Think green. Responsibility & Sustainability.
ESG in it’s DNA
by Stephanie Kohn
It’s hard who do not associate Whirlpool with quality, either because of the smart positioning of the brand when talking about Brastemp, or because of the products that make up the company’s portfolio. But even though Whirlpool is on the radar of consumers looking for good products, the company is also striving to be recognized on other fronts. With several public commitments signed, the company has already established and met bold ESG goals, showing that quality can also be seen in the day-to-day of its activities. To better understand the company’s sustainability, governance and social environment initiatives, Eletrolar News interviewed Bernardo Gallina, vice president of legal, compliance and corporate affairs at Whirlpool for Latin America.
PÁGINAS VERDES – Whirlpool achieved, in Brazil, the goal of zero waste to landfills already in 2015, and its water management program reached the mark of 98% of water recirculation in the production process, a project recognized with the first place in the (National Agency of Waters) Agência Nacional de Águas (ANA), in 2021. Last year, Whirlpool converted 100% of its consumption into clean energy, such as wind, solar and hydroelectric energy, at its units in Brazil. At the time, two of its three factories (Manaus/AM and Rio Claro/SP) had already reached the mark, which reinforced the global commitment to be Net Zero in all its operations around the world by 2030. We know that to achieve these goals and committing to even bolder goals required starting a plan many years earlier. Tell us about the beginning of this ESG adaptation process and what were the first steps here in Brazil?
BERNARDO GALLINA – In fact, within Whirlpool, we were already committed to ESG (environmental, social and governance) practices long before the acronym was created, became popular within organizations, and recognized as an important factor in business. Sustainability and socio-environmental responsibility have been part of the company’s corporate strategy for over 60 years, we do not separate our business from the communities where we operate. And we continue to evolve on all fronts, always in line with our vision of improving life at home – and on the planet –, investing in actions linked to the community and the environment and having governance as the basis for our actions. Of course, since then, a lot has changed, and we are concerned with keeping up with market trends and needs to comply with the laws, obtain the correct certifications and continue with a robust agenda that is constantly evolving. We have important milestones, which I will have the opportunity to mention later, and we know that there is still a lot to do.
PV – Materiality within ESG can be defined as the relevance of different environmental, social and governance factors for a given company or sector. For some, this materiality, or relevance, is measured by the ruler of financial performance. That is, what is the size of the gain or loss that the management of a certain ESG factor can generate for a company. How do you assess the relevance of the three spheres of this acronym within Whirlpool? Is it right to say that, due to the reality of the business, environmental causes end up gaining more attention?
BG – Our vision, since our foundation, has been to improve people’s lives at home, and this vision ranges from product development to the methods and processes of our operation. We are also connected to the needs of the world, and this vision includes relationships with employees, partners, and communities. As I mentioned earlier, we have been on this journey for over 60 years and, over time, we have felt firsthand the importance and relevance of a robust agenda on three fronts, not only due to the positive impacts on the business, but also on the communities around us. Therefore, talking about ESG, its importance and our initiatives is our duty to society.
Within the company, we measure the impact of our actions, and the contribution to a better present and future for the next generations is noticeable. In recent years, we have profoundly revisited our materiality matrix to identify our priorities in the ESG area. On the environmental front, for example, we signed a commitment to convert 100% of our consumption into clean, certified energy at all units in Brazil. With this action, we strengthen the work that is already being done to reduce CO2 emissions and energy efficiency in our operations, reinforcing our commitment to be Net Zero in all operations in the world by 2030.
In social terms, we have the Consulado da Mulher Institute, a social action by the Consul brand, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2022 and has already helped more than 38,000 women throughout Brazil, encouraging female entrepreneurship and income generation. In addition, last year alone, the company invested more than BRL 7 million in 37 projects aligned with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), through tax incentives and direct financing, impacting more than 200,000 people.
As for governance, among the initiatives, Whirlpool holds the Global Integrity Week, with training on ethics and compliance. Another program carried out globally at Whirlpool is Responsible Sourcing, based on the three spheres of ESG, which looks closely beyond more traditional aspects of cost, quality, and delivery, ensuring that the topic is known and part of the operation of our network of thousands suppliers.
Another important point is that consumers are not only interested in buying a product, but also want to know what social, environmental and governance practices the companies have. And, according to a survey commissioned by Whirlpool last year, this has been proven: 40% of consumers prioritize appliances that use less energy and 35%, less carbon. For this reason, we develop products that reflect innovations that improve the lives of our consumers with increasingly sustainable attributes.
PV – On the social side, in the last two years, the company has supported 55 projects aligned with the UN SDGs. Can you highlight one of the projects with the greatest impact on communities and its results?
BG –We work closely with several projects that are aligned with the 17 SDGs, encouraging children, young people and adults in initiatives related to sports, arts, culture, education, etc. Last year alone, we supported 37 projects, mostly in the cities where we have manufacturing units, which are Rio Claro (SP), Joinville (SC) and Manaus (AM), to promote and engage local communities, raise awareness and contribute for a better society and future.
I highlight that, more broadly, we sponsor the Festival Knowing the SDGs, a Brazilian initiative that, along with other Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico, presents cases of sustainable actions and research results with data that contribute to the development of the 17 SDGs in their countries. In the last edition, in 2022, there were more than 43 thousand participants in the online event.
All these projects are in addition to the company’s main social action, which is the Consulado da Mulher Institute, an initiative of the Consul brand that has supported entrepreneurship for over 20 years. There are more than 38,000 people benefited across the country, an action also aligned with the SDGs, such as achieving gender equity (SDG 5), promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth (SDG 8) and eradicating poverty (SDG 1).
PV – Since the pandemic, when the ESG concept gained strength in Brazil, we have witnessed numerous cases of ESGwashing, the unjustified appropriation of an important topic within social, environmental and governance causes. Many companies appropriated themes through marketing content and did not actually present a justification for their positioning – or did so superficially. A company practices ESGwashing, for example, when its efforts in the green universe are not proportionate to the size of its operation. That is, by announcing an investment of BRL 1 million in renewable energies, with revenues exceeding BRL 200 billion. Or when the participation of women in the organization is 40%, but none of them hold leadership positions. Another example is the practice of announcing targets for reducing CO2 emissions for 30 years from now without presenting an effective short- and medium-term plan or an adequate roadmap of actions. How does Whirlpool ensure that ESGwashing does not occur within its initiatives?
BG –In addition to our legacy of more than six decades, which reinforces our commitment to practices long before the topic became popular, we annually publish a sustainability report with the company’s performance, globally, within the three pillars, which demonstrates and guarantees all our initiatives and practices carried out over the years. This is one of the demonstrations of the seriousness with which we treat the subject here at Whirlpool. And to help us with that, governance becomes extremely important in the process and allows all verification of business actions, whether internal or with strategic partners.
Also, making sure our path is correct. Over the years, we have been present in important global indices and received recognition from several awards related to the ESG theme. Among them, we were named in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI), we are among the World’s Best Employers by Forbes, among the Most Admired Companies by Fortune, we won 1st place in the Sustainability and CSR category of the BandNews Most Admired Brands Awards from Brazil; we were recognized at the National Water Agency (ANA) Award in 2021, for our 360º Water Management Program, and the Fritz Müller Award, in the Environmental Management category.
As I said, it is a long journey, we are building a legacy, being a reference in the sector, and we have the trust of our employees, partners, and consumers. But, in general, we know that there is still a lot to evolve in favor of the planet.
PV – In terms of governance, one of the company’s initiatives was mandatory ethics training, which totaled more than 20 hours. What kind of subject is addressed in these trainings and how do you evaluate the effectiveness of this action?
BG – From the acronym, much is said about the E/A and the S. But we cannot fail to mention and emphasize that the G, for governance, permeates everything. At Whirlpool, we have a Global Ethics and Compliance Program, focused on improving and sustaining our culture of winning with integrity. A pillar of our program is the Integrity Manual (Code of Ethics). In addition to the Manual, we have an annual Integrity Week which, in 2022 alone, totaled more than 7 hours of sessions, in addition to face-to-face activations and leadership videos, with more than 20 hours of mandatory training on ethics for employees. Other trainings on protection of confidential information, respect in the workplace, health, and safety, among others, totaled more than 4 thousand participations.
Talking about ethics and compliance is extremely important to maintain transparent relationships within the corporate environment, whether with employees or stakeholders, in addition, of course, to improving the organizational climate, integrating leaders and teams, etc. And within Whirlpool, governance is an essential pillar for the company and, therefore, we often say: “there is no right way to do the wrong thing”, a motto that must be used inside and outside the company.
PV – One of the biggest challenges for companies focused on building an ESG culture is finding professionals capable of doing so. How did you resolve this issue? Tell us about the ESG structure within Whirlpool Brasil in terms of organization and teams.
BG –At Whirlpool Brasil, we have a structure dedicated to the ESG theme, which has total intersection with the other areas of the company. We understand that ESG needs to be thought of on all fronts of the company, whether in manufacturing and the production process, in marketing to create campaigns, between leaders and followers, product development, among others. ESG goes far beyond sustainability. It is to encourage and sensitize our employees and the entire team about the responsibility of each one for a better present and future. In addition to our global and regional boards and committees, we have the ESG Task Force, a cross-functional group of leaders that meets monthly to oversee progress, identify, and manage challenges, monitor trends, and provide reports to the Board and the Sustainability.
Source: Eletrolar News – Edição #154