How Kohler is Evolving with Sustainability at the Forefront

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Arabian Gazette’s interview with Theresa Millard, WasteLab Project Manager, Kohler Kitchen & Bath on company’s evolution on design, products and sustainability measures they are undertaking for a better future.

This year, Dubai Design Week, the region’s largest creative festival welcomed 75,000 visitors into Dubai Design District (d3) from the 12-17 November and saw over 250 events by 130 participating companies, reflecting the city’s position as a regional hub for design and creativity and as a key event in the global cultural calendar.

The event had a positive impact on Dubai’s status and reputation, helping the Emirate become the first Middle Eastern city to be featured on UNESCO’s ‘Creative Cities Network’ list, and contributing to strengthening Dubai’s position as a leading design centre in the region.

Theresa Millard, WasteLab Project Manager, Kohler Kitchen & Bath on company
Theresa Millard, WasteLab Project Manager, Kohler Kitchen & Bath on company

Kohler, the bath and kitchen accessories company was an official partner of Dubai Design Week. We had a chat with Theresa Millard, WasteLab Project Manager at Kohler Kitchen & Bath to discuss on a range of topics including about the company, products, ideas, and concepts for sustainability, WasteLab, and thoughts on Dubai Design Week.


You are a certified Biomimicry Professional. What does that mean to you as a professional?

I first discovered the field of biomimicry in 2005 and it opened my eyes to the amazing natural world around us and how we have so much to learn from nature relative to innovation and sustainability. Biomimicry is a very hopeful and practical approach and I think with the challenges we face today, we need optimism as well good models on which to focus.
How important and significant is art in designing today’s Bath and Kitchen accessories?
Art is a critical part of who we are and remains a core foundation by which we operate relative to aesthetics, material choices and the emotional connection we make with our products.
How is Kohler evolving according to your passion for the triple bottom line: People, Planet and Prosperity?
Over the last decade, at Kohler we have deepened our commitment to the concept of triple-bottom line through some key initiatives – our Stewardship program focuses on how we as associates can positively impact communities where we live and work, as well provide assistance during times of disaster. Our Sustainability program focuses on reducing our environmental impacts across the whole product lifecycle as well drive cultural change both internally and with our external partners.
What sustainable ideas and concepts does Kohler bring into the Middle East (GCC)?
Kohler is leading the market with sustainability measures in the bathroom design segment.
We are focusing on the following products for the Middle East market:
Katalyst Spray Technology
Kohler showering tapware is supplied with the unique patented Katalyst technology.
Katalyst is a revolutionary air induction system that makes each water drop feel bigger and perform better. The technology introduces 2.2 litres of air into every 9.4 litres of water via a patented venturi located in the ball joint. This technique reduces water consumption without compromising the showerhead performance.
Kohler showering tapware with Katalyst technology is rated 3 star WELS.
3-Litre Flush Toilet
The innovative 3-litre flush toilet from Kohler meets Saudi Arabian Standards Organization (SASO) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) standards.
For designers, architects and homeowners looking to make an eco-friendly and water-saving design decision, Kohler 3-litre toilet is the perfect solution. The combination of uncompromised performance and a timeless classic design, as well as contemporary style, guarantee customer satisfaction.
Touchless Faucets
KOHLER touchless faucets with Insight™ technology feature an advanced infrared sensor that adapts to its environment. The Insight sensor analyses the surrounding area and automatically calibrates itself to eliminate false activations and optimize the faucet’s performance. The Kohler Hybrid energy system offers 30 years of hassle-free power, with no maintenance required.
With Expo 2020 not very far off, what are your Ideas & plans for the Middle East market in 2020?
At Kohler, we are committed to leaving the world a better place than we found it and we are working toward net-zero environmental impact by 2035. For us, this means reducing or offsetting all greenhouse gas emissions and sending zero solid waste to landfill; developing innovative energy- and water-saving products; and encouraging people to take action.
There is a shift towards more sustainable practices in design and construction in the Middle East region. The UAE’s ESMA and KSA’s SASO standards are setting the green building codes in the markets.
We have aligned our efforts with sustainable practices and lead the market with water-saving products.
In our CEO’s, David Kohler, words “Our sustainability strategy, properly conceived and executed, should not be about compromise or massive tradeoffs. We believe it should be a win for the consumer, the associate, the environment and the company.”
Please tell us more on WasteLab and are there any plans to introduce WasteLab products to the Middle East?
Kohler WasteLAB is a new kind of factory where learning and collaboration is paramount. Each person brings their passions, skills and drive to make a difference in the world as we progress our understanding of what it means to be a manufacturer, and as we redefine business, production, and craftsmanship. WasteLAB aims at creating high-value products and services out of industrial wastes and serves as a catalyst for how Kohler understands the material resources used in our processes.
The type of thinking that gives rise to projects like the WasteLab is nurtured at Kohler through the Innovation for Good (IfG) program. Open to everyone, IfG brings together associates from functions across the company and around the world to develop solutions to real-world problems that can be scaled globally.
Curiosity and imagination have already led us into uncharted waters, and we’re learning more about what’s possible every day. We’re taking industrial waste and creating high-end tiles for Ann Sacks, with some made from 100% waste materials. Using a collection of secondhand tools and equipment, our small but intrepid team volunteered their collective skills and knowledge to sort and test waste materials, to design and create tile forms and to craft dry-pressed tiles with exquisite glazes.
We started in the USA and expanding into other markets is an untapped potential.
Tell us more on Kohler’s association with Dubai Design week and its significance?.
This year we are an official partner of Dubai Design Week.
The walkway between the Dubai Design District’s building 4 & 5 transformed into green lush settings showcasing a range of KOHLER Real Rain showerheads. Visitors experienced our Real Rain showers – from a drizzle to a summer rainstorm with Kohler’s Rain Real installation, using a unique design that uses gravity to shape individual water drops to replicate rainfall.
In addition to the installation, and in conjunction with Dubai Design Week, we hosted on Nov 14th 3 special events. KOHLER ChitChat where 20 slides shown only for 20 seconds each, challenge four speakers to present their experiences, ideas, thoughts in regard to the topic ‘Wanderlust’. Followed by the ‘All Things Connected’ KOHLER Design Forum in partnership with Monocle magazine. Dubai is one of the stops of this series of events this year, aside from London, Singapore, Toronto and Bangkok. In the final event, we are honored to be offering a Kohler Waste Lab workshop during these inspiring days to explore how we are transforming industrial waste into something meaningful.
Dubai Design Week is a vital opportunity for us to increase the company’s brand awareness, display our brand strength, and grab the attention of the architects and interior designers in the region.
As a 145-year-old company we know that we need to evolve, and since 2015 we have been studying the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to consider how we approach business into the future. This is still an evolving field for us, today our emphasis is with Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation, Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy, and Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production. This journey is an ongoing and exciting process, we hope that others will join us.
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