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Water Management

Water is a critical resource that we rely upon to produce our products and keep equipment clean and safe, as well as being a necessary element of our products’ performance. In 2022, we launched a Global Water Procedure for water management in alignment with our We Care Commitment, which directs us to act sustainably and share responsibility for the care of planetary systems.

In 2023, we have made progress in standardizing definitions and implementing new controls, with a goal to fully implement the Global Water Procedure at all manufacturing sites by 2024. Our global operational footprint includes areas of geographical water stress, and we operate in countries with a wide variety of regulations around wastewater management and water conservation. By developing and deploying a global standard, we can maintain our own high standards of practice which, in many locations, exceed the expected level of management.

In all Whirlpool sites, we measure water intake from municipal sources, surface water extraction, groundwater extraction and rainwater harvesting. We also monitor water discharge and water reused after treatment when this is a practice at a site. Flow meters are used to track the water withdrawal and discharge from all sources. Bills from the municipality are also used to check volumes to or from municipal sources. Some sites have already implemented meters at the process level, which allows the calculation of water demand by process and better investigation of water losses and process inefficiencies.

Water Intensity Goal

Reduce water intensity by 3% every year in our plants.

In 2023, each manufacturing site mapped their water consumption processes and developed a site-specific water balance, identifying the meters currently in place and, most importantly, the areas where we lack measurement. Our goal is to increase the number of meters at the process level at our manufacturing sites.

Measuring Water Intensity

As a KPI, we track water intensity, as measured by water consumed per major appliance produced in our operations, to determine the efficiency of our manufacturing process. In alignment with the WCM Environmental pillar, we work to eliminate losses and improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process to use the least amount of water possible. Over the past five years, our global water intensity was reduced by 12%. Despite being below the target for the period (15%), this represents an impressive reduction, especially considering the decrease in production volumes during the period, which negatively impact the intensity KPIs. We plan to reset the water intensity target baseline in 2024 to align with current production volume baselines.

Progress on CEO Water Mandate

As part of the UN Global Compact, the CEO Water Mandate is a commitment to water stewardship across six areas: direct operations, supply chain, collective action, public policy, community engagement and transparency. Whirlpool is a signatory of this effort and has been undertaking key actions to make progress in these areas, including conducting routine comprehensive water-use assessments and setting targets for our operations related to reducing water intensity in our plants. We also include water sustainability considerations in our business decision-making, investigating opportunities for implementation. Our water management efforts extend to local communities through our support of 100 priority basins, and we plan to further increase our support of project priorities.

Drinking Water and Sanitation in Operations

In our facilities, we also manage drinking water, which typically comes from municipalities and is regulated at the local government level to comply with all potability standards. We also provide fully functioning, safely managed water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to all workers. Whenever there is a reason to question the quality of potable water, sites must perform tests from representative locations throughout the facility.

Whirlpool achieved a 12% reduction in water intensity in the past five years and plans to continue to evolve our water strategy, including setting new targets that encompass the new production volume baseline and water stress analyses.

Wastewater Treatment and Reuse

Whirlpool acknowledges the potential adverse impact of wastewater and potential pollutants on water ecosystems and therefore continually improves our process, equipment and methods using new technologies and insight to mitigate that potential impact. For example, over the past few years, many sites have upgraded their metal conversion processes from phosphating to nanoceramic. We track the use of hazardous chemical substances and plan to continue reducing or phasing out hazardous chemical substances, where possible, through a chemical prioritization methodology. Prioritized chemicals are evaluated for potential replacement on a continuous cycle.

Each Whirlpool site must have a robust emergency prevention and response plan that is audited by technical experts internally and by third parties. We track compliance with permit limits through our global software Gensuite. To the extent exceedances are reported, the site team is required to investigate and implement appropriate countermeasures to address and prevent against recurrence.

All industrial and sanitary discharges from Whirlpool Corp. manufacturing facilities are either treated on site or sent for external treatment, depending on the facility and local legal requirements. Whirlpool Corp. sites define internal control limits to guide treatment efficiency, which are more stringent than regulatory requirements. When we discharge water to a municipality, Whirlpool Corp. monitors and takes steps to meet all conditions of the permit to discharge. When we treat sanitary discharge internally, sites comply with regulatory requirements. If we violate requirements, we report, investigate and take action to ensure exceedances don’t happen again. In some sites, we’ve made additional investments in water treatment technology so that we can reuse water on site. Our sites in India, for example, reuse 100% of the industrial and sanitary wastewater treated on site for gardening and in toilets. Our Celaya site in Mexico also reuses 100% of the sanitary wastewater treated on site for gardening.