Long-term thought and action as a basis for success

A sustainable corporate culture makes it possible to increase the value of the company over the long term and minimize risks for its future development. Geberit positions itself as a leader in sustainability and aims to set standards for customers, suppliers and other partners. This applies to water-saving, sustainable products; environmentally friendly and resource-efficient production; procurement and logistics with high environmental and ethical standards; and good, safe working conditions for the more than 6,000 committed and qualified employees worldwide. The corporate social responsibility is realized among other things within the scope of global social projects relating to the core competencies of water and sanitary facilities, and is intensified through partnerships such as that with the non-profit organization Swiss Water Partnership aimed at promoting international dialog on water. There is also a long-term partnership with the Swiss development organization Helvetas.

Geberit’s positioning as a sustainable company is playing an increasingly important role in various stakeholder groups’ perceptions, as is reflected by a large number of awards. For example, Geberit has made the Corporate Knights Global 100 index – a list of the 100 most sustainable companies in the world – since 2010.

Water management as a defining issue for the future

With its Millennium Development Goals from the year 2000, the United Nations aims to halve the number of people without access to clean drinking water and sanitary facilities by 2015. A look at the progress made to date shows that the ambitious goals are only partially being met. The sustainability goals of the UN for the post-2015 era are currently being negotiated. What is not disputed, however, is the great importance of the topic of water management for a sustainable development. The increase in the world’s population, migration, urbanization, climate change and natural disasters can lead to regions that are currently well supplied with water becoming problem regions in the future. These global trends will have a significant impact on future sanitary technology: water-saving and resource-efficient products are becoming even more important. The EU is increasingly putting water conservation on its political agenda and has developed ecolabels for efficient toilets, urinals, lavatory taps and showers. The biggest environmental contribution by Geberit products lies in the conservation of water. The analysis of the entire value chain in the form of a water footprint shows that nearly 100% of the water consumption is attributable to the product usage phase. The potential for savings is therefore impressive. According to one model calculation, the entire dual-flush and flush-stop “fleet of cisterns” produced since 1998 has so far saved around 17,900 million cubic meters of water in comparison with traditional flushing systems. In 2014 alone, the water saved amounted to around 2,128 million cubic meters. This is more than half of the annual consumption of all German households.

System provider of solutions in green building

Green building has long been more than just a trend. European standards are increasingly prescribing the use of sustainable products and systems in buildings. At the same time, more and more buildings are being constructed in accordance with sustainability standards such as DGNB, Minergie, BREEAM and LEED. Investors, project developers, owners and tenants are looking for system providers with holistic know-how regarding green building that can contribute to the respective desired standards being fulfilled in a targeted manner. This is opening up a future market with major potential in which Geberit is present with water-saving, energy-saving, low-noise and durable products, and one in which Geberit specifically positions itself in the area of green building.

The importance of the topic is reflected in the increasing number of green building reference projects in which Geberit products are installed. One of the world’s largest economic centers is currently being built in Riyadh –  the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD). It is also the world’s largest sustainability project in the building sector. The new district has an area of 1.6 million square meters and will be home to 34 high-rise complexes, all of which have been nominated for LEED Gold certification. Geberit is one of the leading suppliers, with the water efficiency of its electronic WC and urinal flush controls and its electronic lavatory taps impressing as a particular strength. Geberit products contribute 10% towards the certification results achieved by the buildings in the KAFD. The  Library of Birmingham (UK) distinguishes itself with its outstanding and sustainable architecture. Geberit products such as Duofix installation systems and cisterns with dual flush contributed to the building achieving BREEAM “Excellent” certification by reducing water consumption in the toilet facilities. The 3-star green building label demands the highest standards with respect to water consumption and recovery in China. To meet these standards, the owner of the 46-story  Shenzhen Stock Exchange (CN) building opted for the Delta concealed cisterns from Geberit with dual flush.

Sustainability strategy and reporting as a foundation

The consistent implementation of the sustainability strategy is an essential objective for all internal organizational units at Geberit. The strategy focuses on individual sustainability modules. Among these are  green procurement,  green logistics,  environmental management in production,  occupational safety and  eco-design in product development, as well as  social engagement. Each module contains a clear objective, derived measures and quantified key figures for effective monitoring. Overall, objectives were achieved to a great extent in 2014. For more information, see the  sustainability strategy.

Since 2007, a sustainability performance review has been published annually in accordance with the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). In this regard, the switch from the GRI G3 to the new GRI G4 guidelines was made in 2014. As prescribed by GRI, a process for determining the essential aspects of sustainability was the strategic starting point. These were identified and prioritized as part of an  internal process. An  external stakeholder panel was consulted in September 2014. This was the second such consultation following the first in 2012. Its mandate consisted of scrutinizing the results of the internal materiality analysis and providing feedback on the sustainability strategy and sustainability communication. The results are summarized in a  panel statement. The  response from Geberit to the panel statement illustrates how the results are being taken into consideration in the further development of the sustainability strategy and reporting, also see  results of materiality analysis.

All aspects of the GRI G4 guidelines can be found in the  Sustainability Performance Report for 2014. The information disclosed within the scope of this report fulfills the “comprehensive” transparency grade set out in the GRI G4 guidelines, as has been verified by GRI.

Geberit is committed to internationally recognized principles of sustainability and since 2008 has been a member of the United Nations Global Compact, a global agreement between businesses and the UN designed to make globalization more socially responsible and environmentally friendly. A  Communication on Progress regarding measures in the areas of human rights, labor practices, environmental protection and combating corruption is submitted annually. Geberit is also a member of the local Swiss network of the UN Global Compact. The anchoring of the subject of sustainability is reinforced by the  Code of Conduct for Employees and the  Code of Conduct for Suppliers. Compliance with the directives is ensured by continuously improved  compliance processes. In addition, an extensive system for the control and management of all risks involved in entrepreneurial activities is in place throughout the Group. For more information, see  Corporate Governance, 3. Board of Directors, Information and Control Instruments vis-à-vis the Group Executive Board.

The efforts in terms of sustainable business management are also being rewarded by the capital market. Geberit is strongly represented in the sustainability stock indices and sustainability funds segment. For example, the Geberit share is represented in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and part of the STOXX Europe Sustainability Index, as well as the FTSE4Good Index (Europe/Global), where it is among the supersector leaders in Construction & Materials. In addition, renowned sustainability funds hold the shares in their portfolios. Geberit’s objective is to continue to play a significant role in the future in the “Sustainability” and “Water” investment segments, which are still gaining in importance.

Eco-design approach adopted for new product developments

In addition to their quality, durability and high degree of water and resource efficiency, Geberit products also impress with their good environmental compatibility and high recyclability. The basis for sustainable products is a systematic innovation and development process. The eco-design approach has been implemented since 2007. This means that environmental aspects – from the selection of raw materials right through to disposal – are systematically examined during a product’s early development phase, with the requirement that every product outperforms its predecessor from an ecological perspective. A current example is the new OEM flush valve type 240. Thanks to an intelligent redesign, it was possible to increase the flush performance by 40% while also reducing the quantity of material. In addition, half of the material is made of high-quality ABS regranulate, thus indirectly saving almost 500 metric tons of CO2.

Specially created product life cycle assessments are important decision-making aids for the development processes and provide arguments for the use of products that conserve resources. Detailed life cycle assessments have already been prepared for the following products: drainage/supply pipes, AquaClean 8000plus, AquaClean Mera, electronic lavatory taps type 185/186, concealed cisterns and urinal flush controls. The environmental product declarations (EPDs) in accordance with the new European standard EN 15804 are becoming increasingly important and can also be used directly for green building standards such as LEED. For example, the EPD for Geberit lavatory taps presents relevant, comparable and verified information about the product’s environmental performance in a transparent manner. A pilot project for the systematic recording of environmental data at the product level is currently underway, which should greatly simplify a further processing to EPDs and ecological product information.

WELL label highlights leaders in water conservation

In 2013, the European Commission formally agreed the criteria for an ecolabel aimed at reducing water consumption in European toilets. This label will be awarded to toilets that – in addition to fulfilling other requirements – use a maximum of five liters per toilet flush and therefore contribute to significantly reducing the average water consumption per toilet flush. The WELL label (Water Efficiency Label) introduced in 2011 by the European umbrella organization for valve manufacturers (EUnited) already provides incentives for exceeding these requirements. It takes its direction from the well-known and well-established energy labels for electrical household appliances and serves as an information and orientation aid. WELL provides consumers with information about a product’s water efficiency at a glance. WELL uses a scale of A to D for products for home use and A to F for products for use in public areas. For example, WC flushing systems achieve the A class only if they use a maximum of between four and five liters per flush. Of the nine Geberit product groups already certified, eight are represented in the A class and one in the B class. These product groups account for over 20% of Group sales. This water-efficiency label has been added to packaging and specified in the catalogs since 2013. The list of products certified in the A class also includes one of the most important products in the Geberit range, the Sigma concealed cistern.

Production at “best practice” level

All production sites and logistics as a whole work with an integrated management system and have a  Group certificate in accordance with ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 that is valid until 2015. By mid-2016, all plants will also integrate the OHSAS 18001 standard for occupational health and safety management and individual sites will integrate the ISO 50001 standard for energy management. The first sites such as Lichtenstein (DE) already set standards in 2014 with the certification of a fully integrated management system for quality, environment, energy and occupational safety. Uniform monitoring of the environmental performance, the energy master plan and occupational safety is carried out Group-wide.

A comprehensive corporate eco-balance is prepared each year as the basis for targeted measures to improve environmental performance. The Group’s absolute environmental impact declined in the reporting year by 1.6% (previous year -2.1%) despite currency-adjusted Group sales over the same period rising by 6.4% (previous year +3.6%). Geberit is therefore on track with its target of reducing its relative environmental impact by an average of 5% per year between 2006 and 2015. The consumption of energy in the form of electricity, combustibles and fuels represents the greatest environmental impact, see  detailed energy balance. The longer-term development since 2006 – the year that the CO2 strategy was launched – is impressive: Despite the increase in currency-adjusted sales, the electricity consumption has remained virtually unchanged. Continuous investment in energy efficiency is resulting in appreciably lower running energy costs per unit produced.

The optimization of energy management is an ongoing process: in addition to Lichtenstein, the Pfullendorf and Langenfeld (DE) plants were also certified to ISO 50001 in 2014 for the first time. Among other aspects, the machinery is systematically modernized in line with the energy master plan: the number of injection molding machines retrofitted with energy-efficient drive technology was increased in the reporting year from 94 to 109. Analyses show that a modified machine consumes over 40% less energy on average.

CO2 emissions in 2014 amounted to 69,230 metric tons (previous year 69,909 metric tons). The ratio of CO2 emissions to currency-adjusted sales was reduced by 6.9% (previous year -6.1%). This enabled the targets set out in the long-term  CO2 strategy to be met. In addition to targeted and consistent energy management, this is attributable to the increase in the share of renewable energies. In 2014, renewable energy sources accounted for 37% of total electricity consumption (previous year 31%). This figure is to be increased to 60% by 2020. The share of renewable energies in combustibles is also to be gradually increased Group-wide, rising to 25% by 2020. The detailed  CO2 balance sheet and  all measures taken to reduce CO2 emissions are also disclosed in detail as part of the company’s participation in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

Geberit is investing in the infrastructure of tomorrow through the holistic planning and realization of new buildings and expansion projects. The new factory premises in  Ruše (Sl) are leading the way in green production. The site’s holistic energy concept includes the use of all waste heat from industrial processes, as well as the complete absence of fossil fuels. The available ground water is used for cooling, while rainwater is collected and used both as fire-fighting water and for watering the surrounding area.

All 11 European production plants also began introducing the Geberit Production System (GPS) 2.0 in 2014. Methods such as SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies), TPM (Total Production Maintenance), 5S (Workplace Organization Methodology) and CIP (Continuous Improvement Process) aim to ensure the uniform implementation of best-practice standards in production.