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Measuring our impact and changing for the future…

For several years now we have been championing sustainability here at Jacobi. Our long term goal is to become the most sustainable supplier in the industry. We are a company that operates globally and, as such, it is vital that we consider the effects our operations have on the planet, but also that we try to mitigate them wherever possible. We have been working on projects, initiatives and new technologies of various sizes across the company.

We worked with researchers at Maastricht University to complete the study.

Our first product life cycle assessment for activated carbon

Until recently, we haven’t been able to measure the impacts of our efforts or quantify the effects of our operations quite as extensively as we might have liked to. We felt that this was an essential part of being able to move forward with our sustainability journey and decided to conduct a study into the effects producing activated carbon products has on our planet. As activated carbon represents the largest part of our business, we started analysing our activities in this field first.

We conducted a study called a life cycle assessment with a professor at Maastricht University and her team in The Netherlands. By working with a university over a commercial consultancy we knew the study would be unbiased and based on science, rather than based on models that might not fully fit our business accurately. The study looked at how producing 1kg of coconut based activated carbon impacted the environment through two measures: greenhouse gas emissions and global warming potential. From this we were able to compare the effects against that of wood and coal based activated carbon.

Jacobi’s CEO, Remko Gouddapel, said: “We all know coconut shells are renewable. The shell is a surplus material which is also good as we’re not taking anything away, we’re actually adding value. I wanted to compare it with other raw materials, including wood and coal. Wood is also renewable but I wanted to prove that coconut shell has less negative impact. The study has helped us to measure and quantify the sustainability of coconut shell.”

The LCA study was based on the three scopes above.

Unsurprisingly, the study showed us that coconut shell was the best raw material option. For treating 1m3 of water, the use of coconut shell based activated carbon sees the global warming potential reduced by 54% in comparison to coal based activated carbon.

Whilst we are very happy with the findings, there are still areas we can improve on and this study shows us exactly what those areas are. In terms of raw materials specifically, we will be seeking to substitute coal based products with coconut shell based materials where it is technically feasible. In addition, our innovation team work to enhance our coconut shell-based products to emulate some of the more unique characteristics of coal based activated carbon.

Where this is not technically feasible, we recognise the preferred environmentally sensitive option of using wood based activated carbons. Here we use our industry-leading skill set to find ways to ensure that our offering respects an increased ecological awareness, that allows us to meet our sustainability goals.

Whilst raw materials are a huge factor, the life cycle assessment showed us that our biggest environmental effects come from the carbonisation of raw materials rather than any other part of our production process. The study is split into three scopes. Scope 1 includes the direct factors of production and reactivation of carbon. Scope 2 covers indirect production factors, such as energy and utilities usage. In these scopes, we have already made tremendous improvements relating to waste heat recovery, steam and electricity regeneration. Scope 3 includes carbonisation, alongside cultivation by our raw materials suppliers, distribution and the use of the carbon by our customers. This scope represents over 90% of our current global warming potential and holds the biggest potential for improvements. Consequently, this is where we are focusing our efforts to improve and where we will be conducting more research.

The global warming potential of coconut shell based activated carbon sees a reduction of 54%  in comparison to coal based activated carbon.

We’re all on a journey...

The study has been well-received by employees and customers alike. With the importance of working sustainably becoming an increasingly prominent concern, we are frequently asked by our customers, and potential customers, to share what we are doing to improve our operations. With this study and the accompanying report, we are able to show them what we are currently doing and what we will be working on in the future. Eventually, we are hoping to conduct the same study for our production of ion exchange resins too.

Speaking of the future, we’ll also be doing more research in-house. We now have more knowledge and tools than we’ve ever had previously and are hoping to measure our progress ourselves, with official validation of our methods from the university along the way.

To truly work sustainably, though, we need to look at all aspects of the business and not solely our environmental footprint. We currently work with eight KPIs that help us improve other areas of our operations that are vital to sustainability too. This ensures that people across the entire organisation,  from the production sites right to the management board, are able to take ownership of our shared initiative to become more sustainable.

You can find copies of our sustainability reports at

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