Running a sustainable business is about taking a long-term business objective, according to Beneo board member Christoph Boettger, and this means prioritising the three pillars of people, the planet and the bottom line.
Boettger joined Beneo’s executive board last year where his responsibilities include overseeing technical affairs, raw material and product safety and quality. Before this he was director of technical operations for all of the company's five production sites in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Chile.
“Sustainability has really been a part of our DNA for long time. We may not have communicated much about this in the past but for a very long time we have been working in that direction," he said. “We don’t want short-term gains but long-term success. We want to use rather than exploit global resources."
One of the ways it ensures this is by striving to use locally sourced ingredients where possible, he said. Beneo, a member of the Sudzucker group, manufactures functional ingredients such as sugar-replacement fibres, derived from chicory roots, as well as beet sugar, rice and wheat-based ingredients.
Some 95% of Belgium’s chicory farmers have been working with the supplier, meaning the chicory it buys is grown within 80 km from the processing site. Sugar beet, used for its isomalt and palatinose, is grown in a 40 km radius from the factory while in Chile, where it has had operations for around 10 years, the raw materials needed to produce its inulin travel an average of 80 km.
However, the company doesn’t track its carbon footprint because this avoids taking a global approach, Boettger said. “This only focuses on one aspect of three pillars and so reduces down to only one key performance indicator (KPI). We prefer to take a more holistic approach which is even more important.”
“We started decades ago looking at impact of our production on the environment and have always been eager to reduce the energy demand in our factories. Since then, we have cut our energy demands by 50% which is a fantastic achievement.”
In its evaporation stations, used to remove water from the dry mass of its raw materials, Beneo uses multiple-effect evaporators. This means it re-uses the energy up to seven times and requires one tonne of steam to evaporate seven tonnes of water, as opposed to just one tonne of water, with other processors used by the food industry.
“We are really serious about investing in production processes so that we are as efficient as possible in avoiding waste,” he added.
Last year, along with Belgian sugar producer Raffinerie Tirlemontoise, Beneo invested €4.6 million in research and development (R&D) at its Belgian laboratory facility, with a particular focus on areas such as microbiology, analytics and process technology.