The ITC Story: Putting the Nation First – An Innovation-led Sustainability Approach
“ITC is planning to work towards installing a biomass-based boiler within five more manufacturing plants. We are facing some challenges on the biomass side like very changing price scenario of the traditional fuel, seasonality factor which affects the cost as well as the quality and ultimately the efficiency; however, we feel that in the next few years this will turn into a positive picture.” - Anant Maheshwari, Lead EHS & Sustainability, ITC Ltd. (Food Business Division)
In the Sustainable Circular Economy Series – Doing Well by Doing Good conducted by ProMFG in collaboration with BiofuelCircle, Anant Maheshwari shared his insights and best practices that have been implemented within the company to create an ecosystem of sustainability and circular economy.
Question: Please walk us through the steps that ITC has taken towards sustainability.
For decades, ITC has been passionately pursuing the cause of augmenting environmental resources. And we strongly believe this cause of sustainability is actually a driver for innovation for us. It is creating value not only within the organization but also for all the stakeholders. So, ITC carries a very unique global distinction of being carbon positive for 16 years, water positive for 19 years, and has been following solid waste recycling policy for 14 years now in a row. And to take this journey forward, ITC has come up with ambitious sustainability targets for 2030, as a part of our sustainability 2.0 vision. These sustainability targets are very realistic in terms of covering multiple aspects related to sustainable development aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goals. Here are some critical steps we have taken from the energy point of view:
ITC has taken up a very ambitious target of meeting 100% of its purchase electricity requirements from renewables by 2030, which currently is around 40%. Currently, we have 50 megawatts of solar capacity under execution. This is with respect to the electrical side. However, ITC has also set a target of achieving 50% renewables out of the total energy requirement. At the same time, renewable is one side, but at the same time, there is a very strong focus on continually improving the efficiency and reducing the consumption of energy, water as well as material. So, in that aspect, ITC again has taken sharp targets of reducing the specific energy consumption by 30%, water consumption by 40%, and GHG emission by 50% by 2030. These steps are taken within the manufacturing unit and operations.
Coming to the social side, there are a lot of sustainability targets taken, which are associated with being carbon positive and water positive. So, currently, we are sequestering around two to 2.5 times of our CO2 emissions. So, we have taken an ambitious target to sequester around four times our emissions by 2030. We have taken a target of creating rainwater harvesting potential over five times what we are consuming in that manner in all our manufacturing operations. Then packaging is another area wherein ITC has taken targets with respect to largely plastics and multilayer and, this year, ITC will become plastic recycling positive or plastic neutral.
Then, at the same time on the social investment side, ITC has taken a large target of wins, reaching more than 10 million beneficiaries by 2030. ITC is part of social forestry farm forestry, sustainable agriculture, primary education, and human empowerment. These targets have been taken at the group level and each ITC business has come out with its short-term and long-term plans. In the case of ITC foods specifically, we have a next three to five-year action plan to achieve around 70% of renewable energy dependency.
Question: Would you like to throw some light on the Energy-Mix undertaken taken at ITC?
In the case of ITC Foods, we have been planning for an energy mix. Currently, we have nine manufacturing plants and one dairy plant. We see the overall energy mix, it is currently 20% renewable, and 80% fossil fuel. Before getting deeper into the topic, it is essential to understand that the food manufacturing for the energy requirement for each type of product varies very significantly, it's a very heterogeneous energy requirement. Currently considering the current product portfolio of ITC foods, our energy mix is 30% electrical and 70% thermal. For ITC foods, we have a short-term target of achieving 70% in the next five years. We have 50 megawatts of solar plants already in the pipeline.
Now, coming to the thermal side, where 70% of our energy requirement is in thermal. So currently around 18-20% of our thermal energy requirement is met by renewables which is by the biomass completely. We have biomass solid fuel boilers in three of our manufacturing locations, one in dairy and two in snacks and noodles plant. As we are still dependent 80% on fossil fuel but we are working towards replacing that with a cleaner fuel. We have initiated replacing most of our discrete manufacturing from fossil fuels to either LPG or PNG and paralleling, we are exploring more options on how we can utilize some other biofuel in biscuit manufacturing. Coming to other biomass options, ITC is planning to work towards installing a biomass-based boiler within five more manufacturing plants. We are facing some challenges on the biomass side like very changing price scenario of the traditional fuel, seasonality factor which affects the cost as well as the quality and ultimately the efficiency. There are also a lot of challenges with respect to space, then the storage of energy, then even the temperature that we require, However, we feel that in the next few years this will turn into a positive picture.