Sustainable Lifestyles and Corporate Responsibility

Why consumers, companies and governments need to work together to save scarce resources like water

Eva Sieburg

Eva Sieburg
Hansgrohe SE JLT Branch
Email: eva.sieburg@hansgrohe.com

Whenever people have access to ubiquitous goods, they don’t feel the need to conserve them. Water? We are surrounded by the ocean; 71% of the planet’s surface is covered with water! Electricity? Just use the power plug! Food? Throw the leftovers, hospitality is expressed in excess!

In places where a few pennies buy us anything, we tend to forget that the cost of these resources is far greater than the amount written on the bill. But it is time to focus on the consequences of our actions, to improve the quality of our own lives and ensure that our children and generations to come don’t pay for our debt.

Only about 2.5% of the global water supply is fresh water and about 800 million people live without access to clean water. We might assume that this is not our problem but of people living in the developing world. Far from it, water scarcity should be a concern for anyone and saving water a responsibility of everyone.

In a poll conducted by the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), 84.5% of the Emirati respondents agreed that water is wasted in the United Arab Emirates. Therefore, it’s hardly news that the country has one of the highest water consumptions globally, despite the fact that MENA is one of the most arid regions in the world.

With an average per capita consumption of 500 liters a day, residents of the UAE need around 82 percent more than the global average or consume three times as much as citizens of the European Union. Tendency: increasing. According to the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi (EAD), underground water resources will be exhausted within 50 years as they replenish at a much slower pace than they are depleted, not to mention the radioactive contamination of certain sources.

Desalination comes to mind. But unfortunately this process is very expensive: Until 2016, GCC governments are going to spend more than US$ 100bn on improving facilities. In addition, the past decades have had a strong negative impact on the salinity levels of the Arabian Gulf. Pointing out a problem is easy; the question is, how we can work together to solve these pressing issues?

More than 70% of water consumption in the UAE is attributed to agriculture and watering parklands. Governmental bodies have been driving various campaigns and initiatives to address this matter, introducing efficiency measures like enhanced irrigation systems, leakage control or the re-use of treated sewage water.

Still, there is a lot of saving potential in tourism, other industries and the public sector as well as in private households

First of all, it is about self-evaluation: Do I really need every drop of water that I am consuming on a daily basis? Do I need the tab running while brushing my teeth? Can I not switch off the shower while soaping my back? Do I gain any real comfort – or is it just my mere laziness that turns me into a prodigal? Second, it is about smart choices. Looking at a good, should the purchase decision be based on the price tag or on the quality, eventually the sustainability of the product?

In April, the Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council (QCC) stated, that only one third of all water consumed in the Emirate passes through water-saving fixtures. In Abu Dhabi, 64 billion liters of water could be saved annually, if all fixtures in kitchens and bathrooms were to be upgraded.

In German there is a saying: “We are too poor to afford cheap”. And sometimes a cheap product will make the consumer pay dearly in terms of consumption costs. To illustrate these costs, Hansgrohe has developed an online and mobile Savings Calculator (http://www.hansgrohe-middleeast.com/1870.htm) allowing the end-consumer to estimate – based on their personal household consumption –, what a difference it makes to use smart green technologies versus a conventional faucet or shower. Sometimes just installing a little aerator is enough to generate a huge saving on CO2 emissions, water, electricity and money.

But Hansgrohe’s responsibility as a manufacturer of sanitary fittings does not stop at creating awareness in benefit of the customer’s pocket. The Hansgrohe Research and Development teams have always been working on new ways to make the production process as well as the products more sustainable while keeping comfort levels high.

The two green technologies Hansgrohe started developing in the late 1980s are called EcoSmart and AirPower. EcoSmart is based on a sophisticated water dimmer integrated into the shower or faucet that reduces the water flow from 14.5 Liter/min to 9 Liter/min in hand showers and 13.5 Liter/min to 5 Liter/min in faucets. The “Precision O-ring” reacts flexibly to variations in water pressure maintaining a constant flow rate. But just limiting the water flow would mean reduced shower pleasure. Therefore, Hansgrohe came up with the AirPower technology, the technology that mixes water with air, using the Venturi effect. This way, the overall volume is increased again and the water flow is rich and soft, which prevents splashing.

These examples of advanced German innovation and engineering derive from a green DNA that has always been intrinsic to Hansgrohe. Ever since Hans Grohe founded his company in 1901 in a little village in the Black Forest, the Grohe family has been very much concerned about the impact of its enterprise on the environment and the society. In the early nineteen nineties, a solar power plant was installed on the roof of the Offenburg factory, next to a cutting-edge solar tower, to provide for all electricity needed to lighten the production facility. And since 2004 Hansgrohe has been publishing an annual sustainability report, which can be downloaded from the company’s website.

In 2009, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology selected Hansgrohe as a supplier and the company will present its bathroom and kitchen products in the Estidama-compliant Eco Home showcase at the World Future Energy 2014 Summit for the second time. In April this year, Dirk Schilmoeller, Sales Director Hansgrohe Middle East was invited to speak at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Quality Forum to discuss global and develop regional industry standards. Furthermore, in 2012 Hansgrohe introduced the Axor Starck Organic mixer, a revolutionary faucet that consumes only 3.5 liters of water per minute.

Hansgrohe is driven by the idea to make a sustainable lifestyle affordable and easy. And with a green corporate identity, we are very pleased to see that regional governments are establishing new systems to rate the ecofriendliness of products to give the consumer orientation and guidelines.

At the moment, most initiatives have a strong local focus, though. We would like to see more cooperation on a federal – and eventually a regional level. Protecting the environment, saving water, is a matter without boundaries, it concerns private and corporate consumers, citizens of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and every other country in the MENA region. Let’s join forces to be smart about our present and future.

At the moment, most initiatives have a strong local focus, though. We would like to see more cooperation on a federal – and eventually a regional level. Protecting the environment, saving water, is a matter without boundaries, it concerns private and corporate consumers, citizens of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and every other country in the MENA region. Let’s join forces to be smart about our present and future.

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