Industrial Goods

Water Power — The Source of Success

Sustainability has been an integral part of Duravit’s DNA for two centuries now. Long-lasting products, careful use of resources, especially of water, and avoidance of carbon emissions are all part of everyday practice at this family-owned company. The focus now is on the future, with a strategy extending to the year 2045.

08/2023

High aspirations: Stephan Tahy, CEO of Duravit, stands on an observation platform — on top of what could well be the world’s largest toilet — at his company’s headquarters in Hornberg. He has set high goals for sustainability and is actively pursuing them at the company.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

A moun­tain river known as the Gutach winds its pow­er­ful way through the pic­turesque town of Horn­berg. Around 5,000 peo­ple live in this munic­i­pal­i­ty in the cen­tral Black For­est region of south­ern Ger­many, a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for vaca­tion­ers. The source of the Gutach is a mere 12-mile hike away. Its tur­bu­lent path cross­es the fac­to­ry grounds of Durav­it, a com­pa­ny deeply root­ed in the area with more than two cen­turies of tra­di­tion. The river plays an impor­tant role in the ener­gy-inten­sive ceram­ic pro­duc­tion process­es for this renowned glob­al maker of bath­room and san­i­tary ware prod­ucts. Durav­it places a pre­mi­um on using water resources with as much care as pos­si­ble. Ever since it was found­ed, the com­pa­ny has been com­mit­ted to sus­tain­able action. Sus­tain­abil­i­ty, one might say, is in its genes.

The Gutach mountain river winds its powerful way through the Black Forest town of Hornberg — and right through the grounds of Duravit. It plays an important role in ceramic production for the globally active bathroom and sanitary ware manufacturer.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

But that alone is not enough for Stephan Tahy, who became Duravit’s CEO in 2020. In order to advance sus­tain­abil­i­ty in the future and to make it the guid­ing prin­ci­ple for all the company’s actions and future chal­lenges, he has anchored it in Duravit’s strate­gic cor­po­rate goals and brand val­ues. Durav­it focus­es on four of the 17 Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) defined in the Unit­ed Nations’ “Agen­da 2030”: respon­si­ble con­sump­tion and pro­duc­tion, clean water and san­i­ta­tion, cli­mate action, and good health and well-being. The company’s over­ar­ch­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty goal is to become car­bon-neu­tral by 2045.

Designer Bathrooms: From the Black Forest to the World

Duravit AG, one of the world’s leading producers of designer bathrooms, is active in more than 130 countries. Headquartered in southern Germany in the central Black Forest town of Hornberg, Duravit has a total of twelve production sites in Germany, France, China, India, Egypt, and Tunisia. With around 7,000 employees worldwide, sales of 715.8 million euros were posted in 2022. The company dates back to 1817, when its founder, Georg Friedrich Horn, established a stoneware factory in Hornberg. Initially focusing on tableware, the range was later expanded to include sanitary ware products. In 1950, Duravit switched from stoneware to porcelain sanitary ware, and since 1960 it has become well known under the Duravit brand name. In addition to ceramic ware, the portfolio of this complete provider includes bathroom furniture, showers, tubs, wellness systems, shower toilets, fixtures, and accessories as well as installation systems.
Jürgen Aberle, head of preliminary production, at the plant in Schenkenzell: wood used in the bathroom furniture comes primarily from domestic sources with PEFC-accredited and thus sustainable forestry. Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Duravit makes bathroom furnishings only upon receipt of specific orders. The components are precision-fitted. Jürgen Aberle inspects an order one last time to ensure all components are present before further processing.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Seal of quality: after assembly, each piece of furniture is marked with the Duravit brand name. The company prioritizes longevity for its furnishings as well as its sanitary wares.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

“Dura” is the core of the mission

The focus on sus­tain­abil­i­ty is already evi­dent in the Durav­it brand name. It con­tains the word “dura,” which stands for longevi­ty — and there­fore a sus­tain­able use of resources. It is unsur­pris­ing, there­fore, that the com­pa­ny is decid­ed­ly opposed to a throw­away men­tal­i­ty. “That’s one of our great­est con­tri­bu­tions to sus­tain­abil­i­ty,” says Tahy. “We stand for prod­ucts you can enjoy for a life­time.” The fam­i­ly-owned com­pa­ny describes itself as the only man­u­fac­tur­er to give cus­tomers a life­time guar­an­tee for its ceram­ic prod­ucts. In addi­tion to san­i­tary wares, Durav­it has been pro­duc­ing high-grade bath­room fur­ni­ture since 1992 at its plant in Schenken­zell, around 20 miles from the main site in Horn­berg. Here, too, the com­pa­ny places a pri­or­i­ty on long ser­vice lives and on wood from domes­tic sources with PEFC-accred­it­ed and thus sus­tain­able forestry.

Out­stand­ing design that wins mul­ti­ple awards has been one of Duravit’s unique sell­ing points for decades. It joins sus­tain­abil­i­ty, excel­lence, and well-being to form the brand’s four core val­ues. “Our aim is to cre­ate time­less design,” says Tahy. “So we don’t go run­ning after the lat­est trend or look­ing to add frills. We say that time­less design is part of our very DNA.” Durav­it there­fore cul­ti­vates long-term glob­al rela­tion­ships with icon­ic design­ers like Philippe Star­ck, which ensure the endur­ing qual­i­ty of its products.

Inspiration for visitors from around the world: Duravit, a complete bathroom manufacturer, displays a wide range of products at its Design Center. Bathrooms should be places of well-being, in keeping with the company’s motto “Update your everyday.” Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
The Design Center displays many differently designed exhibits, including six of its own test bathrooms. Expert advice is also on offer: bathroom planner Alexandra Wild assists customers in determining their individual bathroom designs.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Architect Philippe Starck created Duravit’s Design Center, as well as many of the company’s classic bathroom products. As an iconic designer, he seeks a timeless — and therefore also sustainable — quality for the products.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Faucets and fittings are also part of the complete bathroom provider’s portfolio. Duravit has developed resource-conserving technologies for them too. The innovative “FreshStart” function ensures that only cold water flows at the midway position of the handle, which reduces energy consumption. Faucets with the “MinusFlow” function substantially reduce water consumption (3.5 instead of 5.0 l/min).Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

In addi­tion to the pri­or­i­ty on dura­bil­i­ty for its prod­ucts, the com­pa­ny devotes con­sid­er­able atten­tion to recy­cling. That starts back in the prod­uct devel­op­ment stage. “Each new prod­uct will now be crit­i­cal­ly exam­ined with respect to sus­tain­abil­i­ty,” says Tahy with empha­sis. These efforts have already pro­duced a show­case prod­uct: Sus­tano, the first recy­clable min­er­al-com­pos­ite show­er tray. It rep­re­sents a gen­uine­ly new devel­op­ment on the mar­ket thus far. At the company’s east­ern Ger­man site in Meißen, more than 200 tons of raw mate­ri­als are cen­trifuged out of the mass of mate­r­i­al in the waste flow and chan­neled back into pro­duc­tion. The cen­trifuge sched­uled for instal­la­tion at the Horn­berg site is expect­ed to recov­er near­ly 10 per­cent of the mate­r­i­al used as of 2024, amount­ing to 550 tons a year at an annu­al pro­duc­tion vol­ume of around 6,500 tons. Recy­cla­bil­i­ty is also high on the agen­da for ship­ping and deliv­ery. Pack­ag­ing mate­ri­als are made to be as recy­clable as pos­si­ble, with a con­tin­u­ous reduc­tion in the share of plastics.

During the development stage each product is critically examined for sustainability. Special attention is paid to recyclability. This led to a pioneering product: Sustano, the first recyclable mineral-composite shower tray.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Every drop counts. Duravit continuously refines its technology to further reduce the water needed to flush its toilets. Over the past decade these efforts have saved around 290 million cubic meters of water a year.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

Every drop counts

As for water needs and use, Durav­it can already point to a num­ber of sus­tain­abil­i­ty-relat­ed achieve­ments. The ceram­ics maker has reduced the vol­ume of water need­ed to flush its toi­lets from 6 to 4.5 or 3 liters. The toi­lets it has sold in Europe over the past decade have there­fore saved around 290 mil­lion cubic meters of water a year — with no decline in the qual­i­ty of the flush­ing process. But as Tahy insists, “We’re not yet sat­is­fied. We keep work­ing on the tech­nol­o­gy in order to lower water con­sump­tion even fur­ther in the future.” The com­pa­ny has also suc­ceed­ed in opti­miz­ing how it uses water for pro­duc­tion. A cir­cu­la­tion sys­tem at the Horn­berg site already recy­cles 60 per­cent of the water from the pro­duc­tion process back into use. And one of the CEO’s spe­cial con­cerns is to ensure clean drink­ing water for all of his employ­ees through­out the world, espe­cial­ly in regions like the site in India where clean drink­ing water is by no means a given. A water intake facil­i­ty on the fac­to­ry grounds there pro­vides employ­ees and their fam­i­lies with high-qual­i­ty potable water.

Duravit places a premium on responsible use of resources, especially of water. Maintenance specialist Hans Schwarzwälder and his colleagues therefore test the solid-matter content every day in the water that drains into the municipal system. Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Follow-up production processes also prioritize careful use of resources. The resulting production waste is filtered out via a centrifuge and then returned to the production process.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Ceramic components are removed from their molds in the casting facility and prepared for the drying process on a tilt mount. To prevent the ceramic pieces from adhering and cracking, they are dusted with the mineral talc.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Production head Andreas Lotz shows additional parts of the production process: ceramic components are preheated with a microgas turbine before entering the kiln. This shortens firing times and lowers energy needs.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Ceramic pieces are fired at a high temperature of 1,280 degrees Celsius. The kiln is currently powered by gas, but that might change in the future. Duravit is working intensively on new technologies to reduce carbon emissions from the firing process.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Preparation for glazing: to ensure a smooth and flawless surface structure, Ahmad Khalil inspects preliminary pieces and carefully removes irregularities with a rough fleece.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Paul Mada glazes the pieces in the next stage of the process. This smooths the surface and further seals it against liquids.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Nothing escapes the trained eye of sorter Ivan Bartolic. The finished ceramic wares are scrupulously inspected for defects before being approved for delivery.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
Sustainable throughout the entire value chain: packaging materials have the highest possible recyclable content. Ever smaller amounts of plastic are used.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

Climate-neutral plant in Canada

The CEO has also set an ambi­tious tar­get for pro­tect­ing the cli­mate. Durav­it wants to be entire­ly car­bon neu­tral by 2045 — along its entire value chain. This is no small mat­ter, because ceram­ics pro­duc­tion plants are still strong­ly depen­dent on gas as the fuel for heat­ing their kilns. “Car­bon neu­tral­i­ty by 2045 might not look very ambi­tious at first glance,” admits Tahy. “But in fact it is, because reach­ing this goal requires a major tech­no­log­i­cal advance. We have to define new ways of fir­ing ceram­ics, and are in the process of putting a quan­tum leap into practice.”

On July 13, 2023, a major mile­stone was passed on the road to a sus­tain­able future. That was the day the com­pa­ny laid the cor­ner­stone in Matane in the Cana­di­an province of Que­bec for the world’s first cli­mate-neu­tral ceram­ics pro­duc­tion site. The plant is expect­ed to make 450,000 ceram­ic pieces a year for the North Amer­i­can mar­ket. Durav­it is assum­ing a pio­neer­ing role here, because this will be the sector’s first kiln to run on elec­tric­i­ty from renew­able hydropow­er. Com­pared to con­ven­tion­al gas kilns, it will save more than 9,000 tons of CO₂ a year at full capac­i­ty. More­over, all the raw mate­ri­als will be sourced direct­ly from Cana­da and the USA, which means short trans­port dis­tances and more sus­tain­able logis­tics — as well as addi­tion­al car­bon reduc­tions of more than 1,500 tons a year. “We are very proud of our trail­blaz­ing role in pro­mot­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty for the san­i­tary ware indus­try and address­ing the chal­lenges posed by cli­mate change,” says Tahy. “We’re set­ting stan­dards for inno­v­a­tive solu­tions in a sec­tor known for high ener­gy needs.”

Ready for green hydrogen

Durav­it has laid the tech­ni­cal foun­da­tions for inte­grat­ing green hydro­gen as soon as it becomes avail­able on the mar­ket. Sim­u­la­tions have already been run in a test project with Linde, the world’s leader on the mar­ket for indus­tri­al gases. This could reduce the future need for fos­sil fuels in pro­duc­tion. Anoth­er major step on the road to cli­mate neu­tral­i­ty is the plan to have solar power sup­ply 50 per­cent of the elec­tric­i­ty need­ed at all the sites worldwide.

Duravit’s history in the Black Forest region spans more than two centuries. The designer bathroom maker has pursued its “local-for-local” strategy from the very start. “Duravit has always sought local resources for local sites,” says the CEO.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

To keep trans­port routes as short as pos­si­ble and there­by min­i­mize the asso­ci­at­ed car­bon emis­sions, the com­pa­ny has been rely­ing for decades now on its proven “local for local” strat­e­gy and region­al prox­im­i­ty to pro­duc­ers and sup­pli­ers. “Durav­it has always tried to have its sites make the great­est pos­si­ble use of local resources,” observes Tahy. Local roots are also evi­dent in the company’s com­mit­ment to its home site in Horn­berg. For exam­ple, the ceram­ics pro­duc­er pro­vides finan­cial sup­port for humus acqui­si­tion to farm­ers in the Black For­est con­ser­va­tion area. Farm­ers use the organ­ic mat­ter to enrich regen­er­a­tive soil, which in turn binds CO₂. As Tahy explains, “We con­tribute to sus­tain­abil­i­ty right at our site — and this type of com­mit­ment has an authen­tic qual­i­ty that embod­ies our approach.”

Management Support from Porsche Consulting

"Duravit’s Road to Sustainability"

Marcus Staudt, HSE Manager at Duravit (left), and Thorsten Ertel, Senior Manager at Porsche Consulting (center), talk with Duravit CEO Stephan Tahy. Together they are advancing sustainability at Duravit.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch
To guide his company’s sustainability activities on a future-oriented course, Stephan Tahy, CEO of the Duravit bathroom producer, brought the Porsche Consulting management consultancy on board in 2021. The goal was to develop a sustainability strategy with a 2045 horizon and pragmatic means of implementation. “An outside perspective was important to us,” says Tahy. “We had already done a lot of sustainability work. What was missing at that point was a strategic and systematic approach to the topic.” Eight weeks to a strategy  An intensive period of collaboration started in September of 2021. In a two-month strategy phase, the project team crystallized the essential components of sustainability for Duravit. The first step consisted of analyzing and benchmarking competitors’ sustainability efforts. The Porsche consultants also scrutinized the sustainability initiatives already undertaken by Duravit. “For us it’s crucial that the sustainability strategy and associated measures are tailored to the individual company and fit in well with its business model,” explains Thorsten Ertel, Senior Manager and sustainability expert at Porsche Consulting. “We looked at that very closely for Duravit, and put it to critical analysis.” One major result: the sustainability campaign should assign special significance to water, a resource that plays a central role not only in the bathroom maker’s products but also in its manufacturing processes. The project team then crafted a strategy that stands on four pillars: water, climate, resources, and people. They also developed a vision for attaining climate neutrality by 2045, and used it as the basis for deriving a solid package of measures. From the initial 70 ideas, 23 initiatives were selected and converted into a road map for implementation. Ideas become reality  Since February of 2022, Porsche Consulting’s sustainability team has been guiding Duravit in further developing and implementing these measures. “We were especially impressed by the structure and systematic approach the consultants brought to the table,” says Marcus Staudt, Duravit’s HSE manager in charge of sustainability, in describing the collaboration with Porsche Consulting. “The team was constantly giving us new ideas and incentives, and was very good at putting the initiatives we developed into practice in pragmatic ways.” The collaboration has led to concrete results. For example, the idea of creating new products from waste gave rise to a recycling project featuring a centrifuge. The ceramics plant in the eastern German town of Meißen is already centrifuging 200 tons of raw materials out of the waste mass and channeling them back into production. At the Hornberg site, a centrifuge scheduled for installation in 2024 is expected to recover nearly 10 percent of the material used. That would amount to 550 tons a year at an annual production volume of around 6,500 tons. Progress to report  The consultants are supporting the ceramics producer in two additional areas of endeavor: drafting a decarbonization road map, and shaping the structure and content of the 2023 sustainability report. Sustainability reporting is an ever more important task for the company. “The EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, or CSRD, came into effect in January 2023,” observes Birgit Engler, the partner responsible for sustainability projects at Porsche Consulting. “That poses new challenges, and we support our clients in tackling them.”

Keeping their own house in order

Authen­tic­i­ty ulti­mate­ly plays the key role in Tahy’s sus­tain­abil­i­ty cam­paign. “We’ve always tried to find the right path for Durav­it. And that means being hon­est and account­able in every­thing we do.” For Tahy, authen­tic­i­ty means embracing sus­tain­abil­i­ty in all the company’s activ­i­ties, both exter­nal and inter­nal and active­ly involv­ing all the employ­ees. “We want sus­tain­abil­i­ty to be evi­dent in every­thing we do. We want to be very clear that we’re pur­su­ing it on the strate­gic level as well. And final­ly, we want to make peo­ple aware that sus­tain­abil­i­ty is some­thing that starts at home and spreads out into the world at large.” With inter­nal actions like the “Putzeteclean­ing cam­paign that was launched in 2022, Durav­it draws atten­tion to the topic and gives every­one a chance to join in. The cam­paign invites employ­ees to clean the area around the com­pa­ny grounds, there­by mak­ing a per­son­al con­tri­bu­tion to ensur­ing it remains in good shape. For inhab­i­tants of the Black For­est, that’s actu­al­ly a point of honor — the boss doesn’t have to ask them twice. 

Stephan Tahy became CEO of Duravit in July of 2020. He had previously held high positions at leading multinational companies, including as CEO of the De’Longhi household appliance maker and as Vice President and General Manager of the Mattel toy maker.Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

Success drives sustainability

For Stephan Tahy, prof­itabil­i­ty and sus­tain­abil­i­ty are not con­flict­ing aims. Quite the con­trary, in fact. In his eyes, eco­nom­ic suc­cess and growth are accel­er­a­tors for run­ning and fund­ing sus­tain­abil­i­ty projects — and there­by enabling the com­pa­ny to active­ly pur­sue and reach its long-term sus­tain­abil­i­ty goals. After all, the more a com­pa­ny grows, the more finan­cial resources it has to con­vert tech­nolo­gies, pro­mote inno­va­tions, and build solar power facil­i­ties. As the CEO explains, “Durav­it has always under­stood the impor­tance of bal­anc­ing prof­itabil­i­ty and sus­tain­abil­i­ty — with a long-term per­spec­tive. We’ve set ambi­tious sus­tain­abil­i­ty tar­gets, but we’ve also only taken steps that are actu­al­ly pos­si­ble. We are meet­ing both chal­lenges: prof­itabil­i­ty and growth on the one hand, and sus­tain­abil­i­ty on the other.”

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