Khourshed Alam, Director of Operations at AkijBashir Group discusses how the group is driving sustainability and minimising environmental impact through innovative practices.
What are AkijBashir Group’s sustainability principles?
AkijBashir recognises the established three pillars of sustainability – economy, society and the environment. We believe that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG), while geared towards nations, should apply more on an individual and entity level. People like us; companies like us, we are the ones that make up a nation, and in order for Bangladesh to become sustainable, our individual practices need to be sustainable as well. So, AkijBashir Group has made it its duty to become a sustainable company and lead by example.
What efforts are underway at AkijBashir to help protect the environment?
Across the AkijBashir Group, we have made substantial strides in reducing carbon emissions, achieving a remarkable 13% reduction equivalent to the contribution of 250,000 trees. It is also our goal to donate approximately 500,000 tree saplings to various local organisations and NGOs. Additionally, we emphasise wastewater recycling, heat recycling and the reuse of waste heat and raw materials as part of our environmentally conscious practices. We are constantly undertaking innovation efforts which has allowed us to reduce deforestation by 5% every year. As a significant portion of our business revolves around particle board production, we make an indirect contribution to reducing deforestation by offering customers a suitable alternative to wood traditionally used in the furniture industry. When consumers use particle boards, it reduces the need to cut down trees, thereby conserving our forests.
How is AkijBashir becoming more energy efficient?
One significant step towards energy efficiency involves the adoption of green energy sources. Currently, we generate 20% of our electricity from solar panels, and we have ambitious plans for the future. We currently produce 100 MW of electricity from solar power. Within the next year, we intend to cover the entire roof space of all our factories and generate 400 MW electricity production.
In light of the fuel crisis related to natural gas availability, we’ve undertaken proactive measures to enhance our energy efficiency by upgrading our machinery and technology. Additionally, we utilise the waste dust created during particle board production and efficiently reuse it as fuel in our ceramic factory for heat generation. This practice minimises waste and conserves energy. Our current efforts save overall 750,000 cubic feet of natural gas daily.
Given the challenges in gas supply, we’ve been driven to innovate and adapt. We’re exploring and introducing new technologies within our factories. Waste heat recovery is a significant aspect of our strategy, and we’ve integrated systems to capture and reuse wasted heat from ceramic product kilns. This recovered heat can then be used to produce nearly 15,000 square meters of tiles, thereby reducing the release of atmospheric heat and contributing to our energy efficiency goals.
What are some of AkijBashir’s water conservation efforts?
Our primary goal is to become a zero-discharge company in terms of water usage. Currently, we have achieved nearly 50% progress towards this goal, and we aim to reach 100% utilisation of wastewater by the next year. This effort has reduced significant daily water savings, estimated at 200,000 litres. Additionally, we are exploring rainwater harvesting to further supplement our water needs, reducing the demand for groundwater resources.
We have also conducted research related to jute retting, a process that traditionally consumes significant amounts of water. Through this research, we have identified a genome that significantly accelerates the jute ageing process, reducing the time and water required while simultaneously improving fibre quality. Importantly, our approach is open-source and not proprietary, encouraging wider industry adoption.
Being sustainable also means providing good working conditions and considering employee health and well-being. How is the group achieving that?
Health and safety are top priorities for AkijBashir Group, integral to our organisational agenda. At every AkijBashir location, we have dedicated and trained health and safety personnel. Our fire protection systems in our factories are so sensitive that we don’t even allow mobile phone photography due to the potential for flash triggering the system. This stringent approach ensures that fire hazards are promptly addressed. Regular employee training sessions and strict adherence to safety guidelines are mandatory for all tasks within our factories. Furthermore, we provide medical facilities in all our factory locations, aiming to achieve the goal of becoming a 0% injury company by 2025.
How is AkijBashir Group supporting the local community?
We prioritise local sourcing of raw materials, with 98% of our particle board raw materials coming from local suppliers. This commitment not only ensures the quality of our products but also supports local businesses and contributes to the growth of local industries.
In the local communities where our factories are situated, we are actively involved in various community engagement activities. At Janata Jute Mill, one of our facilities, we have established a school, providing access to quality education for the local community. This school has consistently achieved excellent results in board examinations.
Our community engagement efforts are driven by a unified strategic direction that permeates every level of our organisation, fostering a shared sense of purpose among all employees, from the most junior positions to leadership.
What has been the role of technology and innovation at AkijBashir Group in achieving its sustainability goals?
We prioritise automation in our manufacturing processes to enhance efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint. For instance, our fully automated warehouse in the tiles factory minimises breakage and optimises our delivery system.
Our commitment to sustainability is evident in our waste recycling practices within our ceramic cluster, comprising three factories. By repurposing solid waste from one factory to another, we eliminate waste that would otherwise impact the environment. This initiative has allowed us to utilise 51 metric tonnes of solid waste effectively.
Additionally, our distribution strategy is designed to minimise environmental impact by utilising multiple logistical channels, reducing fossil fuel consumption.
We channel our investments into low-carbon emission technologies and prioritise low power consumption. Given the gas crisis, we are committed to maintaining production efficiency while minimising gas consumption. This approach aligns with our ongoing efforts to reduce our environmental footprint and achieve sustainability objectives.
What are AkijBashir Group’s long-term visions?
AkijBashir Group’s long-term vision is firmly anchored in addressing and contributing to the UN’s 17 SDGs, of which 6 are being directly addressed right now. Our overarching aim is to become the most respected company in Bangladesh, characterised by values and a commitment to people’s development and reliance. We aspire to set industry standards and consistently exceed them, always thinking beyond the immediate future. Furthermore, we are dedicated to reducing our environmental impact, striving to achieve a net-zero emission status, and significantly minimising waste discharge as part of our sustainability commitment.