Looking after water

Water is essential to so many of our operations across our seven businesses. It’s a resource that we share with the communities we operate in, so we are responsible for using water efficiently and fairly. What’s more, climate change affects water scarcity at some of our sites.

We manage the amount of water we abstract, we closely monitor water use in our operations and ensure we dispose of wastewater responsibly too. Across ABF Ingredients, we have reduced the amount of water abstracted by 28% between 2017 and 2021.

Across our sites, we’re accelerating the pace of our water efficiencies. Part of this includes reducing how much water we use in the first place and how we responsibly return water to the natural watercourse. Our customers are looking for ways to reduce their water demand too. We’re finding ways to help them use less water in their manufacturing processes across their applications, from textile dyeing to wafer batters.

Monitoring and reducing water use

All our sites monitor how much water they use. Without these benchmarks, we can't see when our efforts to improve efficiencies are working. We challenge our teams to find ways to improve efficiencies, including recirculating water. Using the WWF Water Risk Filter Tool, we have identified sites operating in water stress areas through work with our parent company, Associated British Foods plc. Those sites have action plans to address specific aspects of the stress in their local areas.

The SPI Pharma site in India operates in a high water-stressed region. It’s imperative to conserve as much water as possible by harvesting rainwater and not drawing on water needlessly.

The PGP site in California has also committed to implementing water conservation projects. A cross-functional team reviews factory processes and identifies efficiency opportunities, focussing on process water, sanitation, and landscaping irrigation. Water use data is regularly published internally so that employees can see the impact of their efforts, and water use is discussed during the shift change-over meetings.

ABITEC has significantly reduced their water consumption. They’ve reduced the amount of water required to cool chemical reactors by investing in heat exchangers. Coupled with a distributed control system, ABITEC has controlled the rate of flow to allow more heat to be absorbed by the water, saving about 53,000m3 per year.

Reducing wastewater and protecting water quality

Returning as much water as possible to natural watercourses by treating our wastewater helps sustain local supplies. Throughout our operations, we monitor the oxygen demand of wastewater effluent to manage water quality and protect precious ecosystems. At the SPI Pharma site in France, infrastructure and technology investments have improved the tracking of wastewater management systems.

At our AB Enzymes factory in Finland, engineers recognised that cleaning specialist machinery accounted for 85% of the wastewater produced. The team has achieved water savings and wastewater reductions through changes powered by technology, software modifications, and reprogramming cleaning sequences. The project also reduced chemical levels in the wastewater by 50% by improving recirculation processes and switching to more effective washing agents. The factory also provides wastewater sludge from its manufacturing processes to create biogas, a renewable energy source. Through this process, AB Enzymes is working towards a closed-loop approach in its operations.