DSM Integrated Annual Report 2020

Water security

Fresh water is a finite natural resource that needs to be used and managed in a responsible and sustainable way. Water security is an integral part of our risk mitigation and environmental impact reduction strategies, closely connected to Climate & Energy and Resources & Circularity. At the company level, we commit to measuring, monitoring and reporting relevant performance indicators for water. We disclose the progress of our water stewardship program, via the CDP Water Security questionnaire.

DSM is a signatory of the CEO Water Mandate, a UN Global Compact initiative that mobilizes business leaders to advance in water stewardship and drive progress on SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation). This commitment is translated to our global policy on water, the Water Management Standard, which applies to all our facilities worldwide, enabling the sites to implement relevant measures in line with the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standards, the WBCSD guide to circular water management and other industry best practices. In 2020, our CDP Water Security rating improved to an A- for our water governance and management strategy.















Water Use (million m3)1







Water withdrawal for once-through cooling (OTC)







Water withdrawal for non-OTC







- surface water







- potable (tap) water







- ground water







Consumptive Use














Sustainable water management







Water risk assessments


100% in 2020





Closure of high-risk related actions


90% in 2020





Water withdrawal efficiency improvement


at least maintain












Emissions to water







COD (kt)








All data presented in Planet are subject to the non-financial reporting policy.


The 2019 water withdrawal efficiency improvement has been restated due to a correction in the calculations at one location.

The sustainable use of water

As a global sustainability leader, we follow the latest scientific insights on global water crisis, with increasing extreme weather events and water shortage potentially impacting our customers, our employees, and our own business continuity. For climate adaption, our physical risks scan provided important insights into the business impacts of different climate change scenarios. For water stress, our water stewardship approach reflects our sector materiality for risk exposure and impacts we can make. The main user of freshwater is agriculture, which is an indirect part of our value chain.

Water use in our products and processes

Water is not a primary ingredient in our products. Our primary water use is for the utility systems, in steam consumption and cooling processes. In addition to this, high quality freshwater is needed for a variety of our production processes, as a production medium and as a cleaning agent to meet the desired product hygiene and quality standards. For our direct operations, we strive to use water in balance with the context of the respective catchments. In our value chain, we monitor the materiality on water for our suppliers and customers through value chain engagement programs, such as Together for Sustainability (TfS).

“Water stress will continue to increase around the world. Building on our current water efficiency targets, we will define a contextual water reduction target to address water stress in our own operations. This report represents our progress on water toward the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate.”
Dimitri de Vreeze

Co-CEO, Royal DSM

Water relevance is context-based

Water is a local topic that needs to be managed in the context of a given catchment and its water challenges. Our water stewardship program is tailored to our specific impacts and dependencies on water and informed by local catchment contexts to maximize our positive impacts in a cost-effective way.

The context of once-through cooling and water consumption

A large proportion of our total water withdrawal (75%1) is used for once-through cooling (OTC) purposes in low water-stress areas. For this type of water withdrawal, both risk exposure and environmental impacts are limited. For this reason, we report and monitor ‘non-OTC Water Withdrawal’ separately, to provide a metric that reflects our water intensity in a contextual way. We have a target in place to continuously improve water efficiency using this metric.

In addition to water withdrawal, we report and monitor our consumptive use, defined as the difference between water withdrawal and water discharge. Our consumptive use is primarily a result of evaporative cooling and is positively correlated to energy efficiency. For this reason, our GHG reduction program delivers co-benefits on water consumption through improving energy efficiency. For example, in 2019, we replaced several chillers and their associated cooling towers at our site in Belvidere (New Jersey, USA). The project reduced the water consumption for cooling on site by 50%. This also had a positive effect of approximately 3 kt on their greenhouse gas emissions.

Water withdrawal and water stress

in million tons

Water withdrawal and water stress (pie chart)
‘Out of scope’ includes discontinued operations, sites with minimal withdrawal (<10,000m3/year) and sites with limited operational control

We expect water stress to increase

Water stress is expected to worsen in many parts of the world, as a result of factors including urbanization and population growth, increasing food production, changing consumption patterns, industrialization, water pollution, and climate change. Water stress is defined as the ratio of total water withdrawals to available renewable surface and groundwater supplies. It is a parameter that varies depending on the hydrological water balance in the catchment and the demand for water in the local community. The level of water stress changes over time influenced by the changing climate but also by societal developments.

To further contextualize our water footprint and incorporate climate adaptation developments, we perform our water stress mapping with the water risk tools from the World Resource Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to identify water stress sites, where water stress is greater than 40%. This mapping is based on our current footprint combined with a 2030 ‘business as usual’ scenario. The ‘business as usual’ scenario represents a world with stable economic development and steadily rising global carbon emissions, with global mean temperatures increasing by 2.6–4.8°C relative to 1986–2005 levels. We monitor the water withdrawal and consumptive use for these locations closely.

Water risk mitigations and effluent management

Over the period 2018–2020, we conducted site-level water risk assessments (WRA) for 100%1 of water stress sites and sites with water-withdrawal materiality. The WRA provides detailed insights on the water challenges locally including the impacts and likelihood of a given risk, as a basis for the prioritization of risk mitigation measures. Updates to the water stress mapping will also identify new water stress sites that will be in scope for WRA.

Addressing mitigating measures for water risks

For the high risks identified, the sites define and implement relevant mitigating measures. Globally, 39 high-risk-mitigation measures (referred to as ‘high-risk actions’) were defined. The majority of the high risks identified relate to water quality, such as constraints in the wastewater treatment facilities related to business growth and/or increasingly stringent regulatory requirements on wastewater discharge.

Of these high-risk actions, 97% were implemented in 2020 exceeding our target of 90%. The mitigation measures include short-term actions to improve operational controls on site, or have documented commitments for longer-term projects in place, such as several large capital expenditures to upgrade and expand waste water treatment facilities. Longer-term commitments will be followed up with relevant site management processes and will be monitored centrally. Water risk management will remain a key instrument for our water stewardship program to monitor local water challenges and improve (contextual) effluent management.

Water risk types and completion

in %

Water risk types and completion (pie chart)

Moving toward a context-based water reduction target

Building on the current continuous improvement targets for water efficiency, we aim to define a context-based water reduction target in response to the emerging availability risks in water-stressed regions.

In 2020, a water impact assessment was conducted on key water stress sites to evaluate water reduction options and potential impacts operationally and financially. Besides providing the necessary insights to define a relevant and impactful target, the impact assessment raised awareness of water stress, strengthened water stewardship practices, including measurements and monitoring, and identified water recycling and reuse possibilities for the sites in water-stressed regions.

The context-based reduction target as of 2021 will set the direction for improvements for the longer term and be complementary to our continuing efforts to manage water quality through a risk-based approach.

1All data presented in Planet are subject to the non-financial reporting policy.


Primary energy is energy that has not yet been subjected to a human engineered conversion process. It is the energy contained in unprocessed fuels.

Final (consumed) energy is the energy that is consumed by end-users. The difference between primary energy and final consumed energy is caused by the conversion process between the two as well as any transmission losses.

Greenhouse gas
Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)

Scope 1: Direct GHG emissions
Direct GHG emissions occur from sources that are owned or controlled by the company (i.e., emissions from combustion in owned or controlled boilers, furnaces, vehicles, etc.).

Scope 2: Indirect GHG emissions
Indirect GHG emissions relate to the generation of purchased energy (i.e., electricity, heat or cooling) consumed by the company. Purchased energy is defined as energy that is purchased or otherwise brought into the organizational boundary of the company. Scope 2 emissions physically occur at the facility where the energy is generated.

Scope 3: Value chain emissions
Scope 3 emissions are all indirect emissions (not included in scope 2) that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions.

Location-based emissions
Reflects the average GHG emissions intensity of grids on which electricity consumption occurs (using mostly national grid-average emission factor data). Corresponding emission factor: in most cases, the country emission factor.

Market-based emissions
Reflects GHG emissions from electricity supplies that companies have purposely chosen (or their lack of choice) and contracted. Corresponding emission factors:

  • Supplier specific emission factor (provided by the supplier)
  • Residual emission factor (country-based grid factor, corrected for allocated purchased electricity from renewable resources)
Sustainable Development Goal
United Nations