Water Stewardship at Cintas
Water is a central resource to our business at Cintas and it is a necessary input in one of our key business services. As we celebrate World Water Day, we believe Cintas has a profound responsibility to be mindful, considerate, and deliberate in our interactions with this vital natural resource.
As a company, we recognize that water is already a scarce resource, so we strive to be a responsible community leader and respect our communities’ right to water.
To strengthen our resolve as a water consumer, we continue to explore opportunities that help lessen our water consumption. And as a responsible water steward, we continuously monitor our operations and processes, so we discharge water back to our local communities in a sustainable, responsible manner.
WATER MANAGEMENT POSITION
Our Water Position outlines how we work to evolve our business practices that involve water, and informs our efforts to conserve water and minimize our water draw.
These opportunities include:
- Identifying further process efficiencies and water utilization methods
- Treating wastewater in compliance with prevailing regulations
- Utilizing appropriate reuse technologies when able
- Engaging in cooperative relationships with our vendors, suppliers, and customers to identify opportunities and incorporate innovations to help manage water more responsibly throughout our value chain
These ambitions – added to our existing laundering processes, which require less water (and energy) than both traditional at-home laundering and our industry peers – help us maintain an acute perspective on our water stewardship activities.
Further, our Water Position motivates us to identify and innovate even greater efficiencies that help maximize our achievements across our company’s scale, even as our business continues to grow.
CINTAS’ WATER JOURNEY
We take pride in our water-conservation efforts to date. In addition to our ongoing efforts to minimize water requirements and maximize water conservation throughout our company, we are placing focused attention on increasing our water-reuse efforts. For instance, we are seeking to build on the success that our production facilities around the Great Lakes have had in expanding their water reuse.
As we aim to prioritize higher water reuse in areas of significant need, specific challenges presented by our locations in water-stressed regions provide us with opportunities to test and pilot programs. These areas include Arizona, California, Colorado, and Nevada.
The majority of our FY’22 water withdrawal originates from 14 major water basins.
APPROACH AND STRATEGY
Cintas’ efforts to increase water conservation go back decades. Decreasing our dependence on freshwater has been an ongoing focus of our engineering efforts.
These efforts have also produced sound business practices by reducing our production costs and costs passed on to customers through our pricing models. The less water we use, the lower our costs – especially in areas where water prices are at a premium because of local restrictions or regulations, decreasing water availability, and/or localized conservation programming.
Our water stewardship strategy has three main components:
- Conservation and minimization of the water we withdraw
- Identification and implementation of process technologies and efficiencies that help further reduce our water use
- Implementation of water-reuse technologies
Throughout our water journey, we’ve fostered a culture of innovation among our employee-partners and vendors and have challenged them to modernize the commercial laundry industry.
At Cintas, we’ve led the way by:
- Testing, refining, and installing capital equipment systems that help us conserve water
- Utilizing evolving wash chemistry technologies and optimizing wash chemistry formulas
- Adopting common-sense behaviors that, taken together, have helped significantly reduce our costs and water consumption
- Exploring and installing broader water-reuse technologies
We’re proud of our legacy of water-conservation efforts, and we know our ongoing commitment has produced a positive ripple effect throughout our industry. Throughout the last few decades, we’ve focused conservation efforts on minimizing our draw from freshwater sources and reducing our overall water needs.
We’ve made significant strides in lowering the amount of water required to wash a pound of laundry without compromising our ability to meet hygienically clean certification standards (where applicable), which is critical to our customers.
We continue to seek opportunities that will help us further reduce our water consumption. Our current initiatives highlight two key areas of ongoing opportunity: process efficiency improvements and wash chemistry. We work collaboratively with our capital equipment manufacturers and our wash chemistry partners to improve our operational footprint, and to realize the combined impacts of engineering efficiencies and chemical improvements on our water requirements.
We are continuing to identify ways to increase water-reuse rates throughout our production facilities. We have seen impressive reuse capabilities at a number of our facilities with full reuse technology and complete monitoring systems.
Taking the cues and learnings from these locations, we anticipate identifying the start of a more expansive enterprise-wide reuse strategy in future years. Our ability to expand and monitor our water-reuse capabilities at all our locations is an important step in our ongoing work to lessen our freshwater withdrawal and lower our overall water consumption.
WATER RISK ASSESSMENT AND WATER-STRESSED REGIONS
With our operational footprint stretching from coast to coast across the United States and Canada, we draw water from a variety of sources, including water-stressed regions. The majority our FY’22 water withdrawal originated in 14 major water basins, with 82% of our water drawn from five sources: the Mississippi–Missouri river system (35%), the Gulf of Mexico (14%), the St. Lawrence River (17%), the North Atlantic Coast (9%), and the state of California (7%).
An FY’22 water risk assessment identified 40 Rental plants that operate in water-stressed regions of the United States and Canada, where they are experiencing high to extremely high water stress. Of our 40 processing plants located in current water-stressed regions, 17 are in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Nevada, states which have been severely impacted by historic droughts and declining water tables. At operations in these states and other water-stressed regions, we are emphasizing water-reuse technologies. As good environmental stewards, increasing our reuse efforts will also be important to help supplement our ongoing water-conservation efforts.
In the western region, legacy systems currently installed at our Las Vegas and Denver-area locations have provided contextual examples of how expanded reuse capabilities can positively affect water consumption.
As various reuse opportunities and technologies emerge and evolve, we expect to prioritize the expansion of water-reuse capabilities in water-stressed regions and identify and apply appropriate technologies in these vital areas.
MANAGING WASTEWATER AND EFFLUENTS
Both our Environmental Compliance policy and our Water Management Position outline our expectation that our field locations treat and process wastewater as necessary to comply with their specific local, state, and federal regulatory requirements.
Our wastewater treatment strategy has three main components:
- Approved chemical suppliers and wastewater-treatment equipment
- Proper maintenance of all wastewater-treatment equipment
- Wastewater testing and reporting
We have also implemented consistent treatment systems at our facilities to help our locations return wastewater to the local municipality according to all local regulations.
THE WASTEWATERTREATMENT PROCESS
Our wastewater-treatment process is consistent throughout all processing plants in our company. It begins with the removal of lint and other solids from wastewater after a wash cycle, which generates non-toxic waste that is disposed of in landfills.
At facilities that require wastewater to be treated before it is discharged, the effluent-free wastewater is routed through an equalization tank for homogenization. It then flows through a dissolved air flotation (DAF) system for additional filtration and treatment.
Once wastewater has cycled through the DAF system and has been treated, it is discharged back to the municipal water supply. However, if the location has reuse technology installed, the treated wastewater may also be recirculated for reuse.
WATER PERFORMANCE AND DATA
Our Rental business is the overwhelming driver of our company’s water interactions. Our ongoing operational review has helped us more fully identify opportunities for how we work with water. The water data in this year’s report includes all of our Rental processing locations in the United States and Canada.
Water Intensity Decreases Since FY’19 As our business has continued to grow and we’ve processed more product volume, we’ve significantly invested in decreasing our business’s water requirements.
With the increase in output at our processing locations, we continue to realize the impact of our efforts to reduce our overall water needs. Since FY’19, we have lowered our water intensity by almost 21% – even as revenues have grown by almost 14%.
Lowering Water Requirements
Our ongoing efforts to innovate, increase efficiency, and explore reuse opportunities have resulted in significant reductions in our water needs.
Our Operational Excellence and Reliability initiatives have helped our machines work more efficiently. With wash chemistry programmed to meet specific product load weights, our washers and dryers are more efficient – requiring less water and energy and fewer chemicals to clean, and less energy to dry. Our employee-partners continue to work with our wash chemistry and equipment vendors to target optimal product load sizes.
Since FY’19, we have lowered our water withdrawal by 9.1%, our water discharge by 9.8%, and our total water consumed by 2.8%. We’re using the water we draw in more effectively and increasing the amount we return to local municipal water systems.
We expect our efforts to increase water-reuse opportunities will bear additional impact in coming years, further helping to lower our overall water withdrawal and consumption.
We put significant attention on our water stewardship in areas experiencing water stress. Since FY’19, we’ve lessened our water withdrawn in these regions by 11.7%. In FY’22, our business withdrew 18.7% of our total water withdrawal in stressed regions, but only consumed 13.9% of our total water consumption in the same areas.
As a company, we discharge 88.9% of the water we withdraw back to municipalities, but in water-stressed regions that total is up to 91.8%.
Overall we consume 11.1% of the total water we withdraw as a company, but that total is even lower in water-stressed regions, at 8.2%.
Our efforts to optimize existing water-reuse systems and explore further reuse opportunities in water-stressed regions are contributing to our lower water requirements in these important areas.