Arcelik on sustainability commitments including net zero emissions

Companies need to set sustainability goals even if they don’t know how they’re going to achieve them, the head of a white goods company told CNBC.

“We have to make commitments that we don’t know how we’re going to keep, we have to commit to investing in technology and innovation and setting the bar so high it might scare us, but we have to be brave and really the attack in a way that will make a difference,” said Hakan Bulgurlu, CEO of Arcelik, a Turkish multinational home appliance manufacturer.

Bulgurlu told the latest episode of CNBC’s “Sustainable Future” that the company sees its sustainability efforts and initiatives as a business opportunity.

When asked how feasible it is for Archelik to achieve its goal of net zero emissions across the value chain by 2050, Bulgurlu was clear.

“It really doesn’t. I mean, a straight answer, it really doesn’t. The laws of physics dictate that it doesn’t. But what we can do is is significantly reducing our emissions and our impact,” he said.

“Objective and profit”

Long-term business survival is only possible when a business respects the environment, Bulgurlu said.

“Doing the right thing for the environment, which means trying to mitigate the impact of climate change, in particular by controlling emissions, decarbonizing and trying to protect the ecosystem in which you evolve, became a priority for us because we simply saw it as an opportunity to differentiate ourselves also vis-à-vis our competitors,” he said.

“In the past, you could have separated the two, goal and profit, but today, if you don’t have that goal, you will lose the profit for sure. I truly believe that this transformation is the only way for businesses to survive. long term,” he added.

Arcelik, which has been on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes for five years, was established in Turkey in 1955 and manufactured the country’s first washing machine and refrigerator.

Customers look at appliances at a department store in Illinois in August 2021. Bulgurlu told CNBC that the production of appliances like the washing machine and their energy consumption cause a lot of emissions, but he thinks they can be durable.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

Bulgurlu told CNBC that the production of such appliances and their energy consumption cause a lot of emissions, but he believes they can be sustainable.

When asked how Arcelik tackles the decreasing lifespan of washing machines, he replied: “This is an area that is not only confusing, but quite controversial… First of all, I would like to replace all the machines washing machine, not because I want to sell new washing machines, but because newer washing machines use a lot less energy and therefore emit a lot less carbon and use a lot less water,” he said. -he declares.

“So I would almost say we need a shorter lifespan in the immediate future to reduce the amount of emissions caused by the washing machines that people use, but then the newer ones that we put on the market should, of course, be sustainable and recyclable.”

Bulgurlu said the company has built its own recycling facilities to reuse large amounts of plastic, steel and copper from old devices, and recovers more than 90% of materials for use in new ones. products or for sale to downstream industries.

personal turning point

Born and raised in Norway until the age of five, Bulgurlu said he grew up in the wild. His concern for the environment grew as he witnessed visible changes, and an experience he had with his own children was a turning point.

“A special moment that I will never forget, I took my children to discover this beautiful beach…Maya Bay, and there, you know, what I remember as completely pristine, clear water, coral, marine life everywhere, white sand beach…I took my kids and we were knee deep in plastic, knee deep Rotting bird corpses,” he said.

“And my daughter, who was four at the time, looked at me and said, ‘Why?’, you know, ‘Why?’ stop, you know, it really has to stop.”

To raise awareness of the climate crisis, Bulgurlu climbed Mount Everest in 2019.

“I really felt the importance of a) raising awareness as much as possible and dedicating my life to making change happen in terms of a more sustainable world. And some of the reasons are selfish, I have young children, I want them to have a childhood and a life, a quality of life like me,” he said.

“For our children’s generation, and mine is young, maybe it’s food security, maybe it’s finding a roof over their heads. Maybe it’s a very different world , and I want to be able to look them in the eye, you know, 10, 15 years later, and say I’ve done absolutely everything I could.”

Bulgurlu is part of the World Economic Forum’s Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a network of CEOs set up to support corporate climate action.

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