Arcelik on sustainability commitments, including net zero emissions

Companies need to set sustainability goals even if they don’t know how to achieve them, the head of a home appliance manufacturer told CNBC.

“We have to make commitments that we don’t know how we’re going to fulfill, we have to commit to investing in technology and innovation and setting the bar so high it scares us, but we have to be bold and real in a way that makes a difference,” said Hakan Bulgurlu, CEO of Arcelik, a Turkish multinational home appliance manufacturer.

Bulgurlu said on the latest episode of CNBC’s Sustainable Future that the company sees its sustainability efforts and initiatives as a business opportunity.

When asked how Archelik could achieve its goal of net-zero emissions throughout the value chain by 2050, Bulgurlu was clear.

“It actually isn’t. I mean, a straight answer, it really isn’t. Laws of physics dictate that it’s not. But what we can do is we can drastically reduce our emissions and impacts.” , he said.

“Purpose and Gain”

Long-term business survival is only possible when a company treats the environment properly, Bulgurlu said.

“Doing the right thing for the environment, which means trying to mitigate the effects of a changing climate, specifically controlling emissions, reducing carbon emissions and protecting the ecosystem in which you operate, became one for us priority because we just saw it as an opportunity to differentiate ourselves from our competitors as well,” he said.

“In the past you could have separated the two, purpose and gain, but today if you don’t have that purpose, you will certainly lose gain. I truly believe that this transformation is the only way for companies to survive in the long term,” he added.

Arcelik, which has been included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes for five years, was founded in Turkey in 1955 and manufactured the country’s first washing machine and refrigerator.

Customers view devices at a department store in Illinois in August 2021. Bulgurlu told CNBC that the manufacture of household appliances like the washing machine and their energy consumption create a large number of emissions, but he believes they can be sustainable.

Scott Olson | Getty Images

Bulgurlu told CNBC that the manufacture of such household appliances and their energy consumption create a multitude of emissions, but he believes they can be sustainable.

When asked how Arcelik is addressing the declining lifespan of washing machines, he said: “This is an area that’s not only confusing but also quite controversial… First of all, I want to replace every washing machine out there, not because I want new ones.” washing machines for sale, but because newer washing machines use a lot less energy and therefore emit a lot less CO2 and use a lot less water,” he said.

“So I’d almost argue that in the near future we need shorter lifespans to reduce the amount of emissions that come from the washing machines people use, but then of course the newer ones we’re bringing to market should be durable and recyclable.”

Bulgurlu said the company built its own recycling facilities to reuse large amounts of plastic, steel and copper from old equipment, and they recover more than 90% of the materials to use in new products or sell to downstream industries.

Personal turning point

Born and raised in Norway until the age of five, Bulgurlu said he grew up surrounded by nature. His concern for the environment grew as he witnessed visible changes, and an experience with his own children was a turning point.

“One special moment I will never forget, I took my kids to experience this beautiful beach… Maya Bay, and there, you know, what I remembered as totally pristine, clear water, coral, marine life everywhere, white sandy beach… got … I took my kids and we were knee deep in plastic, knee deep. Decaying bird corpses,” he said.

“And my daughter, who was four years old at the time, looked up at me and said, ‘Why?’, you know, ‘why?’ And I couldn’t answer. And that was a real moment for me, like this has to stop, you know, it really has to stop.”

To draw attention to the climate crisis, Bulgurlu climbed Mount Everest in 2019.

“I really felt it was important to a) raise awareness as much as possible and devote my life to actual change towards a more sustainable world. And some of the reasons are selfish, I have young kids, I want them to have a childhood and a life, a quality of life that I had,” he said.

“For our children’s generation, and mine are young, it can be food security, it can be finding a roof over their heads. It might be a very different world and I want to be able to look them in the eye, you know, 10, 15 years later and say that I did absolutely everything I could.”

Bulgurlu is part of the World Economic Forum’s Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a network of CEOs formed to support corporate climate action. Arcelik on sustainability commitments, including net zero emissions

Chrissy Callahan

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