Brazil is an important country for Danone, where the group started its activities in 1970 and where its annual growth has reached 15% over the past few years – i.e. two to three times the average growth of Danone worldwide. Dairy product sales have tripled in five years in the Nordeste region,. To face this growing demand, Danone Brazil needs to increase its production capacities. After the “historic” production plant of Poços de Caldas, Danone more recently started the Maracanaú plant in the Nordeste. But increasing production is not all that matters in one of the world’s most dynamic economies, where environmental issues are increasingly inherent to progress and growth. Emerging countries are assimilating the fact that growth can only last if the preservation of natural resources is taken into account from the start (see for instance our article about how China integrates environmental protection into its development model). In order to minimize its environmental impact in Brazil while increasing production, Danone installed a biomass-powered boiler in the Poços de Caldas plant in August 2011.
A greener energy mix makes for a more sustainable production site
Poços de Caldas is situated in the Minas Gerais state, at an altitude of 1200 metres, in the crater of a former volcano. It used to be a resort for people with skin and lung diseases, and in the 20th century became an important seaside resort (it still has a thriving tourist activity today). It is, since 1970,home to the plant where Danone manufactures the majority of its dairy products. In August 2011, a biomass-powered boiler was installed in the plant, thus replacing the use of fuel oil for heat production. The project relies on the use of biomass that is both available in vast quantities and renewable. The boiler thus only uses natural resources (fuelwood) that benefit from sustainability certification, usually residues of eucalyptus plantation. The plant reduced in 18,000 fewer metric tons of CO2 each year, and 97% of the thermal energy used in Paços de Caldas now comes from renewable resources.
This initiative is part of Danone Brazil’s commitment to improve its environmental impact.
But it is also a reflection of Danone’s commitment at a wider level. In Ireland, for instance, a similar biomass-powered boiler was installed in 2012 in the Wexford Medical Nutrition plant, while the Macroom Baby Nutrition plant switched to natural gas for its boilers. As indicated in a previous article, the first step, in March 2012, was to start converting the boiler operating Macroom’s biggest spray drier from heavy fuel oil to natural gas, and to allocate it some of the tasks of the more polluting driers. Step two was to replace heavy fuel oil boilers with woodchip biomass boilers in Wexford. These initiatives make it possible to reduce greenhouse gases emissions, improve air quality (and thus nearby residents’ health), generate activity and income for the biomass producers and lower the plant’s energy bill. A greener energy mix goes a long way when it incorporates environmental issues into the very growth model.
Photo @ Clothilde Caillet