“Sustainability in Motion” at Tata Motors

When it comes to Sustainability, Indian businesses are not a strong candidate for sustainable business practices and marketing strategies. However, for the Tata group comprising of 90 companies in more than 80 countries, the environment has always been sacred. Throughout its history, it has nurtured projects and policies that reflect a conviction that nature cannot be staked at the altar of growth. The $84 billion group realizes that there is a need for deeper involvement.

This has resulted in a two-pronged approach – initiating behavioral change among the Tata companies by incorporating climate change in the Tata Code of Conduct (TCoC) and a series of plans and policies for companies translating into activities impacting GHG emission levels.

Tata Motors Limited, group’s flagship and India’s largest automobile company with revenues of $27 billion has emerged as an international player with its business takeover of Jaguar Land Rover and the ‘world’s cheapest car’, Nano.

The two main sustainable strategies – Pollution prevention and Resource efficiency have been employed at Tata Motors.

1. Pollution Prevention (P2) strategies: P2 or pollution prevention is a proactive strategy that uses fewer or smarter resources to begin requiring lesser cleanup at the final disposal. It is done by reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.  It assumes no waste will occur. It is an effective ‘getting more from less’ strategy.

1.1. Reducing packaging material

Tata Motors has taken measures to reduce its packaging footprint by either using sustainable packaging (replacing wood with metal) or reusing existing packaging (recycling wood). The company recycles close to 69 percent of the wood packaging thus eliminating use of fresh wood. The company has also developed collapsible custom-built polypropylene (PP) boxes and  has eliminated the use of bubble wrap for packing of spares.

1.2. Development of Vendor Park

Through the establishment of its vendor park, the company aims to source 60% of its components from the park thereby increasing its resource efficiency and reducing its emissions due to reduction in logistics and transportation.

1.3. Material Management

Optimizing material use is one of Tata Motors’ focus areas, with an aim of reducing consumption of virgin material and increasing recycle and reuse of waste. Through various measures there is a dedicated focus on reduction and elimination of usage of toxic materials like hexavalent chromium, lead, asbestos, arsenic, ozone depleting substances etc.  

2. Resource Recovery (R2) strategies: This is a ‘getting more from the same’ strategy where otherwise wasted resources are recovered by way of proper disposal – recycling or reconditioning.

2.1. Increasing life of aggregates – ‘Recon’ business

In 2010-11 a total of 13,788 engines and 8,690 other parts were reconditioned Other resource conservation techniqlues ike reusing engine oil for multiple testing cycles has been employed. A 200 litre engine oil barrel can now be used to test 170 engines instead of 85.

Instead of going to a local mechanic, a Tata vehicle owner can simply approach any of its designated channel partners and exchange the failed assembly for a reconditioned one.  This enables Tata Motors to rapidly adapt to rising material costs by improving resource efficiency and reclaiming material value.

2.2. Waste disposal

The hazardous wastes generated are disposed as per the rules and regulations prescribed by the respective State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) as per the Hazardous Wastes Management & Handling Rules.

 2.3. Reusing paint sludge and thinner

Last year, approximately 390 tonnes of hazardous paint sludge was converted to a low quality paint suitable for floor painting. Tata Motors has also developed a process to convert the incinerator ash to pavement bricks that can be used in walkways within the plant. This model has been very successful and has significantly reduced the amount of hazardous incinerated ash sent to landfills.

3. Free Take-back network for Tata Motors’ ELVs (end-of-life vehicles)

Under the End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) regulations in the UK, Tata Motors has contracted with a national ELV service provider called Cartakeback.com Ltd. to provide owners of qualifying Tata vehicles, who wish to dispose of their vehicle at the end of its life, with access to a network of Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs).

Leading by example

Tata Motors has won several green governance awards in the recent years and has fast emerged as a leader in its segment in the Indian subcontinent and also gained international recognition.

Tata Motors has been at the forefront of the Indian automobile industry’s anti-pollution efforts by introducing cleaner engines and it was the first Indian Company to introduce vehicles with Euro norms well ahead of the mandated dates. The company’s sustainability strategies have made a decent start in its sustainability journey in the otherwise highly competitive and aggressive fast-growing Indian market.


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