

Workshops were organised all along the programme to develop companies’ capability: introduction to the LCM CMM, training to better understand the differences between clean production, environmental management systems, and life cycle management and how to integrate these various systems, and workshops to help them identify improvement projects.

Reduced resource use and improved economic benefits

Azul K S.A is a Columbian company that manufactures and markets cleaning products. It faced numerous barriers to implementing packaging changes due to consumer behaviour, and to a lack of adequate recycling infrastructure.

However, thanks to the programme, the company was able to implement an improved package design that yielded a 40% reduction in weight, providing significant environmental improvements due to reduced resource consumption and economic benefits to the company. The original container weight of both liquid soap and Calendula Aloe Vera 400 ml version was changed from 41.5 grams to 25 grams, a reduction of 39.75%.

Key Figures

Azul K S.A was able to implement an improved package design that yielded a 40% reduction in weight, providing significant environmental improvements due to reduced resource use, and economic benefits to the company due to reduced costs

Colcafé, a coffee company, used life cycle thinking to reimagine wastes as products. It built an innovative collaboration, which provided a valuable learning experience for achieving zero waste to landfill. Colcafé collaborated with Adria Logistica, a waste management company and Santa Reyes, an egg producer, to develop chicken manure with coffee husks for more efficient operation of an anaerobic digester. The coffee “silver skins” waste was thus diverted from incineration to the anaerobic digestion, providing immediate environmental benefits. The physical attributes of the silver skins improved operation of the digester, but also reduced odour problems.

Whereas the transport to the incinerator required a return trip with an empty truck, the collaboration among the three companies enabled to coordinate transport so that the truck would ship the waste silver skins to Santa Reyes, then pick up a waste load to eliminate any empty runs.

Somos K S.A., a bus company, was also an example of immediate environmental benefits. By improving the calibration of the fuel injection systems and reducing idling, the company could reduce its consumption of CO2 emissions. This allowed cost reductions, and also reduced particulate emissions, contributing to cleaner air and reduced health impacts.

Key Figures

Somos K S.A., a bus company, improved its fleet average fuel efficiency from 6.7 to 6.92 km/g.

Cristacryl de Colombia S.A., is a medium company using a unique batch casting process to produce 100% acrylic sheets of superior quality. Discussions on recycling were identified as fundamental to improve yields. A preliminary survey done with the company’s customers already raised some issues that the company had not previously identified, enabling them to proactively address these potential problems. The company also had a product line that uses the process scrap from within its factory that they could work on improving. Crystacryl led a campaign on recycling, creating an opportunity to build stronger relationships with its customers, and reinforce their branding on superior quality products.

Improving suppliers and employees’ engagement

All the projects implemented by member companies demonstrated improved communications, both with and across organizational boundaries.

The LCA exercise at Azul K S.A. for instance involved people across all functions at the company, producing improved cross-functional communication and collaboration. This represents an investment in social capital that can be expected to continue to yield gains.

Somos K S.A. developed two successful projects by leveraging the strengths of key suppliers. With the fuel injection system, the suppliers were brought in as a resource to help the maintenance staff improve their procedures. The company also worked effectively with its employees to integrate the improved practices. For the idling project, the company worked with the employees to define an idling time limit that supported their work. Thus, the improvements were likely to be supported by the employees. Both projects also raised awareness of environmental concerns in a way that employees could be likely to further engage.

Organization Profile

Company name: Secretaría Distrial de Ambiente (SDA) in Bogotá, Colombia
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Headquarters’ location: Colombia
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Last update: May 2016