Ecolab sets ‘aggressive’ sustainability goals

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Ecolab. One case study included Hormel Foods
Picture: Ecolab. One case study included Hormel Foods
Ecolab has updated sustainability targets, including a 25% reduction in effluent discharge and waste, 20% less water use and a 10% drop in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2017.

These replace goals announced in 2013 to reduce environmental impact over five years.

Using its 2012 metrics as an operational baseline, a 5% reduction in GHG emissions, 10% in water use and wastewater discharge and 10% in solid waste, measured by intensity per million dollars in sales was targeted.

The firm achieved a 0.8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, 0.9% in water usage and a 4.1% drop for effluent discharge, measured by intensity per million dollars in sales in 2013.

Ecolab recorded net sales of $13.3bn, up 12% year over year in 2013, invested $188m in research and development and holds more than 6,500 patents.

Case studies with Birra Peroni, a SABMiller company, Friesland Campina and Hormel Foods are highlighted as part of the 2013 Corporate Sustainability Report​.

One-time construction and integration work at three facilities led to a 25% increase in waste disposal, without these events, waste intensity decreased by 15%, claimed Ecolab.

“In 2013, we adjusted the makeup of our fixed facilities as part of the integration of energy services company Champion Technologies into our company, some of which resulted in unexpected one-time waste,” ​said Eliza Chlebeck, manager, sustainability communications. 

“In general, our waste footprint is very small, and moving forward we are increasing our commitment to reducing total waste,” ​she told

Accidents and non-compliance

Ecolab said it reduced vehicle accidents by 9% and injuries by 6% — and severe vehicle accidents were at a low level.

Chlebeck said that recordable injuries totalled 700 last year. 

“The reduction in the injury rate (TRIR) may vary somewhat from the reduction in total injuries given that it is dependent on the number of workers, which currently numbers around 45,000.

“Likewise, the reduction in the total vehicle accident rate (TVAR) may vary given that it is dependent on the number of vehicles (million miles driven).  The total number of vehicle accidents decreased by 9%, and the TVAR (based on million miles driven) decreased 28% year-over-year.”

Ecolab sus 2
Ecolab focus on food safety

Ecolab said it is aware of some noncompliance issues leading to minor fines but none have resulted in material fines or penalties under applicable reporting requirements.

Chlebeck said the 2013 Corporate Sustainability Report provides information material to the company.

“As a $13.3bn global company, the relatively small number of noncompliance issues in 2013 were not material to our company and did not result in material fines or penalties to the company under applicable reporting requirements. 

“Therefore, we have chosen not to disclose additional information as we do not believe it to be material.”

Ecolab received tax credits to support research and development initiatives totaling $8,733,601, not including Champion R&D data.

One example was the Dutch government investing €110,000 in the paper and water businesses.

Energy and packaging use

The firm used more electricity in Asia Pacific and EMEA than in 2012 but less in North and Latin America.

Energy use was up across the board going from 6,983,855 gigajoules (GJ) to 7,524,067GJ.

“The increase in global energy use and increased electricity use in Asia Pacific and EMEA are due to an increase in absolute global production of nearly 3% between 2012 and 2013,” ​said Chlebeck.

“EMEA and Asia Pacific are the regions that saw the largest year over year production increases (3% and 4% respectively). 

“In late 2012 and early 2013, we began production at new plants in Asia Pacific and EMEA and expanded plants in the US to meet increased production demands.”

The recycled input materials used in packaging dropped from 3,569 metric tons (MT) in 2012 to 1,395 MT in 2013.

Total packaging fell from 16,555 MT to 10,890 MT and the percentage of recycled material used in packaging went from 21.6% in 2012 to 12.8% in 2013.

Raw material used (non-renewable) rose from 1,350,256 MT to 1,978,122 MT, according to the firm.

Chlebeck said this reflected the fact that in 2013, only Legacy Nalco was reported due to lack of data while in 2012 figures for Legacy Ecolab and Legacy Nalco were noted.

Continued integration

Ecolab continued the integration process following the December 2011 merger with Nalco and April 2013 merger with Champion Technologies.

“Our Clearing, Illinois, plant implemented a leak-detection and repair program that resulted in nearly 10 million gallons of water savings ($58,000 cost savings),” ​said the firm in its report.

Our Garyville, Los Angeles, plant implemented a latex steam injection process that saved more than 1 million kWh in natural gas, avoiding over 750 tCO2e (Tonnes of CO2​ equivalent) in emissions ($50,000 cost savings)

In Ellwood City, Pennsylvania​, we replaced our south plant boiler’s economizer and updated area heaters, resulting in 615,000 kWh/year energy savings and 420 tCO2e savings ($11,500 cost savings).”

Nalco Champion will construct headquarters in Sugar Land, Texas. The 133,000-square-foot building, scheduled for completion in late 2015, will accommodate 1,000 associates.

The project will include renovation of the existing 45,000-square-foot Sugar Land office building to expand Research, Development and Engineering lab facilities.

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