Companies that still “break stones”

Companies that still “break stones”

What is worth more, 200 tons of rock or 4 tons of waste?
The answer obviously depends on many variables and economic contexts, which are constantly changing throughout human history.

What kind of waste did the egyptians produce 2,500 years ago. How about today?
It is difficult to figure out the types of production waste typical of that era, as we don’t even know how exactly the pyramids were built.

However, to create such wonders they had certainly to move quite a lot of rock, certainly creating waste.
Rock was a very valuable material…and still is, for a miner as an example.

Two hundred tons of rock is certainly a great opportunity to make money. Or isn’t it?

Perhaps a lot less than one could initially think.

A mineradora belga Umicore, mudou seu foco de ação e passou a ser uma “mineradora urbana”, e se deu muito bem.
The Belgian mining company Umicore successfully changed its core business and became an “urban miner”.
To produce 1 Kilo of gold it is necessary to process 200 tons of rock, with an extremely arduous and costly methodology.

Today the mentioned company produces the same amount of gold processing only 4 tons of electronic garbage, with a cost effective environmentally friendly process.

This decision clearly pictures the successful identification of an opportunity.
The company mission has not changed, only its way of achieving results, now including sustainability in its strategic vision.

Sometimes we overlook the fact that company cultural changes take years to settle, then making decisions (or deciding not to make one) hearing the advice of some of our worst enemies, accommodation and short-termism.

Changes many times get stuck from self-indulgence and low perception of involved costs.

As a somewhat recent example we have the replacement of photocopiers with printers.

It was not evident that the value created by photocopiers were not restricted to making copies of documents, but the elimination of internal services as well.

The change of course occurred outside the Xerox company and related Market, or inside other organizations that captured the opportunity and started to make printers.

In some organizations, these changes take place in their core business, which is reinvented, such as the case of gold production, thus raising obstacles to the entrance of new competitors.

Philip Kotler points out that behavioral changes and their positive impact rarely happen overnight. But unfortunately, in many cases, the advisor-enemy called short-termism seats in the board of directors and starts providing more directions than the CEO.

This fatal personality sometimes is accompanied with other “advisors” not less unfriendly, such as self-indulgence, the latter focusing only the present and, saying “this is not our business” during meetings.

The business is the same, only the way of doing business is diferente.

It is much safer following the pragmatic advice of Peter Drucker when managing performance: “Performance means concentrating available resources where the results are”.

That’s exactly what the Belgian mining company has done when replacing rock with garbage as the basic raw material used in production.

Braking rock is literally outdated in business.

Texto: Roberto Mangraviti


Economista e Facility Manager em Sustentabilidade. Editor, diretor e apresentador do Programa Sustentahabilidade pela WEBTV. Palestrante, Moderador de Seminários Internacionais de Eficiência Energética, Consultor da ADASP- Associação dos Distribuidores e Atacadistas do Estado de São Paulo e colunista do site do Instituto de Engenharia de São Paulo.

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