Water is the foundation of all life. However, our planet’s water resources are unequally distributed and threatened by a range of factors such as climate change, population increase, pollution, and overuse. Many regions are particularly affected by drought and in parallel, clean drinking water resources are becoming scarcer worldwide. In light of this situation, we consider it vital to use water responsibly. Our aim is to keep water consumption and wastewater generation as low as possible across all areas of the company and processes, as well as along our supply chains.
Managing water risks
The Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, a reporting tool made available by the World Resources Institute (WRI), is used by the tesa Business Segment to conduct an annual risk analysis for its production sites and main headquarters. This analysis takes a number of different aspects into account, such as water resources, water quality, and how wastewater is managed. In addition, we identify locations with an elevated risk of water scarcity or water stress.
The Consumer Business Segment works with WWF’s Water Risk Filter to analyze, evaluate, and respond to water risks prevalent in its operations. For even more detailed analyses, we remain in an ongoing dialogue with the WWF. Furthermore, we consider it vitally important to use water responsibly not only in our direct areas of activity, but throughout the entire value chain. For example, Beiersdorf conducted a commodity risk analysis for palm oil, soy, and coconut to understand the role of water risks in sourcing key ingredients.
Our Consumer and tesa Business Segments submit water management data annually as part of the CDP Water Security program. Consumer received an A rating for the information provided in the water security questionnaire in the reporting year, and tesa received a C rating, each on a scale from A to D. In the coming year, we would like to work more intensively on further improving and maintaining these ratings, respectively.
The Consumer Business Segment uses water in a broad variety of ways. On the one hand, it is needed to manufacture our products and it is a core ingredient in our product formulations. On the other hand, water is used by our consumers when they apply our products. For this reason, we are fully committed to using this precious resource in a responsible manner and to systematically and consistently promoting the sustainable use of water.
Most of the water we use is consumed by our production sites. Beiersdorf is committed to continuously minimizing water consumption in its production processes. Our aim is to reduce consumption per manufactured product by 25% by 2025 (compared to the 2018 baseline). There are experts at each site who are implementing specific measures in line with our global ambition to reduce water consumption. Our Sustainability In Manufacturing (SIM) initiative is driving this forward and has assumed responsibility for coordinating efforts at the individual facilities. In doing so, it takes a bottom-up approach. Progress is monitored and reported to the Sustainability Council on a quarterly basis. This is how we want to ensure that we are on the right track.
In 2022, water consumption per manufactured product remained at the same level as 2018 (base year). In comparison to the previous year, this represents a reduction of 8%.
In addition, we want to go one step further and approach the topic of water from a holistic perspective. To this end, we are cooperating with WWF as part of a long-term, strategic partnership to improve water management within our company and our value chain.
Sustainable water management through state-of-the-art production processes
The importance of sustainable water management is also incorporated into plans to expand our production sites – through our global SIM initiative, we are working intensively to integrate innovative ideas into our production processes. Here we are focused on developing increasingly effective solutions to reduce water loss, determine water consumption at relevant production sites, and implement innovative approaches to treating wastewater so that it can be reused in production processes.
We rely on state-of-the-art equipment and advanced technologies, especially for high-consumption cleaning processes. Any wastewater that is produced is treated using efficient technical processes – usually in the company’s own treatment plants – and then used for cooling, irrigation, or sanitation, for example. These measures are frequently implemented at our production sites as part of their LEED certification (see “Climate action” section). Even seemingly small improvements such as modernizing sanitary facilities or systematically measuring consumption in production areas contribute to sustainable water management. In order to continuously improve our water management, we are also in dialogue with water suppliers, local authorities, and neighboring companies. We also regularly conduct reviews at our production sites to identify potential ways to optimize water consumption and wastewater treatment.
New water roadmap
In 2022, the Consumer Business Segment developed a new roadmap for its water management. The SIM initiative is responsible for implementing the corresponding global targets and measures at the individual production centers. The water roadmap is based on four pillars under which we have already implemented or launched the following measures in 2022:
- Continuous improvement and maximum operational performance:
Through the “Beiersdorf Global Water & Cleaning Community,” water experts at the production sites share best practices and can learn from each other. They also have the opportunity to discuss progress with the SIM team. We continuously look for and test new (digital) approaches to reducing water consumption in cleaning processes, supported by specialist institutes and testing equipment at our factories, where such novel approaches are tested
- Process optimization:
With the help of internal and external experts, we regularly review whether our facilities meet the latest standards and how we can optimize processes. In this context, we focus on wastewater treatment plants, water treatment plants, and purification processes. In addition, we draw on external expertise for training and to optimize operations. We also constantly reassess our own standards and specifications and have, for example, revised our specifications for water quality in order to reduce losses in water treatment (such as during the softening of water)
- New water treatment technologies:
In addition, we are introducing new water treatment technologies, for example via high-recovery reverse osmosis – we are currently testing a program with enhanced cleaning technology at our facility in India; this has the potential to reduce water consumption by up to 28%
- Exploring circular water management:
We are currently conducting a study to transform the water systems at our facilities in line with the closed-loop principle in order to maximize the recovery and reuse of water in production centers. Initial projections show that the savings potential can be as high as 70%, depending on the location and the measured variables
Our water roadmap is an example of how we look to our factories for opportunities to innovate and implement advanced technologies that can reduce the overarching impact on our environment.
Guidelines and preventive measures
We are committed to efficient water use, water resource conservation, and appropriate wastewater treatment. We collect water-related data at our production sites annually, such as on water consumption and wastewater volumes. We withdraw water mainly from the public drinking-water supply and from groundwater. Water is reused several times in our cooling cycles. Most of the water used is discharged as wastewater into the sewage system or as surface water.
We want to reduce risks to water sources resulting from our production process as much as possible, which is why we take preventive measures against conceivable accidents. For example, liquids that pose a threat to water are emptied, refilled, and stored only in areas that are equipped with appropriate retention tanks. We use equipment to measure turbidity and solvent concentration to ensure that contaminated surface water is not discharged into the sewer system. We have emergency plans in place to determine the exact course of action in the event of a leakage of substances hazardous to water. All these measures are regularly reviewed in our external ISO 14001 audits and are a precondition for a successful audit result.