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Fast-tracking Green Water and Waste

Firmenich set ambitious 2020 goals on water and waste efficiency: we aim to reduce the rate of water use in stressed areas by 25%, cut waste generation rate by 15% and ensure 100% of our manufacturing sites can claim zero waste-to-landfill.

Water Strategy and Performance


The CEO Water Mandate is an initiative supported by committed companies as well as governments and specialized organizations and deals with the problems of water scarcity and sanitation issues. It is designed as a private-public initiative with an emphasis on developing strategies and solutions to contribute positively to the emerging global water crisis.

The signatories of the CEO Water Mandate seek to engage a critical mass of companies from around the world, willing to undertake serious efforts, in partnership with other stakeholders, to address this challenge. Recognizing the positive role that the international business community can play in addressing the water challenge faced by the world today, our Vice-Chairman and former CEO, Patrick Firmenich, was among the first 30 CEO’s worldwide to endorse this initiative.


Our operations mostly use water for cleaning. We consume a very small amount of water and most of our cleaning water goes back into the water system after we use and treat it. We follow international and local regulations, but always try to proactively apply the strictest standards available and to continue improving our water discharge quality. In FY19, the chemical oxygen demand (COD) concentration of the water we directly return to the environment was reported as being around 50% of its 2015 level. Our new plants, including our flavor manufacturing site in China, are designed with water in mind, combining water efficiency processes and state-of the art water treatment.

For the past four years we have conducted annual water stress analysis, evaluating water risks and water use for all manufacturing sites with the help of two water risk assessment tools: World Resource Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas; and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Water Risk Filter. In FY19, we identified ten sites as the most likely to benefit from mitigation initiatives. We will focus our efforts in these locations.

We not only target water in our operations but also in our ingredients, our supply chain, and local communities. This year, we were one of only two companies worldwide to receive a triple “A” rating from CDP for our initiatives on resources preservation, including a perfect score for our water management. Asking our suppliers to disclose their water initiatives drives them to improve their supply chain sustainability and to take other relevant action. In FY19, among suppliers disclosing their water performance to CDP, 71% had a water policy and 58% integrated water-related issues into long-term business objectives.


In FY19, we reduced our water use in water stressed areas by 4.4% vs. FY18, and by 9.7% vs. FY15. While this is positive, we still have progress to make to reach our 2020 target to reduce water use in water stressed areas by 25%. Below is an overview of our activities during FY19:

  • In Kunming, China, we implemented a new cooling water system that will save 7,200 m3 of water annually, more than 20% of the site’s water impact.

  • In China, we also opened our first zero liquid discharge manufacturing plant: all wastewater is purified and recycled at the end of the treatment cycle.

  • In Brazil, we implemented a project to recover and reuse vacuum pump water discharge, and expect to save 4,000 m3 of water per year.

  • In Indonesia we installed equipment to recover and reuse pump seal water and rainwater, expected to save around 18,000 m3 water per year.

  • In California, U.S., we continued our work with The Pacific Institute, the CEO Water Mandate, and other stakeholders to align measurement systems, set meaningful targets, and prioritize actions and investments that address the key water challenges in the region. Our Anaheim site was assessed in April 2019, to enhance our landscape and save more water in this water-stressed region.


    In FY19, we reached top ranking on the CDP Supplier Engagement Leaderboard. This global supply chain recognition highlights our excellence in working with our suppliers to reduce environmental impact and risks across our value chain.

    For the second time, we engaged key suppliers through CDP and asked them to disclose their environmental impact in the Supply Chain programs. The response rates of 58%, 51% and 59% in the Climate Change, Water and Forests Programs respectively, are slightly higher than the average in our industry, but are lower in Climate Change and Water compared to last year, as we reached out to more suppliers.

    We aim to continue increasing the number of suppliers and response rates, and are further engaging suppliers through face to face meetings, one on one calls, and webinars to reach this goal. In FY19, for all Firmenich suppliers who reported through CDP:

  • 86% integrate climate related issues into long term business objectives – a 14% increase vs. FY18
  • More than 80% report emission reduction activities - a 14% increase vs. FY18
  • 61% undertake a water-related risk assessment - a 21% increase vs. FY18
  • 60% had greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets - a 5% increase vs. FY18
  • Waste Strategy and Performance

    We have set a goal to improve our waste efficiency rate by 15% by 2020 vs. 2015 and to reach zero waste to landfill at all of our manufacturing sites while also embracing circular models. In FY19, we improved our waste efficiency by 14.2% compared with FY15. Combining our goals to achieve zero waste to landfill and improve our waste efficiency ensures that we not only divert waste streams towards recycling or incineration for energy recapture but also reduce our overall waste wherever we operate.


    Reaching Zero Waste to Landfill in North America
    In April 2019, we reached zero waste to landfill at our Princeton, New Jersey site. Our local teams have spent the past few months identifying a facility able to accept and recycle open top refuse. We also anticipate reaching zero waste to landfill at our manufacturing sites in Saint Louis, Missouri, Anaheim, California, and New Ulm, Minnesota, before the end of the calendar year 2019.

    We can achieve this by increasing our waste efficiency and by collaborating more closely with local suppliers to improve waste sorting and find more suitable alternatives to disposal, following the principles of circular economy. For example, our Princeton, New Jersey manufacturing site reached zero waste to landfill by sorting open containers of construction and demolition waste that usually went to landfill, and fully categorized each waste for recycling.

    Composting in Argentina
    To achieve our environmental goal and become a zero waste to landfill company, all of our sites run initiatives that are adapted to local conditions and then share their experiences with each other to drive best practices globally. For example, our Argentinian site designed a composting station, encouraging colleagues to sort food waste. After four months, local teams were able to build an organic garden using the sorted food waste, and gave compost to all employees to be used at home. This project has the potential to cut waste to landfill at the site by approximately 20 %, and generated 3,600 kg of compost after four months.
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