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Focusing on our resource consumption

Photo: A woman wearing gloves standing at a machine holding a mirror tile.

Saving water. Reducing paper consumption. Avoiding waste.

In addition to Energy there are other resources that we use in our work and that we want to protect. Resource consumption is an important issue for us and is part of our materiality analysis. We continually strive to conserve resources, focusing in particular on water, paper and waste. We explain our strategy in the section Environmental management at GIZ.

Saving water

We were able to reduce our water consumption in Germany by 7 per cent in 2021 compared with the previous year. Per capita consumption was also down by 7 per cent, falling to 5,198 litres per employee in 2021. However, the change in working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic makes comparisons with previous years more difficult, and that in turn makes it hard for us to gauge the success of the steps we have taken to foster sustainability. Water consumption was about 40 per cent down on 2019. We lowered the water pressure in the kitchen areas and toilets and installed water-saving fittings, aerators on taps and low-flush buttons on toilets in almost all our buildings. However, for some time now it has been mandatory under the Drinking Water Regulation to flush water pipes at regular intervals. This reduces the impact of these measures.

In many of our partner countries, water is a rare asset that requires special protection. This makes it extremely important to use water economically. The data on water consumption in GIZ’s country offices has continued to improve over recent years. Collecting it is nevertheless particularly complex, and our figures are still incomplete – sometimes because meters are defective or inaccurate and sometimes because there are no water meters at all. Furthermore, we record only the consumption of tap water, not bottled drinking water. This is only included in the figures where water canisters replace tap water. In African countries in particular (e.g. Ghana and Nigeria), wells are also used as a source of water. This consumption is not measured.

Collecting data on water consumption is crucial to introducing well targeted measures. For examples, rising consumption figures enabled GIZ’s sustainability team in Cambodia to detect a leaking water pipe. Repairing it helped save 7,500 m3 of water in 2021.

All in all, the data we do have allows us to conclude the following: in 2021 water consumption outside Germany was 20 per cent lower than in 2020. At 19,127 litres per employee, per capita consumption in 2021 was 24 per cent down on the 2019 figure.

Total drinking water consumption
per employee in litres (Germany)

Total drinking water consumption per employee in litres (Germany)1

Total drinking water consumption
per employee in litres (abroad)

Total drinking water consumption per employee in litres (abroad) 1

Reducing paper consumption

Paper is an essential resource that we use every day in the office. While it is not always possible to dispense with paper entirely, we have significantly reduced consumption worldwide and are constantly working to reduce it further. By 2025 the volume of paper used for printing in Germany is to be cut by 30 per cent, while a target of 40 per cent has been set for outside Germany.

Further falls in consumption figures are expected as a result of the digitalisation of work processes, introduction of the e-procurement system and the growing number of paperless events. GIZ is particularly committed to gradually digitalising document processing. Since October 2021, documents for internal use – apart from exceptions required by law – have been handled and stored only in electronic form. This has saved around 306,000 sheets of paper solely in connection with the annual staff assessment and development talks and manager-staff dialogues. Added to that are considerable savings on ink, energy and printer maintenance costs. The pandemic has accelerated this shift.

Paper consumption in Germany fell from 11.9 to 5.1 million sheets of paper in 2021, which is roughly 57 per cent lower than 2019. All of the paper we use in Germany is recycled paper with the Blue Angel seal of approval. We also have low-energy printers. Our service provider uses our empty ink and toner cartridges to manufacture new ones.

In partner countries it is not always possible to use recycled paper, as it is often difficult or even impossible to purchase it locally. Nevertheless, GIZ has switched to 100 per cent recycled paper in 10 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. Recycled paper at GIZ locations abroad accounted for 22 per cent of total paper used in 2021, a slight increase of 2 per cent on the previous year. Furthermore, paper consumption was cut by about 36 per cent to 40.7 million sheets of paper.

Per capita paper consumption
(sheets per employee) (Germany)

Per capita paper consumption (sheets per employee) (Germany)
Percentage accounted for by recycled paper: 95 %Percentage accounted for by recycled paper: 100 %Percentage accounted for by recycled paper: 100 %

Per capita paper consumption
(sheets per employee) (abroad)

Per capita paper consumption (sheets per employee) (abroad)
Percentage accounted for by recycled paper: 15 %Percentage accounted for by recycled paper: 20 %Percentage accounted for by recycled paper: 22 %

Avoiding waste: recycling and reuse instead of disposal

We aim to generate as little waste as possible and to achieve a high level of reuse. The waste produced in Germany is mainly commercial waste similar to household waste, such as paper, packaging, organic waste and residual waste.

Since 2020, GIZ has been using a new waste strategy for its locations in Germany, further simplifying and centralising the clear separation of waste. It focuses on easier separation of reusable materials, reducing the use of plastic, and more efficient cleaning. The total volume of non-hazardous commercial waste similar to household waste generated in Germany stood at 754 tonnes in 2021. This is a slight increase in volume on the previous year. A much smaller volume of hazardous waste is generated, with a total of about 9 tonnes. This includes defective electronic devices, batteries and light bulbs, which are disposed of by certified companies and the entire process is documented. It is not possible to report on the overall recycling rate.

Since 2013, a public-benefit IT service provider has been reprocessing our discarded IT equipment and subsequently marketing it as used equipment. In 2021, the service provider was able to carry out permanent data deletion, hardware testing, spare parts procurement, repair, reconditioning and cleaning and then re-sell 65 per cent of the devices. Defective devices are disassembled and recycled professionally.

During the procurement process too, we ensure that product packaging generates as little waste as possible, which is why we prefer reusable packaging. All packaging must comply with GIZ’s environmental requirements. Our suppliers are required to either take back and recycle packaging themselves or to prove that they participate in a collection and recycling system. These requirements have been incorporated into the tender procedure for the new framework contract for office supplies. For example, orders are delivered to GIZ’s large sites in reusable boxes. Furthermore, it was agreed that deliveries would be limited to twice a week. Sustainability criteria for our office supplies were also agreed. These criteria are also set out in the online catalogue, with environmentally sound products being listed first. Phasing out shipping cartons for our deliveries of office supplies is expected to significantly reduce paper waste over the next few years.

The Corporate Sustainability Handprint® (CSH) does not record waste, so no quantitative data is available from outside Germany. Systematic waste separation is by no means the norm worldwide. Nevertheless, we also conduct sustainability activities in this area.

The challenge for GIZ’s offices in the partner countries is to find local organisations that recycle valuable resources. GIZ’s Cairo office piloted a comprehensive waste strategy, focusing in particular on cooperation with a non-governmental organisation to upcycle paper. Sale of the resulting products benefits the local community. We now need to extend this successful strategy to as many locations as possible in the country and to share the experience with GIZ offices in other countries.

Information on the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be found on this page:

Graphic: GIZ: SDG 6 Clean water and sanitation
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth
Graphic: GIZ: SDG 12 Responsible consumption and production

Information on the following sustainability standards can be found on this page:
GRI standard 301, 303, 306