Effluent and emissions

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Effluent and Emissions

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Effluent and Emissions

Continued enhancement of effluent treatment plants along with constant real-time monitoring is key to ensuring that stringent effluent quality parameters are achieved. Increased water recycling and hence reduced stress on water supplies is also part of the company strategy.


Leader's Voice

“While no common global standards for effluent quality existed, Coats developed and used its own global effluent standards. We did this because we consider that the environment is equally precious everywhere and we wanted to be certain that we were operating to the same high standards in all our plants, even where the local legislation was not as demanding.

Legislation will continue to vary widely from country to country, but since 2016 we have been members of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals group, and are wholly supportive of the attempts being made by this body to establish common effluent standards and reporting transparency across the global textile industry. We have now adopted these standards as our own global standards and are reporting against them biannually via the organisation’s portal. In addition, all of our major plants have constant online monitoring of key effluent parameters to ensure that effluent never strays outside accepted limits.”

Stuart Morgan
Chief Legal & Risk Officer and Group Company Secretary

Effluent and Emissions Strategy

Our long term vision is to cease to use water for dyeing, but there is no technology currently available at industrial level to achieve that goal, so while we continue to use aqueous technology we will have a need to manage our effluent to avoid detrimental impacts on the environment. Since 2011 all of our units have worked to an internal set of effluent standards. These are, in most cases, considerably more stringent than the local requirements. In 2016 we joined the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) association as this was gathering momentum across the textile industry with the goal of creating common standards that would be applicable across the whole industry. In 2019 we adopted the ZDHC standards as our standards instead of the Coats standards. Our target is to have all units meeting the ZDHC standards by 2022, and thanks to the work already done 74% of our effluent was compliant by the end of 2020. Late in 2019 the ZDHC standard was updated to include sludge testing, and our 2020 figures now include sludge testing as well as effluent. Ensuring that all of our units are capable of meeting the required limits is important but it is equally important to ensure that effluent treatment plants are working consistently and to ensure this we installed, during 2018, automated measurement systems in all of our key units. These take measurements of core parameters every 30 seconds and issue automated warnings if the systems begin to approach control units. We also piloted, in 2019, a system that automatically shuts off discharge if a standards breach is likely. We are planning to start extending this pilot to other units in 2021.

As a significant user of energy, Green House Gas (GHG) emissions are a key concern for us. Our activities have been described above in the Energy section; reduction of energy usage and transition of energy sourcing to renewables. Our target, will be determined once we have established Science Based Targets during 2021. In 2020 we achieved a reduction of 5% in GHG emissions intensity compared to 2018. While we recorded a reduction of 23% in absolute GHG emissions compared to 2018 this is not representative as 2020 production volumes were low due to pandemic plant closures and demand drops.

By 2022, we will build on our global standard by complying with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) effluent standards

Meeting Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Effluent Standards by 2022

Our aim is to progressively reduce the use of chemicals in our processes. The very comprehensive Coats Restricted Substances List system that we have had in place now for 15 years and which at least aligns with the tightest requirements from any of our customers has been instrumental in ensuring that we have reduced or eliminated hazardous chemicals from our operations.

The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals system is a very welcome next step as it will drive improved chemical management across the supply chain, and we are delighted to be participants in the programme. Our approach essentially rests on three pillars; tight control of input chemicals, appropriate design of effluent treatment plants and continuous automated monitoring so that we can be confident that our effluent treatment plants are always functioning optimally.

Maintaining high standards through a continuous approach

Our long-term vision is to stop using water for dyeing. But there is currently no technology available at industrial level to achieve that goal. So, while we continue to use aqueous technology, our diligent and continuous approach helps to avoid any negative impacts on the environment from our wastewater.

Of the water used in 2020, 67% was discharged as waste effluent (down 2% from 2018). Any effluent that we discharge needs to comply with local legislation and discharge limits and meet our internal global effluent policy, which now incorporates ZDHC standards (see below). This policy has been developed to ensure that all our operations, regardless of location, will meet a high standard in terms of the effluent they discharge. In 2019 we established an online and dynamic register of legislative changes in all the countries that we operate in which includes control of operational permits, incident reporting and control of improvement projects.

To improve monitoring of our wastewater discharges and ensure continuous compliance, sensors have been installed in the final discharge point of 12 sites, including all sites where treated wastewater is released directly into the environment, giving immediate feedback on parameters that would normally take up to five days to test in laboratory.

These sensors monitor the quality of effluent discharges every 30 seconds measuring against five criteria, including temperature, pH, biological oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids. The data is sent to a ‘real-time’ dashboard and if the levels of any of the parameters gets close to or exceed a limit, the operational team will be notified immediately. This enables us to respond rapidly to mitigate any issues and provides the detailed information we need to investigate the root cause of the issue, remedy the situation and ensure no future incidences take place.

During 2019 we also ran a successful pilot in Shenzhen whereby, if target parameters for online tests are in danger of breach, the discharge valve is closed and the treated effluent is routed back to the start of the treatment process. This process will be implemented in other units during 2021.

As an unexpected benefit, the new sensors also allowed us to see spikes in suspended solids when the power supply was re-established after a power cut. Recognising this trend enabled us make some key adjustments to stop those spikes from happening at the start up.

Over the past six years, we have spent over $14 million on new effluent treatment plants and related technology and this spend will continue.

To date 9 of our manufacturing locations are certified to ISO14001. This represents 18% of our sites, and the certified sites account for over 30% of our output.

Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC)

In 2016, we signed up to the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemical (ZDHC) programme, which aims to unify efforts to eliminate hazardous chemicals from the global footwear and textile supply chain. Launched by six leading brands, the ZDHC programme has since grown to 30 signatory brands, 114 value chain affiliates and 21 associates. Coats is a value-chain affiliate.

In 2019, we adopted the ZDHC conventional parameters with foundational limits as our Coats internal standards across all our direct discharge sites. This applies to all sites, including those that are not part of the apparel and footwear supply chain. We aim to have all units meeting the ZDHC standards by 2022.

As of the end of 2020, 74% of our effluent was compliant with ZDHC standards, putting us on track to meet our target. The ZDHC standards have been extended to include sludge analysis and the above figure includes testing on sludge compliance.


Our Sri Lanka plant is surrounded by lush agricultural land and domestic habitation. Water is relatively abundant in the area, but the need to ensure that our industrial activities are not damaging to our neighbours has led us to implement a water treatment and recovery system that sees us now recycling 90% of our effluent back into process water, by a combination of chemical and biological treatment and reverse osmosis. The remaining effluent is chemically treated before safe disposal. This system has been fully operational since 2019 and, in normal circumstances would see us recover and reuse over 150 million litres of water per year.

Read more case studies

Effluent and Emissions
Effluent and Emissions: Working for a cleaner world
Indicator Unit 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2018
2019 2019

% of water discharged as waste effluent


87% 80% 79% 77% 68% 69% 62% 62% 67%

Treated effluent discharge to surface water course

Million cubic metres

5.4 4.9 5.0 4.8 4.1 4.1 3.5 3.4 2.8

Effluent discharge to offsite treatment plant

Million cubic metres

1.6 1.6 1.4 1.4 1.2 1.3 1.2 1.3 1.1

Total effluent discharge

Million cubic metres

7.0 6.6 6.4 6.2 5.3 5.3 4.6 4.7 3.9

No water is discharged to other destinations not covered above

Environmental prosecutions


0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

% effluent that is compliant with ZDHC


- - - - - - 63% - 74%

Investment in effluent treatment plants and technology

Million $

3.4 0.9 1.6 2.2 3.6 - 4.6 - 1.5

Total carbon footprint

Thousand tonnes CO2e

322 305 319 311 288 303 275 289 233

Scope 1 emissions footprint

Thousand tonnes CO2e

81.5 67.8 70.9 71.8 64.5 67.1 58.3 61.1 49.2

Scope 1 CO2 emissions

Tonnes CO2

- - - - - - - - 49,091

Scope 1 CH4 emissions

Tonnes CH4

- - - - - - - - 66

Scope 1 N2O emissions

Tonnes N2O

- - - - - - - - 41

Scope 2 emissions footprint (location based)

Thousand tonnes CO2e

240.4 237.6 247.6 238.8 223.9 236.2 216.4 228.3 184.3

Scope 2 CO2 emissions

Tonnes CO2

- - - - - - - - 183,308

Scope 2 CH4 emissions

Tonnes CH4

- - - - - - - - 139

Scope 2 N2O emissions

Tonnes N2O

- - - - - - - - 840

% scope 2 emissions covered by renewable certificates


- - - - - 4 - 5 6

Emissions volume intensity (location based)

CO2e kg/kg production

4.9 4.5 4.6 4.3 3.4 3.2 3.3 3.2 3.1

Emissions value intensity (location based)

CO2e tonnes/$m sales

210 208 219 206 204 2002 198 1922 200

1Where possible 2018 and 2019 are restated to include HP Pharr which was purchased in January 2020. This is to provide a like for like comparison.

22018 and 2019 have been restated to include HP Pharr revenue

For more information on our historical performance download our full data disclosure.