COLON, Panama — In the past, the Latin American tire manufacturing industry was far from being seen as environmentally friendly.
An image of burning piles of tires and children playing in heavily polluted streets is often an impression people would associate with this industry. Today, fortunately, tire manufacturers in Latin America have become regional environmental leaders by establishing standards of excellence while being examples for all businesses in Latin America.
Community outreach, environmental protection
Over the years, tire manufacturers have not been the only guilty parties in polluting the environment in Latin America. The disposal of tires by the people who buy them has also been a significant contributor — often due to lack of understanding and education. However, many major tire makers in Latin America are working diligently to inform the communities about the best ways to dispose of their tires, and some are even providing rewards for used tires that will later be used by a manufacturer to create more sustainable production practices.
These community outreach programs are helping to improve the quality of life of all people in Latin America rather than just the communities in which companies produce their products.
As examples of environmental protection efforts, both Bridgestone Corp. and Pirelli S.p.A. have established extensive environmental and conservation efforts in Latin America and other regions.
Bridgestone also is working to reduce its CO2 emissions by 35 percent and 50 percent by the years 2020 and 2050 respectively. The company has set up 10 wildlife habitats, several zero-waste-to-landfill facilities throughout the Americas. The tire maker also is working to create more sustainable rubber material that replicates the same high quality of existing natural rubber materials simply from a more diversified sustainable source by way of the desert plant guayule.
The environmental standards these organizations are establishing, in some cases, are even higher than those they practice in their home countries. As they create facilities in Latin America, they are working to improve the overall quality of life for everyone by creating jobs, implementing community outreach programs and protecting local environments.
Latin America facilities a regional example
When choosing new locations for expansion, these tire manufacturers are aiming to improve the overall quality of life of the people in a community. They consider a number of aspects such as a skilled labor force, logistics, distribution, infrastructure, environmental impact and more. They then construct the most environmentally friendly locations possible and have even won a number of environmental awards at both the local and regional levels.
Goodyear, for example, recently broke ground on a zero solvent and zero-waste-to-landfill tire manufacturing facility in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The Akron-based tire maker now has a number of these types of facilities in the world. Goodyear said the San Luis Potosi location will employ a number of environmental best practices such as using natural gas rather than oil to fuel various processes, LED energy efficient lighting, and what the company describes as a world-class system to collect dust from the production process that would normally be released into the air and significantly reduce the air quality for the local population.
When Pirelli opened a state-of-the-art environmentally friendly and sustainable facility in Bahia, Brazil, it quickly received praise at the local and regional levels. This facility utilized natural gas; a high-tech machine will collect 95 percent of the water used throughout the process and in-house consumption, and solar and thermal technologies to create a cleaner location.
The Italian tire maker has maintained this standard for years and greatly improved upon these standards with its first Mexican plant in 2012 on its way to reaching its aggressive environmental and sustainable companywide goals. And Pirelli is part of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) in addition to a number of even more sustainable and environmentally friendly best practices at a corporate level.
These environmental practices are only the beginning to long-term success in the tire industry in Latin America. These efforts of building new facilities and improving existing infrastructures alongside new technology and tire recycling are increasingly important.
These progressive initiatives actually help keep the cost of tires for consumers at a reasonable level as demand increases throughout Latin America and the number of sources for natural rubber continues to decline.
Latin America trade and consumer preferences throughout the industry are changing in addition to the South American business culture in general. More customers are demanding high-value-added consumer tires (HVA) over low-value-added consumer tires (LVA) — and that is directly affecting the need for more sophisticated and environmentally friendly business practices throughout Latin America.
Latin America an appealing geographic location
While one can conclude that Latin America will continue to be a more appealing geographic location to serve the Americas and other regions of the world, the tire industry is not without challenges — particularly due to the costly initiatives to upgrade older facilities in various countries.
For greater impact, the tire manufacturers of the Americas, as a whole, are working together to create unified cooperation and to establish industry wide best practices in production to protect the future of all communities in the western hemisphere. These companies are working to create new jobs, protect the environment and make communities stronger through education.
The power of these unified efforts is changing the face of an industry and the lives of millions — one facility at a time.
Patricia Maroday is a co-founder and “enthusiastic team member” of Colon, Panama-based Mercatrade S.A. The firm is a digital business platform that helps international B2B companies increase their online exposure and grow their market share in the Latin American market. More information is available on its website at www.Mercatrade.com. Ms. Maroday said she blogs, travels, and loves the combination of marketing, technology and Latin America.