Old Mutual 'goes off the grid' with onsite Water Filtration Plant

Efma feature

15 July 2019

Iain Williamson, Acting CEO at Old Mutual Limited, spoke to Efma for our summer series of articles titled ‘How Efma members are embracing sustainability’ about the insurance company’s efforts to conserve water.

Old Mutual, South Africa’s first mutual life insurance company, established in Cape Town in 1845, officially launched the very first corporate waste-to-drinking Water Filtration Plant nationwide last summer.

Through this initiative, the company’s Mutualpark office in Pinelands, Cape Town – one of the largest across the country, covering 166,000m² and accommodating over 9,000 employees and contractors – is now operating off the water grid. This environmental intervention is providing considerable relief to the water demand on the City of Cape Town, which is increasingly battling water scarcity.

“We have been piloting the plant since July 2018 and the results have been impressive. We have been able to take our entire Western Cape campus based in Pinelands off the municipal water grid, providing a potential water saving for the city of approximately 10 to 15,000 kiloliters a month,” said Iain Williamson, Old Mutual’s CEO.

After a rigorous testing procedure, the Water Filtration Plant was certified compliant with the SANS 241 standard, meaning its filtered water is safe to drink. The plant is earmarked to be Mutualpark’s principal source of water – it has the capacity to produce between 650,000 and 800,000 liters a day, while average daily consumption onsite amounts to roughly 450,000 liters of water.

“The water filtration plant supplies up to 90% of the water consumption and has produced just over 100 million liters of clean drinking water since its inception at our Mutualpark premises, with a view to connect outlying properties such as our crèche, 2 parking garages and so on in the future,” explained Williamson.

“Not only is it contributing towards essential water conservation in the drought-stricken Western Cape, it has also encouraged a wonderful uptake in community involvement and participation in some of our water-saving initiatives.”

Ahead of the launch of the Water Filtration Plant, Old Mutual achieved a 30% reduction in water consumption at Mutualpark, through initiatives such as its #WaterWise campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the water crisis and encourage employees to save water. For example, display screens on the premises are updated daily with dam levels, water usage and savings targets, as well as water-saving tips from the City of Cape Town. Electronic meters have also been installed in critical water use areas to proactively track misuse and manage any leaks.

Many employees have also seized the opportunity to get involved in the company’s volunteer activation program, called ‘Purposeful Fridays’. On these days, employees fundraise for the Old Mutual Foundation which finances water wise solutions in various disadvantaged Western Cape communities.

Old Mutual has also rethought and optimized its onsite water consumption at Mutualpark. In order to reduce water consumption in the bathrooms, aerators were installed on taps and showerheads, waterless hand sanitizers were introduced, the water pressure was adjusted to reduce the length of flush time and a greywater system to flush toilets was installed at the company crèche.

The air-conditioning system was also upgraded to save approximately 40% of the water consumed per day in the height of summer, the equivalent of 20,000 liters of water. This was achieved by switching from water-based air-conditioning units in the Data Center to air-based units. In addition, any wastewater from other air-conditioning units on the premises is now used to flush toilets, and buckets placed in showers are used to collect and reuse water for cleaning floors.

Moreover, a treated effluent water feed is now employed to irrigate the sports fields and gardens. A waterless carwash was also introduced and the existing water-based carwash was upgraded with a water recycling plant that has reduced its water consumption by 80%.

Looking ahead towards the end of 2019, Old Mutual’s continuous drive for environmental sustainability highlights waste management as a core deliverable. Currently, 40% of waste from Mutualpark and 41% from No’1 Mutual Place, the Old Mutual Cape Town and Johannesburg main offices, respectively, are diverted from landfills.

“The targets set for 2019 are at 70% for both offices. We have already begun implementing this shift in waste management and have changed our takeaway food packaging to only compostable packaging and by removing all plastic bags and straws from all our food shop tenants with a remarkable uptake thus far. In addition we will embark on a host of other initiatives that will allow us to achieve our target with a view to becoming zero-waste-to-landfill at both of these premises in the not too distant future.”

Old Mutual is proud to be aligning its Responsible Business strategy and philosophy to its corporate purpose: inspiring a shared-value proposition to help customers achieve their lifetime financial goals while creating a positive and sustainable future for everyone.

“As a Responsible Business, Old Mutual continues to positively impact the socioeconomic and environmental development of the continent and its people. By driving mutually beneficial projects such as this water filtration plant amongst others, Old Mutual creates shared value. A project like this, which is both cost effective and responsibly geared to ensuring a sustainable future, is a win-win for all,” added Williamson.

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Keywords : Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

Geography : South Africa