Kohler: Better Planet
Originally published in Kohler's 2021 Believing in Better ESG Report
Kohler’s approach to environmental management and sustainability is driven by our belief that we can always do better to help the planet by taking responsibility for our environmental impacts. Our goal is to enhance the quality of life for current and future generations by reducing impacts across the four product life-cycle phases of suppliers, Kohler operations, consumer use, and end of life. This mission is the foundation of the commitments we’ve made to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water use, and waste to landfill.
Our Better Planet strategy is focused on five key areas
As part of our sustainability journey, we have been tracking the environmental footprint of our operations since 2008 and have been using this data to drive continuous improvement to reduce the impact of our operations and our products. We are committed to annual reporting on our progress and are pleased to share operational footprint metrics this year.
GHG Emissions Reduction and Climate Change
Climate change poses the single biggest risk to our lives and livelihoods. As a major manufacturer, curbing GHG and transitioning to renewable energy was 10% not optional, it was a must. That’s why in 2008 we established goals to achieve net-zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions and 100% renewable energy by 2035.
In 2021 our sales and production increased substantially, leading to an increase in absolute net GHG emissions of 64,165 metric tons CO2e. Because our emissions increase was lower than our increase in sales, the result was a 10% decrease in net GHG emissions intensity (net emissions/revenue).
We achieved these decreases through carbon footprint reduction programs across our global manufacturing plants and increased use of renewable energy sources.
Water Stewardship and Reducing Water Usage
Water is at the heart of everything we do at Kohler. It’s integral to our manufacturing processes around the world and to the utility of many of our products. We launched an assessment in 2021 to identify our high-water-stress locations, which will inform the development of a mitigation plan in future years for our water impacts in these regions. As a result of this assessment, we’ve committed to minimize water use in our operations and drive sustainable water management at each of our highest-risk facilities. We will establish goals and action plans for each of our facilities in future years.
As a company with global operations in kitchen and bath, hospitality, and power, we recognize that we need to take responsibility for the waste we generate. This drives our goal of net-zero waste to landfill by 2035.
In 2021 we expanded our reuse and reclamation programs in the manufacturing process. In addition to driving efficient use of materials in our operations, we are also finding new uses for manufacturing waste, including using these materials as the basis for new products.
In 2021 operational net waste increased by 37,057 metric tons, while operational net waste intensity increased by only 2%. In part this was because two of our plants in Asia were not able to execute recycling projects as expected.
Environmentally Friendly Products
At the core of our efforts to reduce Kohler’s environmental impact is our focus on providing customers with environmentally friendly products and services. Through our Design for Environment (DfE) methodology, we design new products and services with sustainability in mind, focusing on reducing environmental impacts through all stages of the product life cycle. We designate products as Positive by Design SM internally after they go through the DfE process and have proven there can be a positive impact in one of the four key impact categories.
To support sustainable innovation in our product development efforts, we also created the Innovation for Good ® incubator focused on creating new business opportunities that address some of the most pressing environmental problems related to safe water, safe sanitation, and reliable power globally.
Education and Reporting
We are committed to establishing Kohler as the most environmentally friendly manufacturer in our industry by building customer awareness of environmental issues, promoting the environmental benefits of our products and services, and educating our customers on how to reduce emissions and energy use in their operations.