Managing blue gold
Over the last few years, environmental questions have focused a great deal on atmospheric pollution and CO2 emissions, but water management is also a key topic. Our Group is committed and active in this area.
Water is essential for human development. It is a resource that is abundant in principle but freshwater in liquid form only represents 0.5% of the water on the Earth. This represents over 10 million km3 of available freshwater. However it is not evenly distributed and this means some areas of the world regularly suffer from a lack of water. To better manage water, use must be reduced and optimized and ground water and surface water must be protected from all types of pollution. The farming world, which “consumes” 70% of the world’s water, is of course particularly concerned. But industry, which represents 22% of the world’s water use - a figure which rises to 59% in developed countries, must also act and mobilize itself to meet these challenges.
When the Michelin Group launched its environmental footprint indicator in 2005, water was one of its 6 components. We work hard every day to reduce our use, focusing on both local and global challenges. This begins with raising awareness of all our employees and their responsibility. It also means concrete actions on our industrial sites. Today, we use around 32 million m3per year, mainly for cooling our industrial installations and steam production. Through our hard work, in 10 years we have successfully reduced the quantity of water we use to make tires by a third. Today, we use an average of 9.3 m3 to make a ton of tires, or a little over 70 liters for a light vehicle tire.
3 questions for Christophe Simoes, Corporate HSE - Environment Remediation Guarantor / Water program Leader, Europe Environment Coordinator - Michelin
How much attention does Michelin pay to water management?
After reaching a certain level of performance at the beginning of this decade, we wanted to improve our knowledge of water challenges and accelerate our progress. We set up our Water Expert Team in 2014 to create a tailored project that allows us to anticipate and compensate for impact (quality, volume, ecosystems, health), risks and opportunities (business continuity, image, regulatory changes) and the operational costs associated with all these challenges. Since 2016 and after 2 years of development, we are launching this on-request project on a Group a level.
It is built around three cornerstones: the installation of a lasting water management structure, the development of a genuine water culture not only in the company but also around the company and concrete actions in the field.
This approach has been very positively received and sites are very interested. By the end of 2017, around 30% of our sites will have implemented this approach.
What measures are taken in the field?
One of the first steps is to give meaning to the water challenges on and around our sites. In particular through different actions involving communication and awareness. In 2016 for example, we provided 4 sites in France with kits (water-saving shower heads and aerators) to raise the awareness of our employees and their families and friends. 2,500 kits were distributed representing an estimated saving of 100,000 m3 of water used per year. And 10% of energy saved too!
In the field, we have a responsible and pragmatic approach. We take adapted measures specific to each factory for greater effectiveness. For example, the Shenyang 2 factory in northern China (an area of serious water stress) is capable of delivering one ton of finished products with only 4.4 m3 of water. We are not limiting ourselves to only focusing on reducing use. The challenges also and often concern the quality of water and therefore its treatment and costs. In all cases, we advertise the progress we make to promote the project and accelerate roll-out of the measures on other sites.
We also work specifically with our service providers in the water cycle, from use to processing waste water, to accelerate our progress. With them, we study how we can optimize existing systems, what new practices can be implemented and how to integrate the latest innovations when they are relevant.
What are the long-term objectives?
Today, experts in this field consider our new methodology to be mature and complete. It should therefore enable continuous improvement of the Group’s performance on a global scale in new directions. We are currently preparing for after 2020 and our 2030 horizon too. This approach relies on strong commitment from the Group’s top management and should enable us to continue to grow in an increasingly responsible manner.
The Group’s maturity in water management means we can take part in broader initiatives. Since 2014 we have accelerated our participation in the EPE (Enterprises for the Environment) with a specific working group dedicated to water. In 2015, we also took part in the creation of the Water Industry Club for World Water Day to share concrete practices directly with big industry names.