Alejandra Vázquez
Environmental Sustainability Manager
Grupo Bimbo

The Essence of Fresh-Baked Sustainability

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 13:04

Grupo Bimbo started back in 1945 as a small bread-making factory in Mexico City with 34 employees. Seventy years later it has over 127,000 employees and 163 plants in 22 countries. Reducing GHG emissions for a company with such a massive scale is a challenge, to say the least, but the company is on track to do just that.

At its 37 Mexican production plants, Grupo Bimbo has reduced its environmental impact by introducing energy- efficient solutions and renewables, among other initiatives. “Piedra Larga wind farm, located in the state of Oaxaca, was inaugurated in November 2012 and now supplies around 90 percent of the total electricity used in our Mexican plants as well as some of our distribution centers and headquarters in Mexico City,” says Alejandra Vázquez, Environmental Sustainability Manager at Grupo Bimbo, which registered sales of US$13.82 billion in 2015, making it the largest bakery company in the world. “As part of the evolution and maturing of the plan, another 180 installations will be supplied by wind energy, mainly our distribution centers and our El Globo bakeries.”

According to Vásquez, the energy produced by Piedra Larga wind farm has helped the company reduce 139,000 tons of CO2 emissions from November 2014 to October 2015. “This initiative was also special in the sense that it permitted us to include our distribution centers and not only our production plants.” Even with a larger share of renewable energies in its mix, Grupo Bimbo continues to implement different actions to reduce electricity consumption in its processes. This is in line with the idea that it is better to save a kilowatt than to use it, even if that kilowatt comes from renewable sources. “In 2015 we introduced several initiatives but I would like to highlight the use of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) in our heavy equipment, usage of electric condensers to improve the power factor, substitution of old motors for more efficient models and centrifugal compressors for screw compressors with frequency variation control, introduction of LED lights and magnetic induction,” Vásquez says. “We also put inverters into our belt conveyors, replaced the electric panels of our compressed air system with airflow mechanisms and implemented automatic lighting controls."

The Group’s sustainable initiatives reach beyond its plants to the streets of Mexico City. “In 2012 we launched an ambitious project to develop electric vehicles to suit the needs of a company like ours, which we are implementing through Moldex, a subsidiary of Grupo Bimbo. In the first phase of this project, we hired young Mexican talent to transform existent vehicles into electric models. They later analyzed the possibility of opening a small electric-vehicles manufacturing line, which we started doing in 2013,” says Vásquez.

“With this initiative in place we inaugurated our first Ecological Distribution Center in 2013, located in the historic center of Mexico City, with 73 electric vehicles. This distribution center incorporates all kinds of environmental initiatives, including the electric vehicles. Now we have four Ecological Distribution Centers and over 320 electric vehicles on the streets,” she adds.

In 2015 Grupo Bimbo developed a new electric vehicle with a load capacity of one ton and the possibility to drive 100km without recharging. “We launched this new vehicle, the model VDT2, in 2016, which was also made available for purchasing to other companies that transport goods. In this way we have taken another step in becoming a sustainable company, highly productive and fully human.”

Grupo Bimbo’s initiatives come at a time when the Mexican government has announced national efficiency goals that include reducing the country’s energy intensity by 1.9 percent from 2016 to 2030 and identifying transportation as the sector with the most opportunities to upgrade its energy efficiency. The government has also announced plans to electrify the country’s vehicle fleet by 2050. On a global scale, Grupo Bimbo is demonstrating strong leadership in sustainability. In the last Conferences of the Parties (COP21), it raised its voice to urge international leaders to set ambitious targets in terms of emissions reductions. To show its commitment, the Mexican company signed an Action Commitment Plan to implement environmental actions before 2020. With the initiatives already implemented at its Mexico operations, Grupo Bimbo is showing that it has the potential to put Mexico at the forefront of sustainability.