More than just recycling: sustainability at CWS
At CWS, we are working for a healthier, safer tomorrow - every day. The approach: to offer products as a service as part of the circular economy, focusing on long durability, reparability and sensible recycling at the end of life. The declared goal: CWS wants to become the most sustainable company in the industry by 2024. To achieve this, the full strength of the "circular economy" business model is to be utilised: in addition to saving resources in the processes, the main focus is on the development of more sustainable products and the testing of new end-of-life concepts as well. The company's own sustainability film shows in an appealing way what this can look like:
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - three important factors of the CWS sustainability strategy. Here is a short and exemplary overview:
Become more hygienic with fewer resources - hand in hand for the future of hygiene
As early as summer 2019, up to 90 percent water and 60 percent soap can be saved during a handwashing process thanks to the CWS SmartWash sensor fitting. It dispenses a pre-prepared mixture of water and soap for the contact-free handwashing process: First, the hands are moistened, followed by a water-soap mixture, and after the hands have been soaped, they are rinsed with clear water. Pre-portioning results in the corresponding savings without compromising hygiene. More hygiene by using less resources: No washing process can take place without soap.
Fire extinguishers - safety in everyday life
CWS Fire Safety is an expert in preventive fire protection. Fire extinguishers are an effective tool in the initial extinguishing of incipient fires. But what happens when the fire extinguisher has been used or needs to be refilled according to the test? It can easily be refilled with water, extinguishing powder or extinguishing foam. In this way, the individual fire extinguisher is not simply discarded and recycled, but can continue to serve the purpose of firefighting.
The second life of the plastic bottle: A new workwear jacket is created
It's the inner values that matter: At CWS Workwear, the proportion of sustainable and thus recyclable materials will be increased by 90 percent by 2024. One example of this development is the CWS Workwear collection "Pro Line": the polyester content in the clothing is made from used PET bottles and industrial plastic waste instead of newly extracted crude oil. Up to 34 bottles are ultimately recycled in a single garment. In addition, Fairtrade cotton is used alongside the recycled polyester. This is already being used in over a million pieces.
Find out here how CWS commits to sustainability
Sustainability in hand washing
Handwashing is one of the most important preventive measures to avoid infection with infectious diseases such as COVID19. At the same time, water is one of the most valuable resources and one of the most important foundations of life. So how can infection prevention and environmental protection be combined?
Before cooking and eating, after going to the toilet, sneezing, coughing or blowing one’s nose, when using public transport and of course every time we come home - even as children we learn how important thorough handwashing is for our health. With the Corona pandemic, awareness of this has risen once again - after all, hand hygiene is one of the most important measures to protect oneself against infection with the virus.
However, those who wash their hands more often also use more water. This is shown, among other things, by the billing data of the German energy service provider Techem. According to these data, consumption of cold water in March and April 2020 was 10% higher than in the previous year, while consumption of hot water rose by as much as 11%. Other suppliers have made similar experiences - at Lake Starnberg the regional water supplier even registered an increase of 30 % in the first weeks of the lockdown. Whether this is due solely to the washing of hands cannot be determined and is also rather unlikely. In reality, however, we use more water for personal hygiene than, for example, for washing clothes or for eating or drinking.
Water consumption - we have it in our hands!
Every time we wash our hands, we consume an average of 2 litres of drinking water. In other words, the water we use for 90 hand washes is enough to fill an entire bathtub. Saving water when washing your hands is very easy - even in your private life: turning off the water after wetting your hands and turning it on again only after soaping them is good for the environment - and saves money in the process.
Another advantage could - according to one theory at least - be that if you turn off the water when soaping, you wash your hands more thoroughly because you are less hurried and more concentrated.
In public washrooms, the CWS SmartWash can ensure both improved hygiene and water savings: the tap dispenses water and soap premixed to the user, thus ensuring that soap is used every time hands are washed with the appliance. Preset dispensing intervals ensure that users wash their hands thoroughly and take the time to soap, rub and rinse. With the CWS SmartWash, only around 200 millilitres of water are used per hand wash cycle.
Any washroom operator who decides in favour of SmartWash is making a long-term commitment: as a special feature, CWS and its partner Smixin donate 10,000 litres of water to Made Blue for every CWS SmartWash rented, which replaces a regular sensor tap. The foundation invests this in water projects in countries with severe water shortages. In this case, 10,000 litres is enough to provide 10 children with access to clean wa ter at school for a whole year.
Earth Overshoot Day 2020
On August 22, the resources of our world for this year ended!
In terms of figures, the resources of our world ended for this year on 22 August 2020. This is because mankind has used up all the natural resources that planet Earth can regenerate within one year. From then on, the world will live at the expense of future generations. This is marked by Earth Overshoot Day, which is calculated annually by the Global Footprint Network.
Because the economy came to a virtual standstill during the corona pandemic, Earth Overshoot Day is taking place much later this year than in previous years. This shows that we can save resources if we have to. We are convinced that this is the right way for a company with growth targets even outside a crisis. At CWS, we are committed to a more sustainable use of our resources every day. To this end, we work according to the principles of recycling management: we use sustainable materials and recycled polyester for our workwear, for example. We develop our products in such a way that they have a long service life. And we keep them alive for a long time, for example by repairing mats and dispensers. As part of the wear2wear™ initiative, we have jointly developed a jacket that can be almost completely recycled. In this way our products help save valuable resources. Because every contribution counts - for a healthier and safer tomorrow.
Hygiene - Seeing the big picture
Around 80 per cent of all infectious diseases are transmitted via our hands – and that isn’t just since COVID-19. Proper handwashing can almost halve the infection rate. We launched the CWS SmartWash mixing system on the market back in the summer of last year. It functions completely without contact and measures out the water and soap required in advance. As such, its use not only helps prevent the spreading of infectious diseases, but also makes it possible to reduce water consumption by up to 90 per cent.
Just one of the developments with which CWS’ Hygiene division is realigning its core business to a sustainable future. Sustainability and complete solutions go hand in hand here. The focus is no longer on selling individual products, but rather on the complete furnishing of public washrooms: from soap dispensers to cotton towel rolls right up to toilet seat disinfection, we design tailored all-round solutions – for nurseries, for example.
We have also declared war on microplastics this year. Critically inspecting and improving all of our cosmetics products allows us to avoid 31 tons of microplastics every year. “We often discover that obvious solutions in particular deliver very positive effects. You just need the courage to look for such solutions specifically and then implement them consistently,” said Frank Reisgies, General Manager Hygiene Core Business. Further information on all aspects of CWS’ sustainable solutions and the answer to the question of what role simple corn cob meal plays in all of this can be found in the in-depth interview with Frank Reisgies in our Sustainability Report.
Workwear - The complete cycle
Sustainable materials such as Fairtrade cotton have been a standard feature of our own collections for a long time now already. In 2019, we introduced almost 300,000 items of clothing made from Fairtrade cotton onto the market. But we want more! Our Workwear division is now taking the next logical step with workwear and protective clothing that is 100% recyclable. CWS has been a main member of the industry association wear2wear™ since 2019. The partner companies design and produce completely recyclable clothing together.
With the triad of sustainable production, durability and recycling, the Workwear division is now all set for the future. In the case of the rEvolution Hybrid outdoor jacket, the three components have already come together in perfect harmony. As one of the first of its kind in the whole world, it passes through the entire textile recycling circle. Made from old clothes and recycled PET, it can be completely recycled again after use.
If the rEvolution Hybrid is used in our range, this will work as follows: We supply the jacket to the customer in the scope of the rental scheme. It is worn, washed and repaired until it reaches the end of its useful service life – then it starts its journey all over again.
Those eager to discover more about this never-ending journey can find all the answers in our Sustainability Report. We have also included information on how we save resources when selecting materials and what tests our collections must pass with flying colours to ensure that our workwear and protective clothing doesn’t only protect the people wearing it.
More colourful and better: diversity and inclusion at CWS
Diversity and inclusion are a matter of great discussion throughout society. CWS is also actively working to strengthen diversity within the company. After CWS put the topic of diversity & inclusion on the management agenda internally, the company already took the next logical step: CWS signed the "Diversity Charter" in Germany. All other country organisations will follow. This is an official commitment by CWS to consistently promote diversity and inclusion throughout the company.
"We want to create a working environment in which every single person, regardless of their gender, age, nationality, religion, disability or sexual orientation, is valued and can play to their full strengths. I am convinced that diversity is a good breeding ground for innovation and top performance," Jürgen Höfling had recently emphasised in his interview in the employee magazine ONE.
This process is driven by the Diversity & Inclusion Council - CWS understands diversity as the integration of different perspectives, i.e. across all aspects of diversity. This is not about quotas or rules, but rather about valuing every single perspective.
The three pillars of our engagement
With our products and services we think in sustainable cycles. But we want more. Because comprehensive sustainability is not only evident in products and processes, but also in healthy employees, trusting cooperation with business partners, and satisfied customers. This is why we have defined three pillars of sustainability through which we want to become the most sustainable company in our industry by 2024.
Putting People First!
Our staff are our most valuable asset. Their health and safety is a matter particularly close to our heart. We want to reduce the number of accidents in our companies to zero by 2025. We also look out for the well-being of the people in our supplier companies too by stringently monitoring the safety of our supply chain.
We are already consistently thinking in cycles in many parts of the company. But that’s not enough for us! In future, we want to render our cycle processes even more efficient and anchor recycling and upcycling as central components of our economic activities. This will allow us to save resources and establish a sustainable service cycle for our customers.
As a service company, we are always on the lookout for partners who improve our offerings. We regularly survey our customers and employees. We understand the diversity of our workforce as a rich source of knowledge, which we maintain and want to expand even further in the future. In addition, we cooperate with start-ups, technical development partners and advisory boards – this enables us to stay close to the market and bolster innovations.
What we achieved in 2019
Putting People First!
- 85% of our staff with permanent contracts
- 36,000 hrs of training
- 48% female employees
- 18% women in management positions
- 93.8% of suppliers from risk countries audited
- 57,664 repaired and recycled dispensers in our Upcycling Center
- 300,000 items of clothing with Fairtrade cotton
- 2.3 million items of clothing repaired in Germany
- 31,000 kg microplastics saved
- 2,294 service drivers
- 14,648 customers surveyed
- 180,000 tons of laundry washed
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
Sustainability for tomorrow
At CWS, we are working every day for a healthier and safer future. In our efforts, we are guided by the official sustainability goals of the United Nations, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN has defined a total of 17 political development goals, which are divided into the three areas of economy, ecology and social affairs. This division is intended to ensure that all relevant levels of sustainability are given equal consideration. We at CWS support this holistic approach with a wide range of activities.
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
At CWS, we are convinced that diversity is a crucial component of a dynamic, productive corporate culture and enriches each and every one of our teams. That is why we work strategically with our Diversity Board to promote diversity throughout the company.
Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
Clean water is indispensable for the health of people and our planet. That is why we take a variety of measures to reduce the use of environmentally harmful chemicals in washing processes and minimise our consumption of fresh water wherever possible. For example, we
- harmonise our detergent suppliers
- invest in waste water treatment
- employ resource-saving washing programmes
- advance product innovations (for example SmartWash)
- replace microplastics in our products with natural alternatives
Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
For us, it’s all about people. That's why we work just as hard to ensure the satisfaction of our employees as we do to satisfy our customers. We verify that social standards in the supply chain and compliance rules are observed and upheld. We encourage diversity in our workforce and promote the talent, health and safety of all those who work for us. Examples of our engagement include:
- QESH organisation within CWS (Quality, Environment, Safety & Health)
- Diversity Board within CWS
- Use of Fairtrade cotton
- BSCI partnership (Business Social Compliance Initiative)
- United Nations Global Compact membership (UNGC)
Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns
Our business model is based on the idea of an integrated and consistent circular economy. We are constantly working on making our products more and more sustainable while maintaining the same performance and extending their service lives while maintaining consistent quality. Following the circularity approach, we consider the entire life cycle during development:
- Rental service as the core of our business model
- Repair of garments, recycling of our dispensers
- Activity in the initiative wear2wear™
- Use of Fairtrade cotton and FSC paper
- Organic certifications
- Cradle2Cradle certification
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
We are actively involved in the fight against climate change. We are continuously reducing our CO2 emissions and energy consumption. With our cycle-based business model, we also help to conserve other resources:
- Cooperation with ClimatePartner (climate neutral certification of printed material, reforestation projects with customers)
- Innovative products (such as SmartWash)
- Resource-saving washing processes
- Optimisation tool "Optimize My Day” for our delivery routes
- Expansion of e-mobility
Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
The health of our environment depends on intact ecosystems. With our sustainable products and varied efforts along the value chain, we contribute to protecting life on land in our ecosystem.
- Cooperation with ClimatePartner (climate neutral certification of printed material, reforestation projects with customers)
- Organic certifications
- FSC certifications (over 90% of our papers are FSC-certified or come from sustainable resources)
Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
At CWS, we always see the big picture. With sustainable products, we can create added value for the customer and, at the same time, promote positive development for people and the environment. We also take a close look at our supply chains and work to achieve fair working conditions and minimum environmental impact.
- UN Global Compact membership
- Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) membership
- Cooperation with World Toilet Organization
- Cooperation with Made Blue
An all-encompassing offering
One for all.
Many people are familiar with our dust control mats, as well as our towel and soap dispensers. But at CWS, we also optimise your washroom, create fire safety concepts, as well as designing and cleaning business attire. These are just some of our solutions and your possibilities. We work for people in a wide variety of industries, advising, planning, checking, repairing, sorting, washing, documenting, etc. We do it with pleasure. And in a sustainable way.