water splash Zoonar RF/Thinkstock

Evonik to determine water footprint for global value chains

Cooperative research project to complete holistic sustainability assessment by 2020.

Evonik announced Aug. 24 that its Animal Nutrition business line will participate in the cooperative research project "Water Footprint for Companies — Local Measures in Global Value Chains" (WELLE). The aim is to expand life-cycle assessments (LCAs) of products and processes by the aspects of water consumption and local water scarcity.

The three-year project, launched in April, is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education & Research. The project's management is carried out by the department of sustainable engineering at the Technical University Berlin.

For Evonik, protecting resources, the environment and climate is central to its business activity, and LCAs are already firmly anchored in its operating businesses. For example, the Animal Nutrition business line has been regularly performing LCAs for its amino acid products since 2003 in order to quantitatively assess their sustainability with regard to carbon dioxide emissions, acidification and eutrophication over the entire life cycle ("cradle to grave").

"We would like to further expand our methodology to include the water footprint and to come to a holistic sustainability assessment by 2020, which also includes social aspects," said Dr. Michael Binder, responsible for the water footprint in Sustainability Development within Evonik's Nutrition & Care segment.

One key focus will be on water consumption at production sites, Evonik said. The methodology for this will be developed within the framework of the WELLE project, making Evonik one of the first companies to test its industrial applicability in the coming year.

However, a large proportion of water consumption does not arise at production sites but in the supply chain — often in countries already suffering from water shortages, the company said. So, a key part of WELLE is the consideration of entire global value chains. For Evonik, this means that its suppliers will also be included in the analysis, either by directly working with the methodology or by being asked to provide the raw data.

"In addition to climate change, water is expected to become one of the most dominant ecological issues in the coming years," predicted Dr. Martin Kirchner, head of the Life Cycle Management Group from the Technology & Infrastructure segment. It already attracts great attention in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, for example.

"We are glad that this methodology development in the area of assessing water footprint is now being pushed forward. As a basis for making responsible future business decisions, reliable facts are essential," said Kirchner, who is involved in the WELLE project.

Evonik is a world leader in specialty chemicals. A focus on more specialty businesses, customer-orientated innovation and a trusted and performance-oriented corporate culture form the heart of Evonik’s corporate strategy. Evonik is active in more than 100 countries and has more than 35,000 employees.

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