Group Head of Sustainable Development, Mondi
Significant reliance on water has led the paper and pulp industry to focus on managing its impact on the resource, by reducing water use and increasing water recycling.
Fibre-based products like paper and pulp are dependent on trees and the manufacturing processes used require water.
As a result, packaging and paper companies are looking to align to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 to manage their water impacts accordingly.
“Water is a key natural resource,” explains Gladys Naylor, Group Head of Sustainable Development at Mondi. “We started by addressing the efficiency of our water use by trying to reuse water as many times as possible throughout the process. In water scarce areas we don’t just discharge water, but we loop it back in for further usage.”
Consumption versus use
The company distinguishes between water consumption, where water is required within the manufacturing process and a proportion retained within the product, and water use, where some water can be released back into the environment with negligible changes to its quality.
Of Mondi’s total water intake, 93% is returned to the environment.
“Water is very much a shared resource, so while we depend on it for our manufacturing processes, we are cognisant that other users need it too. We therefore invest significantly in our wastewater treatment infrastructure, enabling us to achieve an 18.4% reduction of emissions to water (measured as Chemical Oxygen Demand) over the last five years. We also provide wastewater treatment for some local communities, such as in Slovakia and Russia.”
Water is very much a shared resource, so while we depend on it for our manufacturing processes, we are cognisant that other users need it too.
Understanding different water contexts
Water efficiencies have proved particularly vital in areas where water is less readily available.
“We have operations in areas where water is plentiful and in areas with much lower availability,” says Naylor. “We need to understand these different contexts and take appropriate action. It is definitely not one size fits all when it comes to water.”
In areas prone to drought, Mondi works with other water users to manage supply across the catchment, be it by agreeing measures to reduce water use or by contributing to programmes, which improve water efficiency in other sectors.
A focus on shared responsibility to protect water helps the company ensure careful and responsible management of the resource, also known as water stewardship. The benefits of such an approach are many, according to Naylor.
“There is a direct economic benefit as more efficient use of water reduces operational costs. But longer term there will be even greater benefits as it begins to mitigate the risks of climate change.
“Having efficient practices in place now will minimise risks as water continues to come under pressure. The future cost of inaction is likely to be much higher than taking action now and collaboration is key for us to tackle global challenges.”
Last year, Mondi secured a place on CDP’s ‘Triple A List’ for tackling climate change as well as acting to protect forests and water security. From a field of 5,800+, they are one of only 10 companies worldwide recognised for global environmental leadership.