Diversifying conglomerate San Miguel Corp., (SMC) has been working to advance both sustainability and profitability in doing business.
SMC with its wide range of business — from food and beverages, packaging, oil refining and marketing, power and energy, to property and infrastructure — has made two major decisions to reduce environmental impact in 2017.
The first was to cut by 50 percent utility and domestic water use across the entire San Miguel group by 2025.
The second decision was to discontinue the plastic bottled water business, to effectively remove around 32 million plastic bottles a year.
“For us then, the key to sustainability and addressing climate change is looking after our water resources and reducing our carbon footprint. Both are relevant to our business operations and have the potential to drive competitive advantage and innovation for our company.”SMC said.
In 2018, the company posted an aggregate of 25.3 percent reduction in water consumption, a staggering 8,841,000 cubic meters (m3) equivalent to the consumption of roughly 295,000 households.
This represents 25.3 percent reduction in overall use ahead of its goal to reduce consumption by 20 percent in 2020.
“We are confident we will be able to reach our target (50 percent water reduction),”SMC said.
This was achieved through an integrated water management strategy that combines conservation with process water reuse, recycling, and technology.
Over 14 percent or about 5.1 million m3 is represented by the use of non-scarce resources such as sea water, rainwater and other recycled water.
Petron Corp. made the biggest contribution with a 37.55 percent cut in use; SMC Global Power Holdings Corp, reported a 37.31 percent reduction; and Northern Cement, cited 32.28 percent less usage over 2016 baseline figures.
“Water is a basic human resource and a basic right. But it’s also an essential ingredient to our products and businesses. Our responsibility therefore is far greater than most,” said Ramon Ang SMC president and chief operating officer.
In 2017, SMC discontinued its plastic bottled water line, under the Purewater brand in line with the initiative to reduce its environmental footprint.
“The plastic bottled water business has given us good returns, but we are choosing to forego it in favor of our long-term sustainability goals,” Ang had said.
Discontinuing the plastic bottled water line is the second major initiative of SMC under a sustainability program that is integral to the company’s slogan “Your World Made Better.”
Last year, SMC has taken another major step in the area of sustainability, by laying the first recycled plastics road in the Philippines.
Asphalt using plastics were laid on a 1,500-square meter pilot test site at a new logistics center in General Trias, Cavite. The test site was chosen as it will be used primarily as a marshalling area for trucks with heavy loads, including 18-wheelers, and heavy equipment.
Ang said: “What we want to achieve is to help address an important environmental issue, and that is plastic wastes. We want to create a sustainable use for waste plastics so that they don’t end up in landfills and our rivers and oceans.”
Some 900 kilos of plastic waste, equivalent to some 180,000 sachets and plastic bags, were used for the test site.
SMC’s technology partner, global materials science company Dow, said recycled plastic waste acts as a binder together with bitumen, in the production of asphalt.
The company said using recycled plastics in the production process can help make roads longer lasting and more durable compared to conventional asphalt.
Independent lab testing done on San Miguel’s recycled plastics road asphalt shows that it exceeds the standards of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
The company said pending further testing, it can build recycled plastics roads in its facilities as well as major infrastructure projects.
“Developing roads using plastics that would have otherwise ended up in landfills or our bodies of water is an environment-friendly method of disposing of scrap plastics,” Ang said.
“We can help our environment and at the same time improve the quality of our infrastructure projects. We are eager to begin this initiative,” he added.
Among the benefits of using recycled plastics for road surfacing are: improved stability and durability of roads; increased skid resistance, which improves road safety; longer lifespan of roads; lower asphalt costs, and less waste destined for landfills.
Dow has worked on projects that use plastics for modifying the properties of bitumen, used in the making of asphalt, which has been tested in India, Indonesia and Thailand.
Initially, SMC will test out the technology in small municipal roads, as well as sidewalks and parking lots. If the technology proves effective and meets all safety and quality requirements, the company may roll it out for larger infrastructure projects, Ang said.
SMC is operating major expressways in the country including South Luzon Expressway ,Skyway Stage 1, STAR Tollways, NAIA Expressway, Tarlac-La Union-Pangasinan Expressway.
Since 2008, SMC has invested more than P300 billion on major infrastructure projects that have helped drive Philippine economic growth.
To date, the company operates a total of 190 kilometers of toll roads, an airport, and a bulk water supply project. It has proposed to build a new international airport that will address congestion issues and boost economic growth.
Last September, SMC a signed a concession agreement with the government for the proposed $14 billion Manila International Airport project in Bulakan, Bulacan, the company’s single-largest investment in the country, which expected to be operational in the next four to five years.