Water is a vital resource that is essential for both humans and the environment. 

Water – The coffee and cotton we grow and the products we manufacture mean that we are partially responsible for water pollution and water scarcity. In many parts of the world, traditional coffee and cotton farming requires vast amounts of water, as well as fertilisers and pesticides. Textile manufacture – most notably the dyeing, washing, printing and finishing of fabrics – pollutes the effluent with chemicals, which in many cases is not adequately filtered. 
 
Our water conservation efforts are underpinned by three specific programmes: the Detox programme for better chemicals management, water stewardship activities to conserve water in critical river basins around our production sites, and the WASH programme, which provides access to clean drinking water. 

Our water conservation efforts are underpinned by three programmes 

DETOX – improving chemicals management 

2014 haben wir uns öffentlich verpflichtet, gefährliche Chemikalien aus den textilen Lieferketten zu verbannen.
Um das zu erreichen, setzen wir dabei auf vier Ebenen an:

Product development – We eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals right from the start, when we develop our products. For example, the tanning process used for our leather products is 100% chrome-free. This protects the environment, the health of the people making our leather products and the health of our customers. The Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) includes all the chemicals that must not be used in the production of our products.  
 
Monitoring – In addition to helping our wet-processing suppliers analyse their effluent, we also help them to review their chemical inventories and substitute any hazardous substances with more environmentally friendly alternatives. Our pilot project with BHive currently allows 30 factories to access an innovative app that can scan and analyse chemical inventories via a digital platform. This allows them to address the use of dangerous chemicals right from the start of the production process. 
 
Training - As part of a strategic alliance with REWE Group and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), we have developed a comprehensive training programme that provides mentoring for factories over eight months. To date, 51 suppliers have participated in the training programme.  
In 2020, the programme was further expanded to become Advanced Chemical Management Training (ACMT) under the Alliance for Sustainable Textiles and was introduced in China, Bangladesh and Turkey. 
 
Cross-sector engagement – As a member of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals initiative (ZDHC), we are working to find cross-sector solutions to eliminate hazardous chemicals in the manufacturing process and, in so doing, protect the environment and people’s health.

Our achievements to date with the Detox programme: 

99 %

We have identified wet-processing factories for 99% of our textile products.

67 %

of these factories have provided effluent tests.

80 %

of our textile products are sourced from Detox-certified wet-processing units.

39 %

of our factories created an inventory list to enable the chemicals they use to be checked for MRSL-compliance at an early stage.

WATER STEWARDSHIP – promoting more responsible practices in critical river basins

Together with WWF, we promote the water stewardship approach, which seeks to promote the socially just, environmentally friendly yet economically viable use of water resources. The underlying idea is that all stakeholders in a river basin that is under threat from environmental pollution work together to find solutions to water problems. 

In 2018, we identified which river basins are particularly impacted by the manufacture of our products. We then embarked on specific projects in the areas surrounding Lake Taihu in China and the Büyük Menderes River in Turkey. 

Taihu River Basin in China

The Taihu River Basin is highly significant for Tchibo, as the wet-processing plants that are based there are responsible for two-thirds of the products we manufacture in China, and the region has a high water risk according to WWF’s Water Risk Filter. The aim of the project is to improve the condition of this river basin. To date, 72 Tchibo suppliers have participated in the project. 

Büyük Menderes in Turkey

The Büyük Menderes is one of the most heavily polluted rivers in Turkey. The river is home to 40% of Turkey's leather production, 60% of its textile production for export and 14% of its cotton production. Biodiversity in this river basin is in sharp decline, water levels are falling and water quality is deteriorating. We have been involved in this project since 2019 and are focusing on more sustainable cotton farming in the region. 

‘Tchibo is the first German textile company to make a serious commitment to water stewardship. The company’s work in vulnerable river basins is a key milestone on the journey towards more sustainable water management.’

JOHANNES SCHMIESTER, WWF

WASH – providing access to clean drinking water 

People need water – water for drinking, for sanitation and for hygiene (WASH). Right now, some 2.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water and 4.3 billion people have no safe sanitation facilities. Ethiopia is one of the countries hardest hit by water problems. 
This is where the Tchibo WASH project comes in. The project saw Tchibo working alongside local non-profit organisation Buna Qela Charity to build two wells in a coffee-growing region that is home to our organic coffee. The wells feature solar pumps, supplying water to more than 2,000 families.  

In addition to building wells, training will be provided for more than 600 households, students and teachers in 2021, focusing on hygiene and safety on coffee farms (COVID-19). Ten sanitation facilities will be built in schools, offices and training centres and 1,500 people will be provided with hygiene care packages.  

MORE INFORMED – reducing water consumption in coffee farming 

During the dry season in particular, coffee plants in Vietnam are irrigated artificially, leading to increased water scarcity at a time when it is already very dry. The impact of climate change, rising temperatures and decreased rainfall will further exacerbate this problem. In order to reduce water consumption by coffee growers in Vietnam, we have therefore joined a scientific project run by the agricultural research organisations CIRAD and ICRAF, which is investigating whether and to what extent water consumption can be reduced without compromising the yield of the coffee plant.