Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Not so long ago, business and the environment were two completely separate concepts. However, given the need to move towards a more sustainable economic model, the paradigm has changed, making companies a key element in environmental protection and conservation. The goal is no longer to survive in the marketplace, but to survive on the planet. In this context, an increasing number of organizations are seeking to reduce the impact of their activities on the environment. One of these organizations is Cepsa, which has pledged to draw up a roadmap to meet the growing energy demand without losing sight of the environmental perspective. Marien Benavente, Cepsa’s Corporate Environmental Protection Manager, is playing a first-hand role in the transformation of one of the largest companies in the energy sector.
The figure of the “environmental manager” is an increasingly important role on organizational charts. What are functions of this position?
The position, which is relatively new in some companies or is taking on a more important role, is the result of society’s ever-increasing demands for more sustainable products, processes and behavior, and companies need experts who can advise them in this daily environmental improvement in order to adapt to these demands.
We are in charge of compiling guidelines and advising businesses, customers and, in general, all our areas of interest with regard to best practices. We compile these guidelines, we provide assistance, we propose procedures and policies and, above all, we try to achieve a degree of excellence in terms of environmental protection.
Why should taking care of the environment be a priority for a company?
I believe it should be a priority for companies because it is also a priority for society. As a company, we must make a commitment to take care of our customers and our employees, and that involves taking care of the environment. We also have to ensure that all our processes are cost-effective and sustainable, sustainable in every way possible.
What are the main milestones that have been achieved in recent years?
At the company level, much progress has been made in recent years. I think that society’s demands for more sustainable products already represent a step forward. Clean air policies have been developed, attention is being paid to water issues as we are doing here at Cepsa, and we are talking about or focusing on climate change issues or the circular economy in order to keep resources within the production process as long as possible. I think that these are some of the great advances we have seen over the past few years.
Water is one of the great environmental challenges of recent decades in terms of management, consumption, industrial use, conservation, etc. Why is it one of Cepsa’s main action focuses?
It is important to take care of water resources in general, especially in countries such as Spain where we are beginning to notice a certain shortage. We need to maintain our production processes while using fewer and fewer resources. In this sense, at Cepsa we have made a commitment to reduce water withdrawal in our Energy Parks by 25%, which represents a 20% reduction in water withdrawal in all water-stressed areas where we operate. We know that this is a very ambitious goal but it is really important and says a lot about our commitment as a company to sustainability and to balancing our activity, which is focused on turning our company into an energy transition leader, with our contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals set out in the United Nations 2030 Agenda.
What other impactful projects have you had the opportunity to participate in throughout your career?
I particularly enjoyed a project that I took part in a few years ago where I helped elaborate best available techniques for refining and chemistry from an environmental point of view, representing Spain within the European Commission. Since I have been an Environmental Manager at Cepsa, I have been able to promote issues related to water management as I mentioned, in addition to other aspects focused on improving air quality and, more recently, waste management. However, as I mentioned before, my most significant feat is undoubtedly the fact that we were able to work on and set ambitious targets to reduce global water resource withdrawal as a company. It is a real achievement and I am proud to have been part of it.
What formulas or indicators are most efficient for monitoring and analyzing a company’s environmental impact?
There are several formulas for analyzing the progress of companies. I have great confidence in the environmental management systems that are forcing us companies to make commitments and push us to set increasingly ambitious objectives. There is another type of metric that is also very well known, ESG ratings, which have a section on the environment that analyzes, questions and compares companies. In addition, they help us and give us feedback so we know which issues we can keep pushing to continue consolidating our commitments.
And what role do employees play in achieving these objectives?
Employees play a fundamental role. Our policies often come from our employees, and what we have to do is to make them feel that this DNA is also their own because, at the end of the day, we also consider them to be customers and we are committed to taking care of them. In addition, committed employees believe in the objectives and spread their enthusiasm in their environment, which creates a multiplier effect within the company.
How does innovation influence environmental care?
Innovation is fundamental in environmental protection. It is impossible to continue developing new and more environmentally friendly processes and products without innovation. It is point zero, the starting point. At Cepsa for example, we have different working groups in which the innovation and development departments play a very important role. In fact, we are currently working on new circular economy projects and we want to find ways of using materials that were going to be thrown away, that were waste, and give them a second life as a raw material in our processes and obtain a new product to put on the market. In this sense, with legislation such as the recently approved Waste Law, the help of the Public Administration makes it easier for us to undertake more ambitious projects related to the circular economy. Companies make an important contribution to achieving environmental objectives, but legislators and society are also fundamental.
Innovation requires a large investment. Is sustainability profitable for companies?
It’s not about whether sustainability can be profitable for a company or not. It must be profitable; it’s not an option. We have to continue putting products on the market, customers are demanding more sustainable products with a lower environmental impact, and that is the direction we have to take. It is the only way. We need to be more sustainable as a company and keep reducing our environmental impact.