Product Life Cycle & End of Life
Improving the lives of our millions of our consumers through responsible innovation and efficient appliances has been our priority over the last several decades. We do so by designing for efficiency that can help consumers decrease their energy and water use, while helping to save money, time and effort. We also look beyond the design phase and consider the entire environmental footprint of our products throughout their life cycle, from the selection of raw materials to the end of their useful life.
Analyzing the environmental impacts at each stage of the life cycle is fundamental for implementing the right solutions that will help improve the product’s footprint. The methodology used to analyze these impacts is based on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that informs our product development process. So far, LCAs have been completed on products in five out of seven categories and we are improving our LCA capabilities that will consider life cycle impacts linked to our strategy to reduce emissions by 2030. Because products within the same category have similar impacts throughout their life cycle phases, we focus on analyzing key products that provide a comprehensive view of impacts and inform improvements for each category.
In an effort to address these areas of opportunity identified through LCAs, Whirlpool Corporation uses a range of strategies that are aligned with the circular economy model. Circular economy aims to reshape the global economy to eliminate waste and change how we all do business and consume things, applying strategies such as reducing, reusing, recycling and renting, so that growth can continue in a sustainable way.
We will measure progress for our circular strategies by using the Circular Transition Indicators tool that was developed in 2020 in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and other member companies, and by using our improved assessment of GHG emissions from purchased goods and services (Scope 3, Category 1). In 2021 we created the circularity baseline for our major appliances and, based on this, we will establish SMART targets to monitor progress.
Product End of Life Management
Whirlpool Corporation strives to use circular design practices and product take-back as key enablers for the circular economy because it’s the point where materials go back into use or appropriate disposal rather than ending up in landfills or incinerated. We see this as an opportunity to collaborate with other key partners in the value chain to recapture value that would otherwise be lost.
Whirlpool Corporation integrates producer responsibility organizations (PROs) in all the countries, states and provinces with an extended producer responsibility (EPR) regulation in place, including 26 PROs in EMEA, 3 in Latin America and 5 in Canada. In countries where regulated take back does not exist, such as in the U.S., Whirlpool Corporation actively engages in multiple ways. We offer voluntary take back and refurbishment programs in multiple countries like in the U.K. and the U.S., where our return centers manage appliances diverted from waste and refurbish products for resale and reuse. In addition, we have been working with our trade customers to drive programs to take back and properly recycle our appliances, often for free or in promotion with the purchase of new products. Finally, we work with utility companies to offer rebates and take back programs for appliances, helping consumers replace old, inefficient appliances with newer, more energy-efficient ones.
Whirlpool Corporation strives to use circular design practices and product take-back as key enablers for the circular economy.
Consumers can return any appliances, including appliances produced by other brands, to be recycled by the PROs or trade customers, and there are multiple means available for returning end-of-life products, including drop-off at a store or designated collection site, mail-in and pick-up, depending on the geographical location. Take-back systems rely on consumer willingness to return their products, but some countries have their own particularities when it comes to consumer behavior, and the systems face challenges associated with second and tertiary uses of products and informal collection through a secondary market of appliances for resale of parts and scrap at the end-of-life.
Take-back programs are challenging to quantify due to confidential and proprietary systems, lack of data management software and consolidation of data across retailers and recyclers. To improve processes and governance, a subset of our cross-functional ESG Task Force partnered with an external consultant to assess market best practices for end-of-life management and evaluate opportunities for new solutions. The study conducted by the third-party concluded that our current practices comply with EPR regulations in all countries where these are in place, but we have an opportunity to further improve our internal monitoring data, which we plan to execute in 2022. The study also revealed market best practices around product reuse/refurbishment, which we plan to further scope in 2022 as part of our Sustainable Use strategy to extend product life.
circular strategies In action Feel Good Fridge Program
An initiative to help provide dependable access to healthy food for children.
Access to healthy food is an issue for millions of children in the U.S., and the pandemic made the situation even worse. In fact, a 2020 study cites that 27.5% of households with children in the U.S. are food insecure, which means about 14 million children are not getting enough to eat.1
All Feel Good Fridges are fully functioning returned units that have reentered our supply chain network via our Return Centers. Whirlpool Corporation carefully repurposes units with cosmetic damage that may have otherwise been crushed and recycled. Instead, these refrigerators are inspected, tested and cleaned at our facilities prior to arriving at a nonprofit location.
With a focus on Black, Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) and targeted on rural areas, Whirlpool Corporation has partnered with Feeding America to attack food insecurity in underserved communities across the country. Over 100 Feel Good Fridges were delivered to nonprofit organizations in 2021 to Benton Harbor and other cities throughout West Michigan. The Feel Good Fridge program plans to deliver over 1,000 refrigerators in 2022 as we connect with Feeding America Agencies in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles and beyond.
In addition, our Maytag brand, built on dependability, launched the Maytag Feel Good Fridge program in collaboration with Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), to help create thriving communities that children and their families can consistently depend on. The Maytag Feel Good Fridge also uses refurbished refrigerators placed at select BGCA Clubs across the country along with a grant to keep it stocked with healthy food for Club members and their families to take when in need. BGCA Clubs in Los Angeles, New York, Detroit and Grand Rapids were the first to receive Feel Good Fridges, with an additional 20 Feel Good Fridges being placed in Clubs around the country by early 2022.
1 Per June 2020 analysis by the Brookings Institution