The FINANCIAL -- Interview with Samson Pkhakadze, President of Wissol Group
Q. What role does environmental sustainability play in your company’s overall strategic plan?
A. Through the successful business activities of Wissol Group, we want to contribute to the economic development of Georgia and social well-being of its population. A strong business in turn means employed people, technological and infrastructural development, highly professional human capital and sustainable development of the local economy. Quality represents the core value of our business.
By means of introducing innovative standards in business management and services, we contribute to development of the living standards of the society we live in, as well as to the industries we are operating in. Wissol feels responsibility for environment protection and undertakes social investments, does charity, and implements community projects for the social well-being of society at large. Wissol Group is focused on economic growth with environmental sustainability, basing its action on a strong commitment to the protection of environmental values, which translates to an in-depth analysis of risks and impacts as well as investment in eco-efficient technologies and practices.
Q. What are the main social and environmental challenges and opportunities at Wissol?
A. The main environmental challenges at Wissol are to reduce the risk of impact on the environment by establishing sound environmental management policies and promoting best practice. Wissol Group Environmental Policy applies to all of its direct operations and to services delivered by associated organizations. The amount of relevant environmental impacts, including air pollution, emissions, land and water pollution, waste generation etc. are being eliminated and reduced to a minimum by establishing and sustaining an effective programme for the management of environmental performance.
According to our Environmental Policy we are developing and maintaining staff and supplier awareness of environmental sustainability. We ensure that best practice with respect to energy consumption, material usage, recycling and waste disposal is adhered to.
Q. What are the objectives and targets of your sustainability efforts and what progress has been made in meeting your goals?
A. To monitor the effects of its sustainability activities, Wissol updates its corporate objectives every year and provides incentives for outstanding performance. The integration of sustainability objectives with operational and economic-financial targets enables the company to build long-term success. Every year Wissol defines its strategies and objectives regarding sustainability issues and monitors their progress. The main environmental objective and target, with standing impact reduction, is to improve energy efficiency and research for alternative energy.
Q. What business value have you seen from your environmental sustainability efforts?
A. Increasing the efficiency of energy consumption seems to be the most straightforward and practical way to mitigate global climate change. Energy is so much a part of life that we often use it without thinking about the sources and impacts on the environment. In developing countries, including Georgia, energy efficiency is an important issue, especially conserving natural resources that are the main source of energy in Georgia. Additionally, reducing energy consumption leads directly to reduced carbon output and pollution.
Q. How will you measure your progress toward environmental sustainability? Do you have milestones?
A. Wissol has already determined Key Performance Indicators to measure the progress of our environmental sustainability. The Indicators include the amount of total energy use, total water use, greenhouse gas emissions in tons of CO2 equivalent, total waste, and suppliers’ performance. These indicators are monitored permanently on a pre-defined basis and mitigation measures are implemented to reduce these numbers to as low as reasonably practicable.
Q. Will individual companies put themselves at risk if they follow environmentally sustainable practices and their competitors don’t?
A. Embracing sustainable and green principles is not just a trend. Cultivating sustainable and green practices helps organizations become more efficient, competitive and profitable.
We must understand that this is the number one problem in the country, because it directly affects the health of our children and the health of our community. Everybody should take care of our country to become one of the greenest countries.
Q. What advice would you give to organizations who are interested in going green?
A. As I already mentioned, developing sustainable and green practices leads to being more profitable, competitive and efficient. There are numbers of reason why one should go green. Going green may seem to be the latest trend, but it is a trend with a variety of benefits for business owners. Applying green processes to the workplace creates a healthy environment, reduces unnecessary waste, reduces GHG emissions and air pollution, conserves energy sources and recognizes the role that businesses play in leading the way for social change. To help your company become greener, assess your environmental impact and identify areas for improvement. These could include reducing waste, recycling more, and using less energy. Set realistic goals for your green initiatives, track your progress toward achieving them, and celebrate your successes. This can raise awareness, add credibility to your actions, and inspire others to join you in taking action.
Q. What is Wissol doing to improve the environment around AGS?
A. We used to have lot of actions for the improvement of environmental issues at our sites. According to our Environmental Policy, we are carrying out assessments of each site on environmental impacts and determining preventive measures. Preventive measures include fulfilment of the Pollution Prevention Procedure, Waste Management Plan, and reducing air pollution. Monthly audits are conducted by the HSE Department and reports are discussed to plan improvement measures in case of any findings. Our underground fuel storage tanks are double walled with leak detection gauge and an automation system which is alarmed in case of leakage.
The underground fuel storage tanks are installed with reinforced concrete walled secondary containment, with waterproof coating on wall surfaces. An automation system allows for permanent control of the fuel level inside the tank. The tank vent pipe system is equipped with modern hydrocarbons and flame arrestors. Fuel pumps are equipped with a Variable Speed Drive system allowing one to reduce power as much as possible; the Pollution Prevention Equipment is inspected on a daily basis, with other firefighting systems and equipment; Hydrocarbon emissions are monitored on a quarterly basis and results are submitted to the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia. Site staff are trained and aware of environmental regulations, including pollution prevention, waste management and housekeeping. Waste segregation and Management has been updated according to Governmental requirements. Lighting has been swapped with LED lights, reducing power consumption by 30-40%. New office buildings are energy efficient.
Q. Will Wissol develop renewable energy? Have there been any investments done in this already?
A. We are striving to develop solar energy systems on our sites. On this basis Wissol is negotiating with renewable energy companies, operating in Georgia and abroad. Some of our site has been assessed to install solar panels. At this stage, assessment outcomes require additional reviews and design improvement for better results.
Q. How much has Wissol invested in electric car charging stations? Or are there any planned investments?
A. Last year we launched the installation of electric car charging stations at our sites. Two sites have been equipped with public electric vehicle charging stations. Additionally, two more chargers will be installed during the current year at different locations in Georgia.
Q. What is the responsibility of Wissol towards air pollution?
A. We are carrying out strict monitoring of air pollutants produced during our operations. The main air pollutant is hydrocarbon emissions, produced during fuelling activities. To reduce emissions as low as reasonably practicable, we use modern technological equipment: Variable Speed Drive Pumps; a tank vent pipe system equipped with modern hydrocarbons and flame arrestors. Hydrocarbon emissions are calculated on a quarterly basis according to local regulations and results are submitted to the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia.