Water, the other major challenge of sustainable development
March 22, as it is every year, is the world’s day of water: "The Water World Day" under the auspices of the United Nations. An opportunity to reinforce Michelin Group's commitment to reduce its environmental footprint in terms of water.
Over the last few years, environmental studies have largely focused on atmospheric pollution and CO2 emissions, but water management is also a key topic. Our Group is taking action in this area, and this is not a new thing.
Water is essential for human development. It is a resource that is abundant in principle, but fresh water 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 which means that some areas of the world regularly suffer from a lack of water. In certain regions this creates tension between populations, set against a background of scarcity.
To better manage water, its use must be reduced and optimized. Ground and surface water must be protected from all types of pollution. The farming sector, which “consumes” 70% of the world’s water, is especially involved of course. But industry, which accounts for 22% of the world’s water use - a figure which rises to 59% in developed countries, must also take action and mobilize itself to meet these challenges.
In 2005, when we created the MEF (Michelin Environmental Footprint), our environmental footprint indicator, we included water among its components, as well as our energy consumption, our atmospheric emissions, and even the waste we generate.
At all our industrial sites we make daily efforts to reduce our water use, which begins with by raising awareness among our employees and making them accountable. We now use around 29,5 millions m3 of water per year, mainly for cooling our industrial installations and for steam production. Thanks to our hard work, we have successfully reduced the quantity of water we use to make tires by a third since 2005. Today, we use an average of 8,6m3 to make a ton of tires, or a little over 70 liters for a light vehicle tire.
Performance gains in m3 per tonne of finished product
between 2016 and 2017
Ladoux – France
A 17% or 40,000 cubic-metre improvement following deployment of leak-reduction initiatives and a stricter monitoring plan.
Avallon – France
A 7% improvement thanks to the installation of a closed-loop system at the high-pressure washing station for tires prior to retreading, and a leak-detection system with real-time phone alerts.
Davydovo – Russia
A 7% improvement after vacuum water pumps were replaced by air-powered models, coupled with heightened surveillance to detect leaks in the preparation process.
Alessandria – Italy
the amount of water used on a production line was reduced by 80% using a new type of ultrasonic water treatment. It paid for itself almost immediately and offers proven potential for installation in other Group facilities.
Queretaro – Mexico
A 9% improvement thanks to optimization of the cooling tower water treatment process.
Programme of awareness
Chennai – India
As part of World Water Day, the plant held a contest to encourage employees to identify how to use water more efficiently at home. The three winners were offered equipment to implement their proposed solutions.
Pirot – Serbia
During an open house day, the plant organized a series of presentations on how to address water issues in daily life, which were attended by more than 6,000 adults and children.
Plants in Germany
By the end of 2017, all German plants were using the new method for assessing water issues, which has raised awareness of these issues across the entire organization, from water technicians to plant executives.
A quarterly internal newsletter helped to illustrate real-world initiatives and highlight testimonials from plant executives.
3 questions for
Corporate HSE – Environment, water program leader, Michelin
Why is the Michelin Group so interested in water management?
After reaching a certain level of performance at the beginning of this decade, we wanted to improve our knowledge about water challenges and accelerate our progress. We set up our Water Expert Team in 2014 to create a tailored project that enables us to anticipate and compensate for the impacts (quality, volume, ecosystems, health), risks, 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 at the Group level. It is constructed around three cornerstones: the installation of an ongoing water management structure, the development of a genuine water culture, not only within the company but also around the company, as well as concrete actions in the field.
This approach has been positively received and sites are very interested. By the end of 2017, around 30% of our sites will have implemented this system. To consolidate and accelerate progress in 2020 and to prepare for the post-2020 period, a water programme overseen and monitored by the Executive Committee, has been put in place. The programme involves 25 different departments within the group and covers all geographical areas.
What measures are being taken in the field?
One of the first steps is to understand the water challenges at and around our sites. Through a variety of actions involving communication and awareness in particular. In 2016 for example, we provided 4 French sites with kits (water-saving shower heads and aerators) to raise awareness among our employees and their families and friends. 2,500 kits were distributed, representing estimated savings of 100,000 m3 of water per year. And 10% energy savings too!
We take a responsible and pragmatic approach in the field. We implement suitable measures specific to each factory for greater effectiveness. For example, the Shenyang 2 factory in northern China (an area with serious water stresses) is capable of delivering one ton of finished products using only 4.4 m3 of water. We are not only focusing on reducing use. The challenges often concern the quality of water, therefore its treatment and operating costs. We always communicate the progress we have made to promote the project and to accelerate the roll-out of measures at other sites.We also work specifically with our service providers in the water cycle, from water withdrawal to processing waste water, in order 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?
Experts in the field now consider our new methodology to be mature and complete. It should therefore enable continuous improvement of the Group’s performance at a global scale and in new directions. We are currently preparing for post-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. Thanks to its knowledge of water contexts, its strategy and governance and its management of risks and opportunities, in 2017 Michelin was awarded an "A-" rating, the leadership category, from the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), the global organization that measures the environmental performance of cities and businesses. This represents significant progress as it scored "B-" in 2015 and "B" in 2016. The Group’s maturity in water management issues means we can take part in broader initiatives. Since 2014 we have accelerated our participation in EPE (Enterprises for the Environment), with a special working group dedicated to water. In 2018 a glossary of practices called the "ABC of water. Saving Water” will be published and will incorporate 4 practices implemented by Michelin. In 2015 we also took part in the creation of the Water Industry Club for World Water Day to share specific practices directly with big industry names.