Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Kohler’s Sustainable Innovations: WasteLAB and Innovation for Good


Kohler’s Sustainable Innovations: WasteLAB and Innovation for Good

Kohler’s Better Planet strategy is dedicated to enhancing our environmental performance in operations while ensuring that our product designs are eco-friendly, aiding our customers and consumers in minimizing their environmental footprint. Since 2008, we have been monitoring our environmental footprint as a crucial aspect of our journey towards environmental sustainability. We have set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and waste to landfill in our operations. We are continually setting additional targets to improve other environmental metrics.

Design for Environment
Our Design for Environment (DfE) approach, utilized in our Kitchen and Bath and Energy sectors, is a data-driven method that allows us to comprehend the environmental impact of our products and modify design elements accordingly. The DfE approach employs a multi-stage strategy that takes into account all aspects of the product life cycle, including the implications of using renewable materials, the effect of reducing water flow rates on user experience, and how product materials can be recycled or repurposed.

To promote the adoption of DfE, we conducted DfE methodology training for over 240 Kitchen and Bath associates in China and developed an interactive DfE workshop for Kohler Power Systems associates in our Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) unit. DfE training modules were also introduced on the Kohler Learning Academy and Engineering Academy, including modules on product transparency and creating sustainability impact statements.

Kohler uses the Positive by Design® designation as an internal status for our products, indicating that eco-friendly aspects were incorporated using the DfE process. All products designated Positive by Design® have been internally verified to have a positive impact in one of four key sustainability impact areas—water use, GHG emissions, solid waste, and material toxicity— with no adverse effects in other impact areas. In 2022, 49% of NPD projects (excluding retail NPD projects) were designated as Positive by Design.

Environmentally Friendly Products
In our quest to raise awareness about environmentally friendly products, we are at the forefront of providing large-scale solutions for product transparency. This includes supporting the climate-resilience and green building movement through Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Declare labels. EPDs are based on a third-party-verified life cycle impact assessment (LCIA), and Kohler has broadened our EPD offerings to encompass 100% of vitreous china, stainless steel, and faucets products. We are constantly expanding our data inventory and our ability to produce EPDs upon request.

Declare labels offer insight into a product’s environmental impact by adhering to the Living Building Challenge (LBC) criteria developed by the International Living Future Institute, a group of architects, engineers, manufacturers, and builders dedicated to green building. Declare labels and EPDs assist builders in achieving Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification for homes, commercial buildings, and communities from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Kohler continues to see a rise in requests for product transparency documents, including EPDs, Declare labels, and other metrics such as embodied carbon or recycled content. In 2022, 62% of our transparency requests were for EPDs, and 29% were for Declare labels, with 80% of those requests originating from North America and 20% from countries outside of North America.

Helping Customers Reduce Carbon Emissions
Kohler Power Systems (KPS) is exploring innovative methods to assist customers in reducing or replacing the use of diesel fossil fuel, which will lower GHG emissions. In 2022, KPS approved the use of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) fuels as a substitute for fossil diesel in its entire range of mission-critical diesel generators, including the KOHLER KD Series™, without requiring any modifications to the installed generators. The transition to renewable HVO fuel can help Kohler’s customers reduce life cycle carbon emissions by up to 90% compared to fossil diesel.

Historically, diesel generators used as backup power sources for data centers and other mission-critical uses have been tested monthly under load due to the inability of previous technology engines to operate at no load on a regular basis. Modern diesel engine designs with advanced technology and efficiency improvements enable lower-exercise loading. Test and field experience with generators such as the KOHLER KD Series suggests that unloaded monthly exercise is allowable, as long as the generator is load bank tested annually.

KPS is collaborating with customers to reduce load testing frequency which can expect up to a 40% reduction in pollutants such as nitrous oxide (NOx), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO), and hydrocarbons (HC), and a 44% reduction in annual fuel consumption.

Water-Efficient Products
Kohler continues to make its most significant impact on global water conservation through leadership in the development and use of water-efficient products. We received our thirteenth WaterSense® award in 2022 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recognizing that WaterSense-labeled KOHLER toilets, showerheads, and faucets are major contributors to reduced water consumption in America’s households.

Kohler was honored in 2008 with the first WaterSense Partner of the Year award. Since 2007, cumulative savings due to Kohler brands in the U.S. was over 560 billion gallons of water, 12.8 million metric tons of avoided CO2 emissions, and $8.3 billion in energy and water costs.

Kohler WasteLAB
Kohler WasteLAB was initiated in 2014 as a concept emerging from Kohler’s Innovation for Good® incubator. The associates at WasteLAB are striving to promote a circular economy where our waste streams are reused, reimagined, and repurposed to design and manufacture artistic tile and other products. WasteLAB utilizes a range of materials destined for the landfill, left over from the manufacturing process, including wastewater sludge, pottery dry cull, cast iron slag, foundry dust, and enamel powder. From 2019 to 2022, the sales of KOHLER WasteLAB tiles have prevented 25.5 metric tons (MT) of waste from ending up in landfills and diverted 9.3 MT of waste in 2022.

In 2019, in collaboration with ANN SACKS, WasteLAB introduced the Crackle Collection, a range of tiles made from recycled dry cull. In early 2022, WasteLAB launched a new tile line, the Abstra™ Collection, which is composed of more than 99.5% recycled waste materials including pottery wastewater sludge, one of Kohler’s largest waste streams.

The sales of the Abstra Collection have surpassed expectations and the award-winning tile collection has been highlighted in several publications, including Interior Design, Cottages & Gardens, Elle Decor, and Architectural Digest. Kohler is committed to ongoing investments in KOHLER WasteLAB research and development efforts to identify additional waste materials that can be repurposed for new products.

Innovation for Good®
Kohler’s Innovation for Good (IfG) initiative was established in 2011 as an internal innovation incubator for our associates to explore new business opportunities with a social purpose. The IfG incubator brings together associates from across Kohler to explore and develop products and solutions for pressing social and environmental issues, including safe water, sanitation, hygiene, and reliable power.