Incorporated in 1912 as ‘Barbosa e Almeida’, today BA Glass comprises 13 glass packaging plants located across seven European countries. CEO Sandra Santos exclusively explains to Glass Worldwide what it takes to maintain a reputation as the ‘Most Sustainable Company in the Glass Industry’ whilst pursuing a strategic growth plan that includes acquisition of a new business in Mexico.


GW: You have been very visible in recent months during FEVE’s #FutureMadeClear online sessions and at the Annual Close the Glass Loop Event in Brussels. How important are such collaborative gatherings to glass securing its position as the future packaging of choice?

Collaborative gatherings, such as FEVE's #FutureMadeClear online sessions and the Annual Close the Glass Loop Event in Brussels, play a key role to strengthen glass as the future packaging of choice. These events are an important vehicle for knowledge sharing as they bring together industry experts, leaders and stakeholders to share valuable insights while raising awareness about the sustainability and environmental benefits of glass packaging.

Apart from that, these events are an important vehicle to engage consumers, shortening the gap between the industry and the consumer, strengthening glass’ position as the packaging material of choice for a sustainable and environmentally[-secure] future.

GW: And as addressed by your panel in Brussels, do you believe there is a limit to the closed loop?

During our panel discussion in Brussels, we delved into the concept of the closed loop and its relevance to a circular economy. Glass can be recycled infinitely without any loss [to] its intrinsic characteristics, making it ideal for closed-loop systems. Unlike other packaging materials, glass maintains its integrity, which means it can always be incorporated back into the production process.

Answering to your question, I am confident that the closed-loop concept knows no practical limit when glass is the material of consideration, as its unique characteristics are perfectly aligned with circular economy objectives. However, the success of closed-loop systems not only relies on the inherent qualities of glass as material, but also on our behaviour as consumers and the efficiency of collection systems. Therefore, raising awareness and promoting glass recycling is essential to ensure the potential of the circular economy.

GW: What more could the glass industry and other protagonists do to support campaigns such as Close the Glass Loop and further initiatives by FEVE?

Embracing campaigns such as ‘Close the Glass Loop’ and other FEVE initiatives requires a collective effort from the glass industry and its stakeholders that has been carried out over the last few years. When compared to other packaging materials, glass currently holds a smaller market share, and this highlights the importance of collaboration within the glass industry to collectively devise and implement more strategic initiatives.

To further support these initiatives, the industry should aim to work with governments and local authorities to develop partnerships that drive sustainability in the glass packaging industry and promote glass recycling collection. It is important to mention that these initiatives should primarily focus on local rather than international or European scales, and for this reason we believe that there is still a substantial amount of work ahead of us in this regard. By taking these actions and working locally, the glass industry together with its stakeholders will be able to create a unified approach to promote glass recycling and sustainability.

There are several players in the industry that are actively developing initiatives to make glass the most sustainable packaging material. Over the past three years, BA’s shareholders have allocated €22 million from dividends specifically towards the development of technologies aimed at reducing our process-generated CO2 emissions and mitigating our environmental impact. This substantial investment in R&D projects underscores their dedication to driving positive change and securing a sustainable future.

GW: Moving on to BA Glass, are any of the markets and regions you serve performing better than others and if so, what is the driving force?

The most recent data regarding glass collection in Europe indicates that glass collection currently stands at approximately 80%. Nevertheless, there are indeed markets and regions performing better than others. Portugal, for example, is one of the markets we serve with a collection rate below the desired levels at 54%. Several factors contribute to the lowest performance of some countries. The lack of trust in the systems; lack of knowledge regarding proper recycling practices; potential gaps in recycling infrastructure; and the need for more robust public engagement in recycling initiatives, are the most relevant constraints.

To promote an increase in the glass recycling rate, BA Glass is member of Vidro+ platform, a collaborative initiative that aims to create a commitment between the different agents in the packaging glass value chain that operate in Portugal.

GW: Under your leadership, how would you summarise BA Glass’ strategy for reducing waste, raw materials and CO2 emissions in glass production?

BA Glass’ strategy to reduce waste, raw materials and CO2 emissions in glass production is based on a disruptive mindset, encouraging innovative approaches. As an organisation, we are always looking to experiment and implement new methods and technologies to achieve our sustainability goals. A significant milestone was reached with the approval of our CO2 reduction targets by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), guiding us towards the development of a rigorous roadmap to achieve these objectives, reflecting our dedication to environmental responsibility.

It is essential that this sustainability-oriented mindset is firmly embedded in the organisation so that everyone is aligned with the company’s sustainability strategy. The ambition to do more and never stop trying new things is part of our culture, which drives us to set and meet ambitious targets for reducing waste and environmental impact.

BA Glass has a well-established sustainability strategy that has been in place for over two decades. Our commitment to sustainability dates back to the launch of our first sustainability report 20 years ago, and we have continued to evolve and expand our efforts since then. In 2018, we made public our commitment [to] respecting and protecting the environment [by] being a founding member of Porto Protocol. Moreover, for the past four years, BA Glass has been consistently acknowledged as the ‘Most Sustainable Company in the Glass Industry’ by World Finance Magazine, highlighting our commitment and dedication to sustainability.

As part of this strategy, the utilisation of recycled glass [at BA Glass] has reached an average rate of 37%. However, further advancements on glass collection are constrained by the limited availability of recycled glass. Additionally, we are making significant investments in cutting-edge technologies for our cullet treatment facilities to ensure the utmost quality of recycled glass that enables us to handle and treat over 400,000 tons of waste each year, preventing its disposal in landfills. In 2022, we incorporated 668,000 tons of recycled glass into our production, representing a slight increase compared to the previous year.

Another crucial aspect of our strategy is the reduction of packaging weight, which directly impacts our carbon footprint. Our innovative lightweight designs in 2022 led to an impressive reduction [of] 2,500 tons of CO2 emissions (scope 1 and 2), significantly minimising our environmental impact. The remarkable success of our lightweight products is evident, representing a record-breaking 25.5% of all new [BA Glass] products launched in the market and an 88.9% increase in saved tons compared to the previous year.

Circularity is fundamental within BA, and we extend this commitment to the use of returnable packaging to pack our bottles and jars. We provide our products on wooden pallets and actively promote their circularity among our customers. In 2022, we successfully received back over 3.1 million pallets from our customers, achieving an average reuse rate of 93.1%.

Furthermore, we diligently measure our carbon footprint across all three scopes (scope 1, 2, and 3). Notably, we achieved a consistent decrease in direct and indirect emissions (scope 1 and 2) in the last two years, reducing CO2 emissions per ton of glass produced by 20%. Until 2022, we installed 80,000m2 of solar panels, leading to a significant reduction of over 4,100 tons of CO2 emissions [that year].

In our pursuit of carbon neutrality, we have undertaken various initiatives, including the development of the ECO Furnace, an innovative technology revolutionising glass production. These initiatives collectively demonstrate our unwavering commitment to reducing waste, conserving raw materials, and mitigating CO2 emissions across our glass production processes.

In 2022, we successfully initiated 30 innovative projects in collaboration with customers, aimed at promoting their brands and delivering added value to consumers.

One significant focus area for us has been reducing the weight of our products, and our lightweight programme yielded exceptional results.

GW: What can you tell us about joining Portugal’s other two main glass producers in the green hydrogen consortium, Nazare Green Hydrogen Valley (NGHV)?

Joining the Nazare Green Hydrogen Valley (NGHV) consortium is one more significant step in our ongoing commitment to reduce the use of fossil fuels in our operations. We believe that co-operation is an essential element for building a greener and more sustainable future. To achieve this, it is essential that we collaborate closely with all stakeholders, including customers, partners and other players in the industry. By working together with a diverse range of stakeholders, we are confident that we can accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and play our part in ensuring a cleaner, more sustainable future for generations to come.

GW: What did it mean to you when BA Glass was awarded the highest accolade by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) for reducing environmental impact throughout the value chains?

We were very proud! Receiving the highest score from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) for our commitment to reducing environmental impact throughout our value chains was an incredibly proud moment for BA Glass. As the only company in the glass container industry to achieve an ‘A’ rating in 2022, it underscores our dedication to sustainability within a highly competitive field.

Being part of this restricted ‘Companies A list 2022’ is not just a recognition of our achievements but also a testament to our global commitment to a strategic sustainability approach. It reaffirms our position as an industry leader, showcasing our transparent, innovative and responsible business practices. This honour motivates us to continually push the boundaries of environmental responsibility within the glass industry, steering us towards a greener and more sustainable future, being a testament to the hard work and dedication of our entire team and demonstrating BA’s belief in the importance of glass for a sustainable future.

GW: Do you have any other particular examples of successful sustainability initiatives you would like to highlight?

BA’s sustainability development strategy goes beyond environmental sustainability and combines six key pillars that co-exist to preserve the environment and ensure economic and social development: People, Customers, Consumers, Environmental Responsibility, Shareholders and Social Accountability. The co-existence of our pillars aims to consolidate our path so that we can achieve our vision successfully, which requires daily efforts to keep them all balanced.

We have several noteworthy sustainability initiatives that are driving positive change within BA. First and foremost, we are actively engaged in reducing emissions throughout our production process, implementing energy-efficiency initiatives and advanced technologies and processes to minimise our environmental footprint, namely incorporating more recycled glass and non-carbon-based raw materials into our operations – a critical step promoting sustainable sourcing. Additionally, we are working across our entire supply chain, forging partnerships with transport companies to develop new sustainable transportation methods, advancing our decoration business to provide sustainable solutions to our customers, and conducting research on various raw material compositions that can potentially have a significant future impact. Furthermore, starting from 2022, we have ensured that 100% of our electricity supply comes from renewable sources.

There are many initiatives ongoing, and all together they will have a significant impact on BA performance regarding sustainability, and it is not all about environment. In all our acquisitions, we impact the communities where we are located and the families our workers represent. We aim to improve their lives and education, making a difference. I would highlight the ‘Glass seeds’ project that aims to promote equal opportunities and meritocracy in our local communities through educational support, based on four main pillars: Foundations, Work, Future and Planet, developing leaders and citizens for a sustainable future.

Also remarkable is the training programmes our plants have been implementing such as Dual Learning or Upskilling.

[Regarding] gender equality, [for] many years we have been keen on giving equal opportunities to all. It is part of our DNA.

GW: Across the operations, how is BA Glass investing in its workforce and how are projects such as the Futura Program benefitting employees?

[As mentioned previously,] BA’s sustainability development strategy combines six key pillars that co-exist to preserve the environment and ensure economic and social development. One of those pillars is People – those who are the foundation that sustains and makes everything possible and achievable, and this is only possible due to our strong culture that defines us so much as a company; our identity, our BA Way.

Actions and initiatives like Futura Program, our talent recruitment programme designed to accelerate the development of skills that are crucial for personal and professional growth, show BA’s clear commitment to its people, from their recruitment to their development as individuals. Within this programme, the participants have the opportunity to develop technical and soft skills. This immersive experience provides a unique and enriching environment in which participants can deeply engage within the industry, making it a unique opportunity to grow and develop in a multicultural environment.

Our top priority is to empower our people by going beyond production, creating career opportunities, fostering innovative ways of working and promoting skill enhancement. Through the BA Academy, we provide training programmes and enriching experiences that enable individuals to take on new challenges and expand their thinking.

Our BA Academy includes different schools such as Leadership & Management, Systems, Digitalisation, Operations School and Customers & Consumers. Lately, the emphasis on digitalisation has surged, and within this framework, we are actively fostering digital awareness and a digital mindset among our team members to navigate this transformative era. Through investments in process automation and digitalisation, we are empowering our workforce to effectively address the challenges ahead.

GW: In a traditionally male-dominated sector, do you believe your role as CEO of a leading player can help encourage more females to join the glass industry?

Indeed, as BA’s CEO, I hope that my position in a traditionally male-dominated industry can offer encouragement to more women to consider a career in glass manufacturing industry. At BA Glass, we are dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion as part of our broader sustainability strategy; our commitment to promoting diversity and empowering all individuals in their professional journeys is deeply embedded in our company’s values.

I believe that the glass industry has much to offer and can be equally attractive to women as it is to men. As we progress with our lights-out vision, aiming for more digitalised factories with a focus on value-added activities, I believe the industry will become more appealing to individuals regardless of their gender. Ultimately, fostering a diverse and inclusive environment is not just a matter of gender but a vital aspect of creating a thriving and innovative industry.

GW: Are you particularly pleased with any recent or planned product launches across the group?

Certainly, I am particularly pleased with the recent and planned product launches across BA group, as our company seeks to engage with our customers, embodying our commitment to delivering innovative and sustainable solutions that align with their evolving needs and expectations. Every year, we collaborate closely with our customers to develop new and innovative products that meet our consumers’ needs. This collaborative effort is facilitated by our dedicated BA Design Team, which offers an exclusive, in-house service that blends each client’s unique needs with technical production specifications. Our main objective with BA Design is eco-design, where we prioritise manufacturing glass packaging that not only aligns with consumer expectations but also minimises environmental impact. In 2022, we successfully initiated 30 innovative projects in collaboration with customers, aimed at promoting their brands and delivering added value to consumers.

In addition to our commitment to customer engagement and innovation, BA Glass takes sustainability to the next level with our sustainable brand, PURE. PURE is much more than a glass packaging brand; it is about being immersed in nature. PURE is born from the unique mindset that brings innovation and sustainability together in one brand, where nature comes first in every stage of the process. With PURE, we produce food and beverage containers that are sustainable from conception to delivery.

One significant focus area for us has been reducing the weight of our products, and our lightweight programme yielded exceptional results. We managed to reduce the weight of 400 million bottles, amounting to 6,500 tons. [As noted previously,] this weight reduction also translated into a substantial saving of 2,500 tons CO2 emissions.

Additionally, the Glassberries Design Awards, our annual packaging design competition, exemplifies BA’s commitment to innovation and product development. This competition for young designers consistently provides us with a valuable opportunity to foster relationships with academia and serves as an excellent platform for generating innovative designs that hold the potential to evolve into new market launches.

GW: At the time of our last interview in 2019 there was an intention to double production capacity in Bulgaria. What is the current status of the project and plans for the future?

Since our last interview in 2019, our commitment to doubling production capacity in Bulgaria and the Southeastern Europe (SEE) region remains steadfast and according to plan. We have made substantial progress by focusing on capacity expansion and infrastructure enhancements. Recently, a new furnace in Sofia has already been inaugurated, significantly boosting our production capabilities. Furthermore, in the next months we will have two new start-up facilities in Plovdiv and Bucharest, both situated in the SEE region. These developments not only highlight our dedication to growth, innovation and meeting our customers’ needs, but also empower us to fortify our commitment to environmental sustainability.

GW: What can you tell us about BA Glass acquiring a majority stake in Mexican container glass manufacturer Vidrio Formas this year?

BA Glass’ acquisition of a majority stake in Vidrio Formas represents an exciting new chapter in our journey, marking a significant strategic move for both companies.

Vidrio Formas, based in Mexico, is a well-established player in the container glass sector with a strong regional foothold. This transaction reflects our commitment to expand our presence in the global glass manufacturing industry, providing an excellent opportunity to strengthen our position in the North American market and explore new horizons.

It will be an opportunity to combine our strengths and expertise, creating a synergy that benefits both organisations and our customers. BA is a long-term investor, and we aim to be a relevant player in this new market. We’re excited about the possibilities this venture brings and look forward to the journey ahead.

GW: How closely will the Mexican operations fit the ideal BA Glass model?

There are some differences and these will certainly be addressed in the integration process. We are sure that this will be a great learning opportunity for everyone involved. Overall, the process will allow for a collaborative approach, integrating the best practices from both entities to optimise efficiency and maximise the potential of this acquisition. Vidrio Formas just started a relevant growth and the experience of BA will certainly help in [making] the best choices.

GW: What are the production capabilities at Vidrio Formas and what are highlights of recent and planned investments?

Vidrio Formas has a considerable production capacity, supported by two operating units and a specialised cullet treatment facility. These assets are fundamental to its glass manufacturing process, contributing significantly to the company’s production capacity. Regarding recent and planned investments, Vidrio Formas just doubled its capacity with the latest investment, which will need to be consolidated before initiating other investments.

GW: How will Vidrio Formas be integrated into the group and is BA Glass’ experience of acquiring other glassmaking businesses an advantage to the process?

The integration of Vidrio Formas into the BA Glass Group will be a journey that we approach with enthusiasm. During the last decades, our history of growth has been shaped by successful acquisitions, but we remain aware that each integration presents unique challenges and opportunities. It’s a humbling experience that allows us to learn from new cultures and collaborate with diverse teams. Our past experiences have provided valuable insights into fostering meaningful relationships. We approach this integration with a sense of openness, eager to grow and evolve alongside our new partners. The BA model is consolidated and clearly will leverage the capabilities of Vidrio Formas. We count on the managers of Vidrio Formas to make this a successful integration.

GW: What is the motivation for the recently announced investment into your operations in Romania and what benefits will be achieved as a result?

The motivation behind our recently announced investment in our operations in Romania stems from our strategic growth plan [for] the SEE region. Romania, being a part of this region, is a relevant growing market, making it attractive for our growth. The investment in new facilities equipped with state-of-the-art technology aligns with our objective to expand in this region, always improving efficiency while decreasing our carbon footprint. The Romania plant is undergoing a significant modernisation [to turn it] into an attractive place to work.

GW: Are there further major investment projects in the pipeline at your other plants in Germany, Greece, Poland, Portugal and Spain?

We maintain a steadfast commitment to investment projects across our plants. These investment projects are driven by our dedication to serving our customers while maintaining a strong focus on sustainability. An example of that is the investment in an ECO furnace that substantially reduces the use of gas by green energies and will allow us to significantly reduce the CO2 emissions. Many other[s] are planned, waiting for the right moment to be launched.

Our ongoing investments reflect our proactive approach to staying at the forefront of the glass manufacturing industry, ensuring that we meet evolving market demands and environmental standards.

GW: How would you summarise the company’s investment strategy across the operations and is most future growth likely to be achieved by the construction of new facilities, brownfield acquisitions or major upgrades of existing plants?

I cannot share our investment plans, but our investment strategy is robust, driven by an ambitious growth plan and a strong focus on sustainability and digitalisation. In recent years, we have been investing in our plants, namely in the integration of state-of-the-art technology and in changing the way of working in our plants. These investments not only enhance our operational efficiency but also create improved working conditions for our employees. A central pillar of our investment strategy is sustainability, and during the last few years, our shareholders have been allocating capital to ensure the fulfilment of our environmental and sustainability objectives.

GW: How well received was the first edition of your recent ‘Glass Secrets’ meeting to share digitalisation and innovation initiatives with customers?

Our customers are [at] the centre of our activity. BA is committed to fostering strong and meaningful relationships with clients, and ‘Glass Secrets’ is one of the initiatives we have been developing to achieve this goal.

Glass Secrets is a series of small events designed with a singular aim in mind: to bring us closer to our clients and share knowledge. It’s where various topics from sustainability to innovation and digitalisation are discussed, where we open our doors and invite our customers into our home. Within these sessions, our clients can raise questions, engage in discussions, and collectively brainstorm innovative ideas that drive our industry forward, through the synergy of partnership and collaboration.

This initiative has been highly appreciated by our clients; in the current year we have hosted five editions of Glass Secrets in our plants, engaging with 12 different clients. And we will continue!

GW: Are there any other aspects of BA Glass’s performance since our last interview that you would like to highlight?

Yes, in fact since our last interview there are several noteworthy aspects of BA Glass’s performance that could be highlighted. First and foremost, we are more and more committed to continuous improvement, constantly seeking new tools and ways of working to achieve better results and make the glass industry a much more attractive place to work and develop careers.

Since 2018, we have been engaged in boosting the incorporation of digitalisation into our processes. Our motto has been “Make it simple”. The development of technology and AI is a must, but the main effort is on the [latter]. We developed a vision, “Lights-out plant” inspired by other industries and leveraged by an ambitious roadmap. Since then, we [have been] build[ing] up an internal team of data scientist and engineers that work on several use cases and, if successful, [we will] roll out them to all the plants. [From the outset we were] clear we could not do this transformation alone, and since then we [have] engaged with suppliers and many other partners to make it possible.

Our teams have been challenged by the urgency of the industry’s transformation, and by the fact they can have a relevant role in that transformation.

As we move forward, we remain committed to further[ing] the potential of digitalisation to drive innovation, efficiency, and sustainable growth.

GW: In general across the group, what are your expectations for the business in 2024?

I am very cautious to do forecasts regarding the coming months. The industry is, again, facing challenges for which there is no history. Consumers changed their behaviours since the pandemic, and it is still not clear how they will land. The reduction of the families’ purchasing power is having dramatic effects on the economies worldwide, and inflation is far from being controlled.

But I am very confident regarding the future for glass packaging. It has all the ingredients to be a preferred packaging in a more sustainable world.


Further Information: 

BA Glass, Avintes, Portugal
tel: +351 22 7860500
email: baglass@baglass.com
web: www.baglass.com