In India: a committed plant

L’Oréal India is destined to become one of the main contributors to the Group's growth, with turnover that is expected to quadruple under 10 years. The plant at Pune is expected to ensure that this expansion respects the environment.

Usine de Pune
Usine de Pune

L’usine de Pune n’a pas peur des défis. Depuis sa création, en 2004, elle a pratiquement quadruplé sa production et terminé sa troisième extension. À une époque où l’Inde était davantage préoccupée par la croissance que par l’environnement, l’usine de

  • With a young population and a booming economy, India is a market of more than 1 billion inhabitants for L’Oréal.

    India is the tenth most powerful economy in the world and should, according to the International Monetary Fund, continue to grow by 7 to 8% each year by 2016. Unlike many emerging countries in which growth is driven by exports, in India it is internal demand which is the driving force. In 2011 according to the World Bank, household expenses accounted for 58% of GDP compared to 34% in China. The middle class accounted for 4% of the population in 2005 but should reach 19% in 2015. The cosmetics market is that of a population which is young, urban, knowledgeable and traditionally demanding in terms of beauty products. For L’Oréal, it is above all a market of 1.2 billion inhabitants where most products are distributed through small shops and usually packaged in mini-formats. The Group, which is number three on the Indian market, is aiming at increasing the number of its consumers from 25 million to 150 million by 2020. The challenge will be to manage this expansion while reducing the environmental footprint.

The Pune plant likes challenges. Since its founding in 2004, it has virtually quadrupled its output and completed its third extension. During a period when India was more concerned with growth than the environment, the Pune plant was already a pioneer of sustainable development. In 2012, several projects were set up to reduce its water consumption, its emissions of greenhouse gases and waste management.

A pioneer of sustainable development

L’Oréal opened its Pune plant in 2004 less than 200 km from Mumbai. As early as 2005, the plant was awarded ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 certification. In 2007, it installed a 35,000-litre/day solar water heating system for the washing of vessels. Around the same time, it installed a vermiculture unit in which earthworms convert a proportion of its chemical sludge into compost.

‘Sustainable development has now become part of everyday life in India’, says Kushal Lokhande, Pune plant Director. ‘Expansion has made us aware of how scarce our resources are’. In 2012, the plant produced approximately 180 million units and the plant has an extendable capacity of 500 million units. In 2015, in line with the Group’s ten-year environmental strategy (2005-2015), the plant will have halved its emissions of greenhouse gases, its water consumption per finished product and the waste generated per finished product. ‘These are very ambitious objectives’, says Bin Wang, head of Environment, Health and Safety in the Asia-Pacific Region. ‘But the initiatives already introduced and the innovations started in 2012 should enable us to achieve them’.

Advanced water harvesting technologies

‘One of the major innovations in 2012 was the introduction of a water recycling system’, explains Aditya Narayanan, Sustainable Development Project Manager at the Pune plant. Optimising the cleaning cycles had already reduced water consumption by approximately 30% between 2005 and 2011. But a real breakthrough was needed to meet the target of 50%. The new waste water recycling project introduced in 2012 was a real technological innovation (see computer graphics p. 21) that returned some of the water to the plant consumption circuit. By the end of 2012 this installation was recycling 40 to 50 kilolitres of water per day, approximately 15% of the plant’s requirements. Eventually the system could treat 90 kilolitres of water, i.e. 30% of its consumption every day.

The plant also has a waste water treatment plant with a capacity of 240 m3 per day which is used to water the plant’s gardens. All the water treated by the plant is now reused on site.

  • Advanced technologies ensure sustainable management of sanitary sewage and production plant in Pune. Explanations.

    The water reycling system, which was set up in 2012, treats both domestic waste water and that used in utility processes. It benefits from cutting-edge technology. On the one hand, a membrane bioreactor that purifies pollutant discharge through biological breakdown. On the other, an ultrafiltration – reverse osmosis system through which the treated water passes for further purification, i.e. very fine filtering. The collected water is used in the fire-fighting water system, for cooling applications and to water gardens.

  • India is one of the richest countries in terms of water with over 4,000 km3* of rainfall each year. But according to the World Health Organization it is also experiencing water-related problems and could eventually be faced with water shortage. At the root of the problem there is an increase in consumption as well as difficulties in storing, using and distributing water. In 2012 the Pune plant set up solutions to recycle water which help preserve this valuable resource.

    * 1 km3 = 1,000 billion litres.

A twofold strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

‘If we are to achieve our targets for the reduction of CO2’, explains Kushal Lokhande, ‘we must both reduce our consumption in every way we can as well as change over to renewable sources of energy’. In 2012 the plant installed Danpalon® panels on its roofs. These translucent panels allow light to pass through them, but not heat. Using this material took away the need for electric lighting during the day – without overworking the air conditioning system – thereby reducing CO2 emissions. Used on some of the warehouses and the new production unit, it now covers 460 m2 of roofing, around 10% of the total. In 2012 Danpalon® enabled to save approximately 100,000 kWh.

In areas where Danpalon® could not be used, the staff at the Pune plant implemented another innovation that could act as a replacement. This pilot project consists of “tubes of light” placed on roofs. The inner body of each tube is made with a reflective material that directs the light into the buildings. Since January 2013, staff at the plant has gone even further by replacing all the diesel used for boilers with natural gas, thereby reducing the plant’s direct CO2 emissions.

‘All these projects are important but they will not be enough’, stresses Bin Wang. ‘If we want to do better there is no alternative to switching to renewable sources of energy’. In 2012 the Pune plant planned for this switch when it completed the feasibility studies of two major projects. The first project will supply electricity from a wind-farm situated 400 km away from the plant.

The Pune plant

  • 100% of the water the plant uses is reused on site
  • 100,000 kWh saved by improving the natural lighting in its warehouses

Usine de Pune

A local technology adapted to treat waste

The Pune plant’s third and final environmental objective is to reduce waste. ‘India’s farmers have used vermiculture, which converts organic waste into compost, for generations to fertilise their land’, explains Aditya Narayanan. ‘The problem has been modifying this technique to work on chemical waste’. Trials began at the Pune plant in 2007 and by 2012 it was being used to treat 125 kilolitres of liquid sludge each month, which is approximately 15% of the total. There are plans to expand this project to a larger capacity in the future. Along with its experiments in vermiculture, in 2012 the plant continued its efforts to reduce cardboard and paper waste. ‘Our suppliers are aware of the challenges but persuading them to switch to other types of packaging won’t happen overnight’, says Kushal Lokhande.

The gradual integration of suppliers ensures the success of a sustainable development approach

In 2012 the plant started replacing cardboard containers with plastic ones, which last longer and involve less waste production. With 7 grammes of waste for each finished product, the plant is already well below the Group average, but the target of 2.6 grammes by 2015 seems to be a major challenge. Persuading suppliers to adopt a sustainable development approach will be one way of guaranteeing success.

  • Vermiculture unit, waste management… the Pune plant helps local farmers develop ecological and economic alternatives.

    Three years after launching a vermiculture project to recycle its chemical sludge the Pune plant decided to give a neighbouring village the benefit of its expertise by setting up an agricultural waste-treatment plant. This is a fair reward for a technique inspired by local farmers. The project, which was launched in June 2011 and completed in 2012, was aimed at helping local farmers produce their own low-cost organic compost. Together with Inora, a local NGO responsible for training, the Pune plant chose twenty women from the Kalokhe Mala Dehugaon village who, after being told about the project, wanted to get involved. The vermiculture unit is supplied and run by the villagers under the supervision of Inora and the Pune plant. The compost, which earthworms produce from agricultural waste, has replaced the 8 tonnes of chemical fertilisers the villagers used. This ecological alternative has saved the farmers 20,000 rupees in fertilisers over the year. The Pune plant is planning to extend the project to other villages.

Committed staff, the key to change

At the same time as its initiatives to reduce its environmental footprint, the Pune plant has succeeded in rallying its staff. ‘Most sustainable development innovations come from inside the plant’, says Ritesh Sharma, ‘and we shouldn’t forget that we often have to modify technologies and procedures imported from more developed countries. Getting our staff committed to such projects is vital if we are to be successful’. All staff recruited have received training in sustainable development and a thirty-people multidisciplinary ‘Green Team’ encourages their initiatives: automatically turning off taps in the staff canteen when they are not in use, motion sensors controlling the lighting in the foyer, etc. ‘Little things like this are very important to raise staff awareness’, adds Kushal Lokhande. ‘And they help us introduce larger, more important projects successfully’.