Sustainability and Citizenship

Ecolab has long demonstrated its concern for the wellbeing of people, communities and the planet. Over the years the company has been recognized for operating according to a strict ethical code, investing to build stronger communities, promoting environmental sustainability and providing disaster relief.

Long before many companies became concerned with protecting natural resources and reducing waste, Ecolab began to focus on products and services that could help customers reduce water and energy consumption and lower their impact on the environment. In recent decades, Ecolab has leveraged its greatest opportunity for environmental impact through the nearly three million customer locations it serves with products designed to use less water, energy and other resources and generate less waste. Today, when a new product concept is considered, the company makes it a priority to assess its projected life-cycle environmental impact as a criterion for development.

Economics Laboratory’s (EL) early customers are more concerned with overusing or underusing the company’s dishmachine detergent than with environmental impact. But EL’s pioneering mechanical detergent dispenser gives them greater control over how much detergent they use. It marks the company’s first effort to reduce waste.

1926  Economics Laboratory (EL) pioneers mechanical detergent control for mechanical dishwashing with a dispenser, patented in 1928. Over the decades dispenser design evolves to ensure that only the proper amount of detergent is used to achieve effective cleaning. Later dispensing enhancements include devices for final rinse injection of water conditioners, sanitizing agents and rinse aids, as well as solid-state electronic controls to deliver the precise proportion of dishmachine detergent.

Rachel Carson’s best-selling book, Silent Spring, heightens public concern about the use of chemicals and their impact on the environment. It influences governments and corporations to adopt stronger environmental policies, regulations and controls. 

EL responds to the wave of new environmental and public health regulations by actively researching biodegradable detergents and other ways to avoid contributing to water contamination.

1967  CEO E.B. Osborn meets with members of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s cabinet. EL Vice President of Research Bill Podas joins a federal task force to study water pollution problems and solutions.

1970s   The environmental movement begins with the first Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970, building awareness about natural resource stewardship.

Energy and resource conservation become a focus for EL. The research team develops products that recover pulp fibers for recycled papermaking and processed oil for reuse in synthetic lubricants that last a year instead of two weeks. The company pioneers detergents that clean dairy equipment at low temperatures and new microprocessors that allow dairy plant operators to precisely control clean-in-place (CIP) cleaning cycles and recapture milk clinging to pipes. And new aseptic meat-cutting techniques help extend the shelf life of packaged meats, reducing waste.

1971  EL reduces phosphates, an ingredient added to detergents to increase their cleaning efficiency and a major component of many of the company’s products. Efforts to reduce phosphates lead to a new raw material base from which to develop formulations that meet evolving environmental standards.

1976  EL launches Eco-Temp, a lease program featuring low-temperature, large-capacity dishmachines. Using chemical sanitizing, the machines could wash dishes at 140ºF instead of the standard 180ºF, yielding energy savings without jeopardizing cleaning and sanitation.  

1976  EL introduces highly concentrated Guardian System™ detergents that provide better cleaning while conserving energy. The pre-packaged, concentrated program is designed for use with a companion solid-state electronic dispenser to reduce safety hazards associated with product handling.  

Many companies, including EL, increase their focus on product and service innovations that are both good for business and good for the environment.   

1981  EL launches Solid Power™, concentrated “solid” warewashing chemicals, packaged in an easy-to-handle capsule designed for hospitality, hospitals and other institutional customers. The product sets new standards for safety (by eliminating direct contact with chemicals during handling), convenience and cost. Also, without the weight of water in traditional liquid detergents, the new solids increase shipping efficiency and reduce the fuel needed to transport them. In addition, capsule packaging dramatically reduces packaging waste compared with the five-gallon (or larger) containers used to contain liquid formulations.  

1987  Ecolab’s “Solids Team” of products expands to seven. It is the industry’s only line of solids to meet all institutional warewashing and kitchen cleaning needs. 

1988  Solid Choice™ becomes the company’s first solids application for the beverage industry. 

Ecolab focuses product development on solutions that deliver “Total Impact:” high-performance, operational savings and environmental benefits.  

1994  Ecolab introduces the Oasis System™, which automatically mixes and dispenses a system of color-coded – and easy-to-identify – cleaning products for the housekeeping market. 

1997  Tsunami™, an environmentally sound chemical treatment for improving the quality of processed fruits and vegetables, is introduced to advance food safety. The following year, Tsunami receives U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration approval for use in water for cleaning fresh-cut fruits and vegetables.  

1997  GeoSystem™ 9000, a third-generation line of high performance solids and dispensers for institutional warewashing, takes Ecolab’s solids technology to a new level, reducing waste and providing safety, convenience and savings.   

Companies face a growing call to be more transparent about how they use water, energy and other resources – and how they plan to mitigate environmental impact.  

2004  Ecolab reports on its sustainability efforts for the first time.  

2004  Ecolab introduces PERformance™, the first low-temperature oxidizer for commercial laundry applications designed to reduce energy consumption and improve textile life. 

2005  Ecolab launches AdvaCare™ Sanitizing Sour for commercial laundries. It is the first liquid low-temperature sanitizer that is effective at water temperatures of 90° F. It helps reduce energy consumption and improve textile life.   

2007  Ecolab is included in Ethispheres’s first World’s Most Ethical Companies list, which recognizes companies who exemplify transparency, integrity, ethics and compliance in their business practices. The company has been on the list every year since then. 

2009  Ecolab publishes its first standalone sustainability report. In addition to reporting its own accomplishments, the report highlights the exponential impact Ecolab has through the hundreds of thousands of customers who use its products and services to minimize water and energy use, increase safety and reduce waste.  

To see reports from subsequent years, see Previous and Translated Sustainability Reports.

Shareholders, customers, regulators and employees increasingly expect companies to operate sustainably and responsibly. Brands are built, or diminished, on perceptions of environmental stewardship.  

2010  Ecolab reduces its global water consumption by 4.4 percent, global disposed waste by 18 percent and global effluent water by 2.4 percent per metric ton of shipped product over the prior year. In the U.S., carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 e) emissions are reduced by 9.13 percent per dollar sales from 2009, resulting in a 15.4 percent total reduction from a 2006 baseline. 

Ecolab begins testing its Aquanomic™ laundry system, which uses innovative wash formulas and low-temperature chemistry to reduce water and energy consumption. Trials show the potential to reduce customers’ water and energy use by up to 40 percent while providing clean, white and soft results. 

For healthcare institutions, new PROTECT™ and EnCompass™ programs demonstrate the potential to improve patient, environmental and staff safety while also supporting sustainability goals, including reductions of up to 86 percent in water use and 74 percent in chemical use. 

Solid Power™ XL for dishmachines is introduced. Because it uses 80 percent less packaging, it also reduces fossil fuel requirements for packaging and product distribution. Solids technology also is introduced as part of Ecolab’s OptiPro™ Instrument Re-processing Program for the healthcare market, providing similar sustainability benefits. 

2011  Ecolab adds safety as a key fourth element in its sustainability reporting, which traditionally has included economic progress, environmental stewardship and social responsibility. Integrating safety considerations into all aspects of company business is seen as vitally important for employees, customers and communities where Ecolab does business.   

2012  Ecolab continues to launch innovations that enable customers to do more with fewer resources, including: 

  • Apex2™, a warewashing program that delivers superior cleaning results while reducing customer water and energy use.  
  • Aquanomic™, a laundry system that reduces water use by up to 40 percent and energy use by up to 50 percent. 
  • 3D TRASAR™ Technology, acquired in the 2011 Nalco merger, which combines automatic monitoring and chemical dispensing in cooling towers and boilers to help customers improve the efficiency of their systems while reducing water and energy use. 
  • Peracetic acid chemistry is applied in the energy sector to enable unconventional oil and gas producers to recycle process water and reduce overall water use. 
  • Solid chemistries continue to be developed for new industries, replacing liquid chemistry and reducing packaging waste and transportation costs.

2012  Ecolab becomes a signatory to the U.N. Global Compact and CEO Water Mandate.  

The company earns recognition for contributions to environmental sustainability: 

  • Named 2012 Water Technology Company of the Year by Global Water Intelligence
  • Included on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the first time.  
  • Recognized by the Carbon Disclosure Project’s Climate Disclosure Leadership Index 
  • Establishes a new standard for comprehensive water resource management in industry through a partnership with the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS)

2013  Ecolab introduces the largest innovation pipeline in its history, with more than 80 significant product introductions – all developed under the company’s Total Impact Approach to innovation. Integral to this approach is consideration of how each solution reduces cost, increases efficiency, minimizes use of natural resources and improves human and environmental safety – throughout sourcing, manufacturing, transportation and delivery, use and disposal.  

To learn about specific innovations, see Ecolab’s 2013 Sustainability Report.

Ecolab achieves a 22.4 percent intensity reduction in U.S. GHG emissions from its 2006 baseline, exceeding the company’s stated goal by 2012. It also records waste reduction of 20 percent from 2009 and 2012, surpassing a target of 18 percent. 

Ecolab sets more aggressive five-year environmental sustainability targets, based on 2012 metrics as an operational baseline, including a:

  • A 5 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • A 10 percent reduction in water use and wastewater discharge
  • A 10 percent reduction in solid waste, measured by intensity per million dollars in sales

Ecolab field-tests the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s beta International Water Stewardship Standard at two sites in the lower Yangtze, one of China’s most critical watersheds, to help fine-tune the standard for global adoption. 

2014  Ecolab, in partnership with Trucost and later Microsoft®, introduces the Water Risk Monetizer, the first online, no-cost financial modeling tool to help companies assess the true value of water and the risk of water scarcity to their operations. Enhancements to the tool are made in 2015 and 2017.  

2015  Ecolab solutions help customers collectively conserve 142 billion gallons of water, eliminate 26.4 million pounds of waste and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 10.5 trillion BTUs. The company sets a goal to help conserve 300 billion gallons of water annually by 2030 in its own and its customers’ operations.  

Ecolab’s Taicang, China, manufacturing plant is the first site in the world to be independently certified under the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s global standard for water stewardship.   

In partnership with the Project WET Foundation, a nonprofit water resources education organization, Ecolab launches its Clean and Conserve Education program to educate children around the world about the importance of water conservation and hygiene.  

For the third consecutive year, Newsweek names Ecolab to its list of Top Green Companies in the World.   

2017  Ecolab is named to the Water A List by CDP, the nonprofit global environmental disclosure platform. It is one of 73 A List global companies recognized for efforts to manage water more sustainably.  

Newsweek names Ecolab #2 in the U.S. on its list of Top Green Companies in the World.   

For the third consecutive year, Ecolab is named to the 2017 Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) North America index, a highly regarded assessment of leading sustainability-driven companies. This marks its fourth listing since 2012.  

Recognized as one of the world’s most ethical companies by the Ethisphere Institute for the 12th year in a row.

Community Giving
The men and women of Ecolab built a strong culture of giving during the company’s early decades (More about Ida Koran). In 1980, the company formed the Ecolab Foundation, formalizing its support to communities where it operates. 

Over the years, the Foundation has supported:

  • Youth and education: programs that promote youth development, particularly for at-risk youth  
  • Civic and community development: affordable housing, work readiness, crisis assistance and hunger relief 
  • Environment and conservation: hands-on environmental learning programs 
  • Arts and culture: arts education for children and youth as well as support for museums and the performing arts

1985  Ecolab launches an employee giving campaign, providing employees an opportunity to give to local community needs of their choice.  

1990s  Ecolab provides in-kind donations of cleaning and sanitizing supplies in the face of natural disasters. In-kind donations to aid recovery from floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis and other natural disasters become a vital and ongoing part of the company’s commitment to communities. 

2007  The Ecolab Foundation reaches a milestone of more than $4 million in grants to nonprofit organizations.  

2012  The Ecolab Foundation launches its Global Team Volunteer Program in the U.S. The program expands to include employees across the globe in subsequent years.   

2014  Ecolab launches a global giving program called Solutions for Life to enhance water conservation and hygiene. Collaborating with The Nature Conservancy and Project WET Foundation, the company commits $3.5 million in support over three years.  

Ecolab is ranked among the top 10 on CR Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens list. The list recognizes companies for their commitment to operating responsibly and transparently.  

2015  Ecolab awards $1.1 million in grants to K–12 educators throughout the U.S. through the Ecolab Foundation’s Visions for Learning Educator Grants. The program provides teachers with funds to purchase equipment and materials to enhance the classroom experience. The 2015 donation provides nearly 650 grants benefitting 315 schools and more than 157,000 students. 

2016 Corporate giving for the year reaches a new level: 

  • Combined corporate & foundation: $11,039,110 
    • Ecolab Foundation: $6,355,700 
    • $1.4 million in total in-kind product donations 
    • 142 tons of cleaning and sanitizing product for global disaster relief 
  • 84,985 hours volunteered by employees. 

2017  Ecolab’s long-term support for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) continues, with total funds given through 2017 totaling more than $1.7 million. Much of the funding, raised over the years through an Ecolab-sponsored silent auction during the National Restaurant Association’s annual meeting, helps provide scholarships to NRAEF’s ProStart program. ProStart supports students exploring professions in the restaurant and foodservice industries.

Ida Koran
Ida C. Koran Trust
The Ida C. Koran Trust offers one-time financial assistance through low- interest loans and grants to Ecolab employees around the world to help them with expenses incurred due to unplanned, unexpected events. It also offers scholarship support for children of Ecolab employees. The Trust is the legacy of the company’s first employee, Ida C. Koran, who devoted her entire career to Ecolab’s success.

Who was Ida Koran? 
Ida Koran was Ecolab’s first employee, hired by founder M.J. Osborn in 1923. When M.J. offered her a position, she was working in the newspaper business. He reportedly promised Miss Koran many things, including, it is said, an easy and undemanding job. According to accounts at the time of her death, M.J. made her no promises that he didn’t keep, with one exception – that the job would be “easy.” Ida worked for the company for 44 years serving in various roles, including secretary, assistant sales manager, and later as corporate secretary and director of the company. Throughout, she provided counsel to M.J.

Over the years, Ida’s co-workers turned to her for assistance. She is remembered for her “sympathetic ear and generous spirit” – and for providing financial assistance to co-workers in need. Today, her spirit lives on through the trust established at the time of her death in 1967.   

Hardship and scholarship assistance  
At its inception, the Ida Koran Trust’s hardship program was designed to support members of the Ecolab sales force as they were opening up new opportunities for the company around the United States. However, as the business developed and careers progressed, the Trust’s support expanded to include all U.S. employees who faced a need. At the same time, the hardship program began taking a closer look at an employee’s financial situation and his or her earning potential at Ecolab.

In the mid-1980s the Ida Koran trustees created the academic assistance program to support dependent children of Ecolab employees pursuing post-secondary education (trade, vocational, technical or traditional two- or four-year degrees).

Later, in the mid-1990s the trustees further developed the hardship programs to provide natural disaster emergency support as well as time-sensitive, urgent financial support for requests under $1,000.

The Ida Koran Trust programs were extended internationally in the early 2000s and, as Ecolab has acquired companies, Ida Koran’s support has been extended to their employees as well. In the 10 years leading up to 2018, Ida Koran provided Ecolab employees and their immediate families with more than $23 million in financial assistance.   

The number of scholarships keeps growing 
The Ida Koran academic assistance program has been supporting the education of dependent children of Ecolab employees since 1993 when the Trust provided $220,000 in academic assistance to 35 students. Since then, the program has been providing scholarship awards and low-interest loans to help employees fund a dependent child’s post-secondary education. In the five years leading up to 2018, the program averaged $1.75 million in financial support, awarded to an average 119 new recipients and over 200 renewing recipients each year.   

The academic assistance program opens for applications every October with a submission deadline of 20 February. All materials are available on

Financial assistance keeps increasing, too 
The Ida Koran hardship program continues to provide employees an opportunity to request financial support when faced with unplanned life events causing financial strain. Whether it’s a request related to paying a medical bill or support to help rebuild an employee’s home following a natural disaster, the Ida Koran program can be of help. Awards to employees range from $2,500 up to $10,000 in loans, grants or grant/loan support.