The FINANCIAL -- Interview with Levan Giorgadze, Director of Socar Georgia Petroleum
Q. What role does environmental sustainability play in your company’s overall strategic plan?
A. Environmental sustainability plays a huge role in our company’s overall strategic plan. Besides various CSR projects, in which the company is involved, one of our main priorities is to sustain the quality of our infrastructure. We have switched to hybrid vehicles for our regional managers, our fleet of trucks are modern and fuel efficient. We also plan on further modernizing petrol station infrastructure to ensure minimal impact on the environment.
Overall, Socar has developed a CSR strategy based on 5 major directions – promoting healthy lifestyle; supporting persons with disabilities; empowering women and supporting their aspiration towards leadership and innovation; safe driving; and above all: ecology.
Q. What are the main social and environmental challenges and opportunities at Socar?
A. One of the top challenges that the world is facing at the moment is protecting our environment. We at Socar have made some specific actions in this direction. We support electric and hybrid vehicles and are the first network of petrol stations to install free electric charging ports along the entire highway from West to East Georgia. We plan to further develop the charging infrastructure, to make sure our chain is convenient for electric vehicles and their drivers.
Q. What are the objectives and targets of your sustainability efforts, and what progress has been made in meeting your goals?
A. Our main objective is to ensure that our operations leave a minimum impact on the environment, therefore we strongly believe that modern and efficient infrastructure, alongside an efficient car fleet and environmentally-conscious staff will ensure the sustainability of our operations.
We have started to renew our car fleet and replace standard engines with hybrids. We have started the installation of vapour recovery systems on several stations in the test regime so that we can properly plan further installation at all of the locations.
Q. What business value have you seen from your environmental sustainability efforts?
A. Firstly, we sincerely believe that environmental sustainability should be among the top priority of each person and respectively any type of business where we work. Socar is part of the general society and has an active role in it. We as a business and we as individuals see tremendous appreciation from wider society and believe that this is the result of our CSR policy.
We have made a commitment to plant trees on 2 ha of territory after the terrible fire in Borjomi forest. This and other CSR activities such as several viral campaigns to increase awareness about safe driving; the restoration and conservation of historical buildings; renovation and creation of sports complexes; the financial support of various sports; have given us huge value in terms of brand perception and customer loyalty.
Q. How do you help businesses communicate their greenness to their customers?
A. We plan to issue annual CSR reports that, among 5 pillars, will include an environmental report. We are in the process of developing a strategy for the next year and it will be presented to a wider audience in the IV quarter.
Q. Does sustainable marketing typically cost more money?
A. Complying with sustainability goals could demand initial investments, but in terms of marketing it can sometimes be even more efficient than sales promotion campaigns. The reason is the higher interest from numerous target groups. We are happy to support society in overcoming difficulties that they encounter, including awareness campaigns and direct financing. These are the real topics that are interesting for the public and thus attracting people’s attention becomes easier. The outcome is more pleasing as well.
Q. What is Socar doing to improve the environment around PFS?
A. We are making a strategic development plan of our Petrol Filling Stations chain, where we are looking into the possibilities of making the areas greener and environmentally sustainable. Currently I can’t tell you exactly what are or will be the efforts, however we are looking into that.
Q. Will Socar develop renewable energy? Have there been any investments made already?
A. We are expanding the number of electric charging ports at our stations. The first rapid charger has been installed in Gori. It reduces the charging time to 30 minutes. Overall, seven of our stations are equipped with electric chargers; this gives our customers an ability to travel across Georgia, from Telavi to Batumi, with electric cars.
We are also looking closely into using solar energy to power our stations. We are analyzing possibilities to install solar panels on top of our PFS. We are looking to supply around 20-30% of electricity from solar energy within 5 years, so let’s see.
Q. What is the responsibility of Socar towards air pollution?
A. Our responsibility is to comply with the environmental standards of the country as well as promote cleaner and more sustainable vehicles, like hybrids and electric. As mentioned above we are constantly investing in the infrastructure to make our operations more sustainable.