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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Design Takes Center Stage in Kohler Co.’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy

We have set bold sustainability goals and worked to understand the gaps we need to fill and the impacts we can make based on our business and expertise. We’re guided on this path by our Design for Environment program, which takes into account the full life-cycle of our products.

As scientists continue to forecast ever more disastrous effects of climate change, Kohler Co. — like so many manufacturers — is grappling with what a resource-restricted future might look like for the company, its suppliers, its customers and the communities it touches around the world. For Kohler, this means going beyond our actions to achieve net-zero emissions by 2035 across global operations, and to integrate its environmental sustainability strategy into the design and manufacture of our products. We’re reimagining our contribution to a better planet by paying uncompromised attention to delivering beautifully designed and engineered products that don’t harm the environment.

Design for Environment

Despite the profound impact the pandemic has had on the world, most experts believe that climate change remains the single biggest threat to the health of the planet and people. As a global manufacturer of plumbing and energy products, we are hyper-focused on improving our environmental footprint across our operations and ensuring our products help people reduce their own impact on the planet. This is where Design for Environment (DfE) comes in. DfE is a data-driven decision-making tool that enables us to understand the environmental impact of our products and rethink design aspects accordingly, by taking into account the full life-cycle of our products — including impacts across our suppliers, Kohler operations, consumer use and end of life. This includes looking at energy and water use, waste and material health. DfE enables us to continue to produce high-performing, beautifully designed products that are more environmentally friendly.

To make this truly effective, we’re empowering our operations and product development teams with the necessary tools to make DfE a normal course of business — by bringing its practices into key decision-making regarding products, processes and experiences.

KOHLER WasteLAB™: A Success Story

While DfE has led to many innovations across the business, perhaps the most noteworthy example can be seen in the work of the KOHLER WasteLAB.

Using DfE methodology, we explored the usefulness of our manufacturing waste streams, looking to nature as a model for sustainable processes. This led the team to realize that within nature’s cycles of growth and decay, waste simply doesn’t exist. The WasteLAB grew out of the decision to apply the systems we see in nature to our manufacturing process.

Rather than look at leftovers from manufacturing processes as waste only suited for a landfill, we began to see value in it as a source for new products. This led to the development of the Crackle Collection — a decorative tile line created in partnership with ANN SACKS® that launched in 2019.

And the work of WasteLAB didn’t stop there: The team is currently hard at work exploring a variety of viable products and waste streams, including how to convert wastewater sludge.

50L Home: A look to the future

While we’re making strides toward our environmental goals, we recognize that we can’t act alone. Ultimately, it will take a collaborative effort from organizations across a variety of public and private sectors worldwide to ensure the health of our planet. That’s why Kohler became a founding member of the 50L Home — an international coalition of companies, civil society organizations, intergovernmental organizations, local governments and knowledge leaders, with experience and expertise in addressing water scarcity and urban water issues.

Along with Kohler, Procter & Gamble, Electrolux and others have taken up this challenge — to reimagine domestic water consumption globally by reducing average per-person, per-day home water use from as much as 220L in some regions down to 50L.

At Kohler, the 50L Home challenge will be an opportunity for us to drive meaningful innovation in the space of next-generation water-efficiency solutions without compromising a great user experience.

Kohler’s operating philosophy is based on the belief that our best can always be better: better for the lives we touch, better for communities, better for the planet, and better for business. We have set bold environmental sustainability goals and put in the hard work of understanding the gaps we need to fill and the impacts we can make based on our business and expertise. We’re guided on this path by DfE and are prioritizing ways to manufacture products that have minimal impact on the environment. We are engaging our associates worldwide in this journey and focused on how we can reach the milestones in our sustainability strategy, together. And more importantly, we’re doing this while continuing to delight our consumers with the quality products the Kohler name has been associated with since 1873.