KEC: Constructing an Earth-first Business Future

KEC: Constructing an Earth-first Business Future

Call it a corporate aspiration, a tick-box exercise, or a philanthropic obligation – the pursuit of sustainability by companies can no longer be straitjacketed into any of these cosmetic definitions. Generating much more than just goodwill, sustainability now features in corporate vision statements and even in market acquisition strategies.

As a key business driver, it has enabled companies to tap into new opportunities that create long-term value to stay ahead of the curve.

As stakeholders begin to lose faith in ‘greenwashed’ strategies, businesses now seek to strike a balance between economy, ecology and equity in their day-to-day operations. With this cardinal integration of sustainability into the business DNA, corporate policymakers have been taking this future-proofing mandate very seriously.

The RPG C-suite is also acing the green game. The Group’s corporate vision identifies the ESG (environmental, social and governance) index as a key priority that is driving growth, and not draining it. Rightly so, the sustainability roadmap for the group is well-positioned for long-term value creation. It thrives on policy footing, technology-enabled innovations, and a people-focused approach.

Modelling the Group’s vision in policy, principle and practice is RPG’s flagship company, KEC International. The EPC major has been making immense headway with the systemic integration of sustainability in its core business operations. Capitalising on its strength as a global infrastructure leader, ingenious ESG interventions span the company’s entire value chain across 105 countries. From determining the business direction to manufacturing processes, material procurement, project lead time or supplier selection, the sustainability agenda rides all critical deliberations.

At the vanguard of these deliberations, Anand Kulkarni, Executive Director, Business Operations at KEC International, shared his insights on the company’s outlook:

“Internalising sustainability as a key business driver, we wanted to identify areas of maximum impact potential across our value chain, while recognising our core business proposition as an EPC major.” With this holistic vision, the company has outlined bold ESG targets, on track to be achieved by 2026.

Anand Kulkarni, Executive Director, Business Operations at KEC International

Based on a detailed materiality assessment, these targets make the sustainability index a key performance metric to gauge organisational growth. This metric emphasises decarbonisation, water positivity and circularity across the company’s operations.

KEC’s infrastructural portfolio demands heavy dependence on natural resources such as aluminium, steel, zinc, copper, and lead. To achieve its ESG goals, the company focuses on resource optimisation by significantly reducing the weight of its power transmission towers by 30 per cent, and enabling faster and ahead-of-time execution of projects, the world over.

Optimally designed winged towers to reduce weight

Upon embracing this foundational alteration, the company witnessed a sea change in its energy consumption, resource utilisation, discharge generated, as well as water and fuel expenditure, over the past 5-6 years. However, to ensure that operational excellence isn’t compromised, the team aims for maximum per kilometre transmission with minimum use of natural resources.

KEC is making striking inroads with its plan to minimise material consumption and waste, to realise the circularity target of zero waste to landfills by FY26. Exemplifying this is the company’s agile shift to fast-curing compounds for its construction activities. While using lesser concrete and minimum water, the alternate even dries quicker helping further shrink lead times.

Fast curing compound used in construction

Another design intervention to curtail resource deployment is the investment in a cutting-edge machine to manufacture hybrid cables that use 20 per cent less lead as raw material. Such conscious focus on process innovation, clean technology, and lean manufacturing is taking the organisation closer to greener pastures.

Nipping the waste disposal problem in the bud, KEC seeks to recycle zinc and steel at source. An in-house zinc recovery mechanism warrants recycling of over 90 per cent of the generated zinc ash. Even the profuse amount of steel scrap generated is sold to nearby foundries, ensuring that 100 per cent steel waste is utilised for billets and casting production.

Further pruning hazardous discharge, an acid-recovery plant at its manufacturing plants appropriates the viable acid back into the process, while the residue is dispensed to cement players. To track emissions till the very last mile, all waste material is only channelised to partner industries under direct control to monitor efficient repurposing.

Carbon emissions and energy consumption are key parameters in KEC’s sustainability dashboard. Directed by a decarbonisation roadmap, the company is on track to cut down its carbon footprint by 20 per cent and its energy consumption by 15 per cent, by FY26.

As a global leader in the power transmission and distribution space, KEC is steering sustainability efforts through its largest business vertical. With a thrust on Green Energy Corridor (GEC) projects, it aims to integrate electricity produced from renewable sources with the conventional power stations in the grid. This commitment to green energy extends to its plants and manufacturing facilities, as well. Making the smart switch to solar rooftops, LED lighting solutions and natural ventilators in the manufacturing sheds, the energy mix at KEC is surely moving towards a cleaner consensus.

765 kV Banaskantha-Chittorgarh Transmission Line built by KEC; part of the Green Energy Corridor

Rooted in this resolve to enrich natural capital are KEC’s water-positive interventions across projects. Their sustainability scorecard displays a status of ‘Zero Wastewater Discharge’ as affluents and domestic discharge are fully recycled. With such optimistic progress, KEC is headed towards reducing water consumption intensity by 20 per cent. Manifesting this aspiration, the company has installed rainwater harvesting points in all its transmission line plants in India. To control any leakage, pressure control valves have been attached to all process equipment in the cable manufacturing plants. Waterless toilets, construction of water ponds, and planting terrain-specific flora are all calculated towards curbing water expenditure. With this judicious approach, KEC is gaining solid ground in consistently slashing its water footprint.

Making seismic shifts in its core business proposition, KEC’s sustainability agenda is creating ripples across its supply chain. With a resolute focus on building strategic relationships with partners and vendors, the company is prioritising stakeholder integration to permeate its bold ESG doctrine across all business touch points.

Every year, the EPC business requires more than 1 million tonne of material. A large network of transporters facilitates the movement of these resources between factories, intermediaries and project areas. As an empowering first step, KEC has facilitated some key transporters to make the much-needed shift to electric vehicles to cap their carbon emissions. Leveraging its penetrative control further, KEC keeps a tight rein on the selection of other transporter vehicles in terms of their fuel efficiency, oil leakage, mileage, etc.

 Despatch of materials to project sites

Despatch of materials to project sites

With an all-hands-on-deck approach, KEC’s target of 100 per cent sustainable procurement by FY23 doesn't seem far. As a business mandate, all suppliers will be assessed under ESG criteria, nudging a fundamental behavioural change towards building a greener value chain.

Vimal Kejriwal, Managing Director & CEO, believes that business cannot prosper in isolation.

“Challenging the fundamentals of business prudence, even the pandemic has made it clear that the only way to thrive is with a global vision of growth for all. At KEC, natural and human capital are the bedrocks of our success. Leveraging our expertise and network, we seek to create lasting value for the environment, community and business at large.”

Vimal Kejriwal, Managing Director & CEO

Transforming the bottom-line with this futuristic vision, KEC has positioned sustainability as a core enabler of impact. This is only the beginning in a long journey towards integrating the ecology in its corporate philosophy. Innovation in product, process and policy are wheeling this endeavour. With this, this engineering powerhouse is making a strong case for RPG’s earth-first future.


D&I Conclave 2021