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Water footprint

Although GF’s operations are not generally water-intensive, it is a valuable resource used throughout the value chain. In addition, GF believes access to clean water and leak-free water transport is an urgent social issue. Therefore, the company is continually working to manage its water footprint in the most sustainable way.

From a manufacturing perspective, GF’s water consumption has a smaller impact on its environmental footprint than GHG emissions and waste generation, as most of its processes are not water intensive. Nonetheless, GF’s latest materiality analysis indicated that sustainably managing its water footprint is a growing priority for its stakeholders and customers24.

Water security score from CDP

In the 2021 CDP reporting cycle, GF retained its water security score of A– (Leadership level), which cemented its position as a sustainability leader.

In its Sustainability Framework, GF set a target to reduce the water intensity of its production sites that have significant annual water consumption and operate in water-scarce areas by 20% by 2025 compared to an average baseline from 2018–2020. A project team consisting of representatives from the corporate and divisional sustainability teams identified 14 GF production sites across all three divisions falling within the scope of this target. As in a previous analysis, GF used the World Resources Institute (WRI) water aqueduct tool to determine which of its facilities are located in water-stressed areas.

Water management

GF’s environmental management systems (EMSs) promote the efficient use of all resources and help its facilities to set objectives and targets (such as reducing water consumption) and then monitor their progress.

GF’s Corporate Environmental Policy lays out the company’s aim to continuously decrease water usage, especially in water-scarce areas, in addition to promoting water reuse and reducing wastewater discharge.

GF’s Code for Business Partners stipulates that business partners shall monitor and document their water consumption and quality to continuously improve their use of this natural resource. Business partners located in areas affected by water scarcity or water stress are also encouraged to economize their consumption and secure their existing and future water supplies. Additionally, GF’s business partners must implement more responsible water treatment and wastewater discharge procedures.

GF Piping Systems provides solutions in its product portfolio for optimal water management. Therefore, GF uses these solutions at its productions sites whenever feasible, such as the GF Piping Systems’ facility in Schaffhausen (Switzerland) and in the new plant in Yangzhou (China), where the process water cooling system is equipped with COOL-FIT. These solutions also have the wider benefit of helping GF’s customers to reduce their water footprint.

Water consumption of GF facilities

In general, GF’s production facilities do not consume large volumes of water and typically only use small amounts in closed-loop cycles for cooling purposes. However, water use is particularly high in upstream processes such as aluminum and plastic manufacturing.

GF’s facilities discharge the majority of their water as unpolluted water into natural systems (such as rivers) and the rest into municipal sewage systems. In addition, some of the facilities’ water evaporates during cooling processes. All sites comply with the applicable laws and regulations governing wastewater discharge. Furthermore, GF Casting Solutions’ sites also comply with specific additional wastewater-discharge requirements.

Water consumption
In 1’000 m³

Water intensity index
(water consumption per production volume25) in %

Across all facilities, GF’s total water consumption increased by 14% in 2021 compared to 2020. As GF’s overall production in 2020 was reduced due to COVID-19, water consumption was also lower during that year. Therefore, compared to the pre-COVID-19 year of 2019, GF’s total water consumption actually decreased by 5% in 2021. As in previous years, the majority (70%) of GF’s water supply came from ground and rain water.

To reduce their water consumption, the divisions are developing various conservation measures. For example, in 2021, a GF Casting Solutions site in Linamar (US) implemented a daily “closed-loop” water usage check in its maintenance department. This initiative enables the facility to monitor its production floor usage and fix any identified leaks. Due to the ramp-up phase, the new measure did not decrease water consumption in the year under review.

Target achievement: Water in water-stressed areas

For the strategy cycle 2025, GF set a goal to reduce water intensity by 20% in the areas with high water stress compared with the baseline. This target is binding for a total of 14 facilities across all three divisions.

Compared to the baseline (2018–2020 average), the water consumption of these facilities increased by 2%, which exceeds the target in the Sustainability Framework. Due to a significant leakage at a GF Casting Solutions site, its water consumption increased at a higher rate than its production volume and therefore its target was not achieved. The site successfully fixed the water leakage in the third quarter of 2021, but it was unable to compensate for the increase in consumption.

Nevertheless, some sites in water-stressed areas decreased their water usage through various initiatives and measures. For example, the GF Piping Systems site in Jawa Barat (Indonesia) has restricted its ground water consumption by installing limiters on its deep well pumps, recycling and reusing waste water, repairing a wall separator tank and launching a water balance program. Through these measures, the site reduced its ground water usage by 28% in 2021 compared to 2020.

24 The latest materiality assessment was conducted in mid-2019 and finalized during 2020. For detailed information about the assessment see the chapter: Topics of material importance.
25 GF’s divisions define production volume according to the nature of their particular business. GF Piping Systems defines it as “metric tonnes produced,” GF Casting Solutions as “gross value added” (operating income less the cost of materials and products, changes in inventory, and operating expenses), and GF Machining Solutions as “hours worked.”