Rolling out an innovative recycling landscape

by Neeraj Kanwar

An executive of a leading tyre manufacturing company suggests the embodiment of sustainability and stakeholder-centric models to future proof companies.

Highlights:

  • Innovative approaches to developing sustainable tyres are essential to really drive down emissions from the motor industry.
  • Disused tyres pose a huge environmental challenge.
  • The tyre industry has been looking at and experimenting with innovative use and recycling of old tyres for sustainability, including recycling old tyres.

When over 3,000 business and political leaders convene in Davos next month, they will acknowledge the fact that we need to change the way we do business. There will be a concerted call to embrace ‘sustainable development’ and a renewed effort to look at ‘stakeholder capitalism’.

It is a well-known fact that almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the transportation sector. Electric cars are trumpeted as the panacea to this challenge but alone, this is not enough. Innovative approaches to developing sustainable tyres, such as low rolling resistance tyres, alternative materials to rubber and reusing and recycling tyres, are essential to really drive down emissions from the motor industry.

Speaking about sustainability, the tyre industry is constantly looking at new ways to address climate change. At Apollo Tyres, we have developed a range of tyres that offer low rolling resistance. These help to reduce fuel consumption, and that means smaller fuel bills and lower CO2 emissions. Moreover, low rolling resistance reduces pollution as fewer residue particles are dispersed into the air.

With car ownership increasing in countries such as India and China, it is becoming ever more urgent to find green solutions. Various tyre manufacturers in the sector are looking at developing alternative materials to traditional rubber. This is to address the issue of deforestation. One such experiment that we conducted had used dandelion latex to manufacture tyres.

However, investing in R&D alone is not enough. Disused tyres are a big environmental challenge. Many countries such as the UK send over 500,000 disused tyres to destinations in the Middle East and Asia each year. However, this is unsustainable. One landfill site in Kuwait, with more than seven million tyres, is so large that it can be seen from space!

The industry has been looking at and experimenting with innovative use and recycling of old tyres for sustainability. In England, old tyres – that would otherwise end up in landfill – are being tested as a potential road surface material by Highways England on a stretch of the M1. This proves that we can find ways to reduce waste. Recycled tyre material is being put to so many good uses, including sports surfaces, running tracks and pitches, children’s playground safety mats, drainage systems etc.

While we look at ways to protect the environment, we also need to chart a plan to build an equal society. Increasing inequality today has led to many protests across the world.

In Chile, small protests about transport costs grew into a broad-based movement protesting about inequality. In France, the “Yellow Vests” movement grabbed headlines a year ago over gas prices and transformed into a broader social and violent protest. Businesses are an integral part of our socio-economic fabric and they have an important role to play here.

We cannot ignore this civil unrest; we cannot neglect our stakeholders. Business leaders need to rethink what they mean by value – especially stakeholder value. Any company that is future proof must have sustainability hardwired into its business strategy. I believe the way forward is stakeholder capitalism.

Caring for society has always been a core value at Apollo Tyres. Forward-thinking companies offer several initiatives including health services to key stakeholders and investing in local communities. We operate programmes that address healthcare needs for truck drivers – who are our key stakeholders – livelihood support and empowerment for underprivileged women in local communities.

Truckers obviously spend a lot of their time on the road. This lifestyle is not conducive for a settled, married life and they often end up contracting HIV and worse. We established 31 healthcare centres in the transportation hubs spanning 19 Indian states offering healthcare services including prevention of HIV/AIDS, vision care, and general treatment facility. Since the launch of our healthcare initiatives, we have reached out to more than 5 million people via our health services. In addition, the company continues to provide healthcare facilities by conducting regular health camps and specialised cancer screening camps for around 500 families of rubber tappers.

Addressing inequality also concerns gender inequality. Here, I am talking about inequality of opportunity. Many doors are shut to women, especially when it comes to empowerment. Smart businesses invest in empowering women to create strong communities. Apollo Tyres offers livelihood and empowerment programmes to women from communities near its plants. We have reached out to over 11,000 women through our women empowerment programme. We are the first company in India to provide training in sheet rubber grading for women in an otherwise male‐dominated sector. We also plan to replicate this successful model near our other plants.

While we are committed to stakeholder engagement and building cohesive communities, we are also investing to combat climate change in our day-to-day operations. Our flagship programme ‘Afforestation Project’ – the planting 3,50,000 trees in Tamil Nadu – helps control carbon emissions and generates livelihood for farmers in water‐starved areas of the country.

To survive and thrive as a company in the years to come, it is essential that we put stakeholders and sustainability at the heart of our business.

Neeraj Kawar is the Managing Director of Apollo Tyres.

About the Author: Neeraj Kanwar