Ask Anton Butmanov about sustainability, and his advice is to think big.
“The bolder moves you make as a corporation, the greater your ambitions, the more discussion it creates,” says the director for sustainable development at En+ Group, the world’s largest producer of low-carbon aluminium. “And discussion leads to spread of the concept and eventual integration into the everyday narrative.”
Butmanov’s responsibilities range from the company’s bauxite mines in Africa to its aluminium production in Europe and in Siberia, its hydroelectric power and low-carbon aluminium smelting operations.
A shining illustration of his work, for which Butmanov was selected by the UN Global Compact as the 2021 SDG Pioneer for a Low-Carbon Future, is En+ Group’s construction of a one-of-a-kind International Water Hub on the shores of Siberia’s Lake Baikal, the largest
freshwater lake in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Hub will feature lab space for scientific research, promote collaboration with local institutes, operate state-of-the-art recycling facilities and host educational platforms while contributing to the sustainable development of the city of Baikalsk with “green” jobs, tourism and collaboration with local suppliers.
“The scientific space of the Hub will allow us to bring together our researchers and
provide a platform for others to study the Baikal and freshwater lakes,” he says.
“The attention Western media grants Lake Baikal relative to all its socio-economic and environmental impact is inadequate,” he says. “The International Water Hub would bring global experts together and become a platform for the international community to learn about the importance of one of our greatest natural wonders.”
Butmanov uses the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals to shape and manage the company’s initiatives and collaborations, and he produces an annual SDG report to reveal such achievements as its reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in its aluminium production.
“My role is entirely focused on the development of products, services and processes that drive our contribution to the SDGs, while supporting our corporate objectives,” he says. “My approach is to minimize negative, and maximize positive, impacts and to plan ahead to prevent environmental challenges in future projects.”
The biggest challenge, especially in non-western countries, is bringing sustainability projects to life while being aware of national specificities, he said.
“We understand that implementing a project in our regions is not just about financing the project. It is about the conversations and interactions with local communities, local stakeholders,” he says. “Many are skeptical about the private sector promising to act simply for the sheer good of the community.
“The SDGs are global goals, they’re not just Government goals,” he adds. “In order to get close
to achieving the SDGs and to ingraining them into our cultures, we need all actors, private, public, local and international, large and small to play their part.”