How does a Turkish steel producer go green?

By Nigina Mirbabaeva

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If you are an organic, plastic-free cosmetics producer or a renewable energy provider, you can proudly call yourself a green business. But in other sectors, like heavy industry or construction, it’s far less obvious how to achieve this status.

This is what prompted Ergin Makine, a specialised steel producer based in Istanbul, Turkey, to gain accreditation as an environmentally friendly business. Supported by the European Union, the EBRD has helped the company achieve this goal and gain ISO certification.

With more than 50 years’ experience in engineering activities, Ergin Makine is a reputable name in Turkey known for its steel counterweight products, which are most commonly used in lift mechanisms. Yet rising prices for steel, demand for cheaper alternatives from customers, and an increased awareness of climate change drove the company to pursue greener solutions.

When green is good for business

“At first, we were just exploring ways to decrease the costs of our products,” says CEO Okan Ergin. “But then we decided to create a product that would bring not only economical value, but which would also contribute to a cleaner and more liveable world,” he notes. The company started looking into manufacturing a counterweight with a density close to that of cast material (7.10 g/cm³) but at a lower cost, and the idea of compressing scrap metal under high pressure was born.

Aptly named GreenWeight, Ergin Makine’s patented counterweight contributes to the environment on multiple levels. It is manufactured from recycled scrap metal collected from local sources, and it is energy efficient: the production process does not use any heat treatment and requires minimal energy use, as opposed to regular counterweights used in the industry. This means that the CO2 emissions associated with the production of the patented technology are 32 times lower than in traditional production methods.

Moreover, the machinery used in production could also be considered green: the company built it themselves, avoiding the carbon emissions associated with transporting equipment to its production facilities from abroad.

Yet while the benefits were extensive and clear, getting an unknown product to the market was difficult. Simply presenting the product as green was not enough to gain traction, so Ergin Makine decided to seek third-party verification of its GreenWeight technology.

Gaining credibility

“People in Turkey are more conscious about consumption now, and show preference to products and brands that are green. As a developer of a new technology, having a third-party assessment and certification of your product gives you credibility in the eyes of the consumer, and allows you to stand out among the competition,” Okan notes.

Through the EBRD’s Advice for Small Business programme, Ergin Makine worked with a sustainability consultant to quantify the environmental impacts of GreenWeight and compare its carbon footprint with equivalent products on the market.

“The project taught us the importance and environmental effectiveness of proximity to raw materials, and we are taking this into account as we decide on the location of our new facility,” says Okan. Similarly, the company learned that dyed sheet coatings are better for the environment than the galvanised sheet coatings they normally use against corrosion, and Ergin Makine now plans to use the former.

At the end of the project, the company received appropriate certifications for GreenWeight’s Life Cycle Assessment and Environmental Products Declaration, showing the environmental benefits of GreenWeight over comparable counterweights in the market. As a result, Ergin Makine can now proudly call itself a green business and share the environmental and sustainability benefits of its GreenWeight technology with a wider audience.

An industry with big ambitions

Ergin Makine is just one of the many companies the EBRD supports with their green ambitions in Turkey. Via its Turkey Materials Marketplace and Turkey Circular Economy Platform (TCEP), funded by Austria, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the Taiwan-Business EBRD-Technical Cooperation Fund, the EBRD helps companies like Ergin Makine exchange underutilised materials, turning one company’s waste into raw materials for another.

From mining by-products to repurposing scrap textiles and even eggshell powder, more than 32,000 tons of waste materials have been kept out of landfill by the 200 companies using TCEP. It’s a circular economy solution which not only enables a business to turn its waste into a potential source of income, but which also provides practical solutions, incentives, training and financial opportunities for businesses looking to accelerate their transition to green.

With much of the business world now focusing on incorporating sustainability into their business models, it is fair to say that Ergin Makine and many others are leading the charge in Turkey.

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