Bisleri’s sustainability strategy: Water positive, plastic neutral

Angelo George CEO, Bisleri International shares the initiatives around preserving and protecting the environment.

Bisleri International has been fighting the counterfeit problem for several years. And each time, it has nailed the art of the comeback.

Remember the “Har paani ki bottle Bisleri nahi,” ad where camels, depicted as consumer targets, imitate to drive home the message. This was followed by the sequel where the mother camel insists that her baby drinks only Bisleri.

While protecting and fighting the me-too avatars has been part of its brand strategy, conserving natural resources ranks higher on its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) agenda.

Angelo George, the CEO of Bisleri International, in this interaction with ET Insights, shares the work done by the bottled water company in terms of recycling plastics and conserving water.

Preserving and protecting the environment is a high priority for the bottled water company. Edited excerpts:

Q. Bottled water companies are blamed for two things: plastic pollution and depleting water levels. Around 85% of single-use plastics used in food and beverage containers end up either in landfills or as unregulated waste. How are you working towards alleviating these challenges?

We have always been good stewards of the environment and sustainability has always been part of our DNA. We are a plastic-neutral and water-positive company.

Bisleri has built a legacy and a brand that is trusted in the country. However, people have not been aware that we have been recycling used plastics since the late nineties. We purchased and installed a plastic recycling machine from a Japanese company in 1999.

We are plastic-neutral because we collect more plastic than what we introduce in the market. We are water positive as we replenish more water than the water we extract.

Q. Can you elaborate on the efforts or your strategy around sustainability?

Our sustainability strategy is focused around three areas—reduce, reuse, and recycle.
There are ongoing value engineering projects where we work on the design to ensure that virgin plastic consumption is minimised. Through these efforts, we have been able to achieve a 10% reduction in virgin plastic consumption.

Secondly, around one-third of our business is in the 20 litre-water jars that go for home and office consumption. These jars are reused multiple times. This again minimises plastic consumption.

We have been working with a lot of partners and associates to collect used plastic from the market and sell it for recycling. To reduce our carbon footprint, we have switched to using electric vehicles for transportation.

Q. As a country, we have not been making effective use of rainwater, which has led to a decline in groundwater levels. How are you looking to restore/conserve water?

We started a project called Nayi Umeed that focuses on conserving rainwater by building and restoring Check Dams. These dams help store surface water, both during and post-monsoon. They also recharge the groundwater in the area.

The first such project was started in 2001 at Village Bara in Kutch, Gujarat. Since then, over 160 Check Dams have been built or restored across Gujarat and central and western parts of Maharashtra.

Over the years, this has resulted in converting barren land into fertile ground for farmers. Over 10,000 acres of land have been irrigated, providing livelihood to over 11,000 farmers.

Q. How are you creating awareness in society w.r.t. the importance of recycling plastic?

There are stakeholders outside our ecosystem in the form of government bodies, NGOs, or society at large. Everyone is looking for organisations to set up enabling platforms and models.
We introduced “Bottles for Change,” an awareness program about the different ways of disposing plastic.

A lot of plastic today ends up in landfill because it is not cleaned, segregated, or disposed properly. Once it ends in the landfill, it becomes more difficult and expensive to retrieve and reprocess.
As one of the primary users of plastic, it is our responsibility to educate consumers. Through Bottles for Change, our team informs and educates citizens on how to dispose plastic waste. Alternatively, they could clean and segregate the plastic bottles. We then created a channel or mechanism to collect this plastic for recycling.

Bottles for change is running in around seven cities and nine municipal corporations. We plan to extend this footprint. We are also associated with around thousands of housing societies, 500 corporates and around 500 hotels and restaurants, and 400 educational institutions. Through this program, we have been able to reach the message to around six lakh consumers. In terms of the net result, we have been able to collect around 6,500 tonnes of plastic. The effort has certainly been meaningful.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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