An active and forward-looking environmental policy is part of the company's social responsibility. Environmental protection should not be regarded simply as part of the company's responsibility in relation to people and the environment The optimized use of natural resources and innovations also generate business opportunities for new products and areas of business.

  • Approach and Key Figures

    Environmental management at ZEISS is geared toward avoiding environmental pollution. ZEISS approaches environmental protection holistically, just as each individual process step and its dependency to other steps is examined as part of process optimization.

    The environmental management system (EMS) has been enshrined in the ZEISS Group in a number of different ways:

    • Executive Board: Overall responsibility for the EMS of the ZEISS Group
    • Group environmental officers: support for introduction, organization and implementation
    • Site managers: responsible for implementing environmental policy and environmental directives

    Organization of environmental management

    The ISO 14001 international environmental management standard defines globally recognized requirements for an environmental management system. The organizational structure described enables ZEISS to make the effectiveness of the EMS a reality across all four phases – Plan, Do, Check and Act – and to continuously improve environmental performance.

    Total expenditure on environmental protection

    ZEISS has spent over 8 million euros on global environmental protection measures each year for the past ten fiscal years. In addition to investments in state-of-the-art equipment, product-integrated environmental protection is becoming an increasingly important factor. Through its investments ZEISS endeavors to prevent environmental pollution from occurring in the first place by taking integrated environmental protection measures into consideration at the beginning of the process loops.

    Key Environmental Indicators

    The production sites gather their key environmental indicators each year. These are then centrally consolidated.

    • From 1993 onwards – data collection in Germany
    • From 2003 onwards – data collection worldwide

    The key environmental indicators system of the ZEISS Group comprises 40 production sites around the world (status: fiscal year 2014/15). The worldwide Sales and Service Companies and the sites of the Vision Care business group have not been taken into consideration.

    The key environmental indicators include the use of resources such as energy and water, waste water, waste of all kinds and investments in environmental protection. This short list comprises the most relevant kinds of environmental impact caused by ZEISS production sites.

  • Certifications

    ZEISS employs internal and external audits for the monitoring of its environmental management system. For example, internal audits have been carried out at the company’s headquarters and at subsidiary companies for more than ten years to ensure responsible behavior. External audits are carried out by accredited certification companies or independent environmental assessors. 

    Environmental management certification

    Management certification to ISO 14001 is of fundamental importance in external audits. By the end of 2015, a total of 15 production sites and 22 subsidiaries of the ZEISS Group around the world were certified to ISO 14001. This is equivalent to about 90 percent of all ZEISS production sites. These certifications highlight the fact that ZEISS lives up to its responsibility in the area of environmental management. 

    Energy management certification

    ZEISS launched initiatives to ensure the efficient handling of energy a good few years ago. Since December 2015, all business units of the ZEISS Group in the European Union have been certified to the globally recognized energy management standard ISO 50001. An energy management system according to the stipulated requirements was successfully introduced and implemented. In this way, ZEISS is underscoring the importance of this topic. 

    A list of the valid certificates of the companies in the ZEISS Group is available in the online database of the German Association for the Certification of Management Systems (DQS). The ISO 50001 certificates are available from ZEISS on request.

  • Conservation

    Promoting Conservation

    ZEISS is committed to the protection of flora and fauna. The binoculars and spotting scopes from ZEISS allow people to get closer to nature and already have an excellent reputation among nature lovers around the globe. ZEISS products for observing nature allow people to experience the animal kingdom up close. It is therefore in the company’s interest to campaign on its behalf.

    In collaboration with trade associations, ZEISS supports many conservation activities and educational programs for kids and grown-ups alike. Furthermore, ZEISS is promoting research programs aimed at protecting endangered animals.  

    Conservation Programs

    Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union

    NABU, the German nature conservation association of BirdLife International, aims to get people interested in campaigning for conservation through joint action. Protecting birds and endangered animals is one of NABU’s main activities. ZEISS has long since been supporting NABU and has partnered with it for some projects: “Hour of garden birds” and “Hour of winter birds.” Nature lovers throughout Germany are called on to observe birds in the garden or from their balconies in a set time period and report their findings to NABU. The more details NABU has about the bird population in cities, towns, gardens and parks, the better they can campaign to protect the different species. What’s more, ZEISS has been lending its support in the form of donations to selected NABU centers located in Hamburg, and near Federsee lake and Wollmatinger Ried in southern Germany. 

    Black Eagle Monitoring Project

    Employee volunteers established the Black Eagle Monitoring Project back in 1992 with the aim of observing the black eagle in South Africa. Interested visitors can approach the volunteers in the Garden to find out more about this bird of prey. ZEISS in South Africa donated binoculars and spotting scopes for this project. The ZEISS products afford visitors a distinctly more detailed look at the birds of prey than the equipment currently in use and create even more enthusiasm for the black eagle. 

    Hessian Society for Ornithology and Nature Conservation

    HGON is a regional organization belonging to the Federation of German Avifaunists (DDA). HGON collects scientific data. It also offers different birdwatching tours to acquaint people with the virtues of bird protection. The focus is on bird conservation and on collecting data on their incidence. ZEISS has been supporting their efforts for many years in the form of donations. 

    Champions of the Flyway

    On 24 March 2015, 135 people from 15 countries headed out at midnight in southern Israel with the objective of spotting as many species of bird as possible within 24 hours. With the Champions of the Flyway campaign, the ornithologists aim to draw attention to the illegal capture of migratory birds together with international visitors and raise money for a BirdLife project aimed at protecting these birds. ZEISS supports this project with an annual donation. 

    Seabird Conservation

    Bird conservation organization BirdLife South Africa is looking into the impact of fishing on seabirds. Thanks to the observations of BirdLife South Africa, the large fishing fleets in South Africa were able to reduce the negative effects of fishing on seabirds by as much as 90 percent. As part of a research expedition through the Antarctic pack ice, a small team of employee volunteers and researchers recorded the migration patterns of seabirds. ZEISS supports this long-term study on the geographic distribution of bird populations by donating binoculars. 


    Education and Research Collaborations

    BirdLife International

    BirdLife International is a global federation of national bird conservation associations and has 13 million members. ZEISS is the official sponsor of the scientific work for the BirdLife’s red list, in which all endangered bird species and the degree of the threat to them is recorded. The information is passed on to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and included in its red list of endangered flora and fauna. The knowledge gained forms the basis for the different protection measures.

    Cornell Lab of Ornithology

    The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York is regarded as the world’s most important ornithological research institute. ZEISS supports the work of the Lab and is the primary sponsor of the data collection system eBird. This real-time platform, established in 2002, has revolutionized birdwatching and constitutes a rich source of information on the geographic and seasonal distribution of bird populations. “Genuine bird conservation requires people to know about the entire life cycle of the birds,” explains Head of eBird Chris Wood. “The support we have received from ZEISS is helping eBird put together a network of birdwatchers in North and South America, which enables us to further expand our knowledge base.” What’s more, eBird hands out a ZEISS eBirder of the Month award that comes with a pair of ZEISS binoculars. 

    Young Birders Program

    ZEISS supports a number of programs and events for budding young ornithologists in the USA. The Young Birders Network established the Young Birders Club in various US states, for example: a program for budding young ornithologists who are trained and supported by seasoned ornithologists. In 2015, ZEISS was the main sponsor of the Young Birders Weekend run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which was held in July in Ithaca, New York. The event was aimed at young people who are keen birdwatchers and interested in pursuing a career as ornithologists. ZEISS donated binoculars that the Lab awarded as competition prizes for various projects. Various Young Birders Clubs also received donations. 

    Lernort Natur

    ZEISS is the supplier of the optics for the Lernort Natur initiative, a project run by the German Hunters’ Federation (DJV). This initiative promotes training in nature and the environment for teachers and school students. According to the DJV, children and young people who are introduced to the fascinating aspects of nature are more likely to engage with nature conservation. The initiative’s greatest asset when it comes to learning is a toolbox designed for nature observation; it features a magnifying glass, image material and binoculars. Thanks to the support received from ZEISS, Lernort Natur was able to distribute over 2,000 of these excellent educational tools. ZEISS promoted the initiative with heavily subsidized binoculars. 


    Prizes and awards

    Rhino Conservation Award

    The South African black rhino population is threatened with extinction. To draw attention to the protection of the black rhino and the commitment of conservationists and organizations, the Rhino Conservation Award was launched in 2012. In 2015, ZEISS was the official sponsor of the award, which was presented at the end of July in South Africa.

    ZEISS Wildlife Conservation Awards

    More than ten years ago, ZEISS set up the Wildlife Conservation Award in India. Each year, it is presented to outstanding conservationists in India. In 2015 Imran Siddiqui won the award for his commitment to the design and implementation of progressive observation protocols of rare tigers. 

  • Energy

    ZEISS energy management comprises several aspects. The point is to establish an energy management system and monitor the data, thus making consumption transparent.

    Examples of energy efficiency at ZEISS

    Reducing energy usage at ZEISS

    As part of its efforts to reduce energy consumption, ZEISS uses the latest systems. Employees are also encouraged to make their own contribution.

    Some examples:

    • In November 2013, an internal roadshow on the topic of energy was launched at the German sites in order to present the energy management system to the employees. With a second roadshow in 2015, ZEISS powered ahead with raising awareness for energy usage among its employees. This year, the topics were e-mobility, compressed air, and heat and cold.
    • A number of ZEISS sites have installed LED lights in their production facilities. These include those in La Rochelle (France) and in the sites in Guangzhou (China) and Mexico. The site in Maple Grove, Minnesota, has replaced all the neon lights in its offices with LEDs. In fiscal year 2014/15 1,163 fluorescent tubes containing mercury were replaced. This resulted in savings of some 114,000 kilowatt hours each year. The ZEISS site in Thornwood, New York, made the switch from fluorescent tubes to LEDs in a bid to save energy and reduce its carbon footprint. The estimated annual savings at the Thornwood site total more than 246,000 kilowatt hours. 
    • The vehicle fleet of ZEISS in the Benelux countries has changed in recent years due to heightened awareness of environmental issues. Smaller, more energy-efficient vehicles are now being used. The parking lot at ZEISS has a charging station for employee vehicles.
    • Between March and December 2015, employees had the opportunity to submit their suggestions for improvement on an array of topics related to energy saving as part of the employee suggestion scheme. All viable suggestions were entered into a monthly drawing with the chance of winning gift certificates or a weekend rental of a ZEISS eSmart. With this campaign ZEISS highlights how important it is for all employees to take the topic of energy usage seriously and play their part in optimizing processes.

    Energy efficiency at ZEISS

    ZEISS is committed to the continuous improvement of its energy efficiency. This takes various forms, such as the use of energy-saving machines, environmentally conscious construction and the identification of other measures to improve efficiency.

    Some examples:

    • The ZEISS site in Marly-le-Roi, close to Paris, fulfills modern certification requirements on sustainable construction. Featuring the latest thermal and acoustic insulation, it received environmental certification, and is one of very few corporate locations in France to have done so. The building has also been honored by the European Commission with awards for sustainability in the areas of lighting and construction investment. 
    • ZEISS has received certification for the new facility of its Medical Technology business group located in the industrial zone between Oberkochen and Königsbronn from the German Society for Sustainable Building (DGNB). The new building was awarded first place in the category Administrative and Production Buildings and received the Gold Award. In the list of all buildings constructed in Germany and assessed by the DGNB, the new facility made it into the top ten.

    Renewable energies at ZEISS

    ZEISS is successfully increasing its use of renewable energies at various sites.

    Some examples:

    • Thanks to the over 4,000 solar panels installed on the roof at the Dublin, California site in 2012, this plant now produces a large proportion of its energy requirements in-house.
    • A photovoltaic system was installed in summer 2011 at the ZEISS offices in Novara, Italy. The Novara site is now fully independent of external energy sources: the system covers the entire electricity needs of the machines and offices, and is even in a position to pump electricity into the Novara urban grid.
    • At its site in Oberkochen, Germany, ZEISS is running its first-ever electric vehicle with electricity it generated itself. The eSmart model also forms part of a research initiative on e-mobility, which ZEISS is running in collaboration with Aalen University. The aim of this research initiative, the GREENOSTALB business models, is to link green electricity and mobility in a practical way. It’s all about ascertaining to what extent e-mobility could take on a more important role for the ZEISS vehicle fleet in the future.

    In-house energy production at ZEISS

    ZEISS endeavors to increase the proportion of energy produced in-house in the energy it uses overall.

    Some examples:

    • At ZEISS in Oberkochen, Germany, there are four combined heat and power plants in which natural gas is used to generate heat and power. These are highly efficient combined facilities with overall efficiency as high as 89 percent.
    • By 2013 the South Factory at the site in Oberkochen was expanded and saw installations in the form of photovoltaic systems in the region of around 800 kilowatt peak (kWp). The solar panels at the site in Thornwood were put into operation in November 2014 and have been producing energy ever since. The in-house production of energy by ZEISS has enabled Thornwood to further reduce its carbon footprint.

    ZEISS decreased the total energy consumption relative to revenue by more than 21 percent between fiscal years 2009/10 and 2013/14. During this period, the energy consumption of the ZEISS Group worldwide fell from 333 to 310 gigawatt hours (GWh). The increase in energy consumption since 2011/12 is due to the more energy-intensive production in cleanrooms with more sophisticated air conditioning systems and the start-up of additional production facilities.

    Facility Management at the individual corporate locations aspires to achieve maximum efficiency in the energy sector from both the ecological and economic viewpoints. It has therefore been possible to keep energy consumption at individual plants largely constant despite a growing headcount at the sites and increasing revenues.  

  • Water

    Water consumption is based on the overall key water consumption indicator including water used for production and for company facilities. Despite increasing production costs and a growing headcount, ZEISS has managed to significantly reduce the total water quantity and the volume of water in relation to revenue. This has been achieved through the consistent re-use of water in rinsing processes and the recirculation of water in production, cleaning and cooling systems. Waste water generated by production is generally processed by in-house waste water treatment facilities, then discharged into the municipal sewage system.

    Some examples of water management

    Water savings in Dublin, California

    In order to protect the environment and in response to the arid climate in California, ZEISS has dramatically reduced the amount of water it uses for landscaping on the grounds. As a result, water consumption was more or less halved between 2013 and 2014.

    Savings made over the past ten years

    Between fiscal years 2003/04 and 2013/14, water consumption in the ZEISS Group was reduced by almost 20 percent. In absolute terms, this corresponds to approximately 124,000 cubic meters. During the same period, total water consumption relative to revenue was reduced by almost 50 percent. These statistics apply to 40 production sites of the ZEISS Group worldwide.  

    Between fiscal years 2009/10 and 2012/13, water consumption in the ZEISS Group was reduced by almost 2 percent worldwide. In absolute terms, this corresponds to approximately 135,000 cubic meters.

    Between fiscal years 2009/10 and 2012/13, water consumption in the ZEISS Group was reduced by almost 2 percent worldwide. In absolute terms, this corresponds to approximately 135,000 cubic meters.

    Between fiscal years 2009/10 and 2012/13, water consumption in the ZEISS Group was reduced by almost 2 percent worldwide. In absolute terms, this corresponds to approximately 135,000 cubic meters.
    During the same period, total water consumption relative to revenue was reduced by almost 17 percent.

    During the same period, total water consumption relative to revenue was reduced by almost 17 percent.

    During the same period, total water consumption relative to revenue was reduced by almost 17 percent.
  • Chemical management

    ZEISS pursues a multifaceted approach to ensure that our efforts in chemical management are effective, preventive and comply with the regulations. This approach covers the safe handling of hazardous substances and goods throughout the entire process chain. ZEISS thus ensures that both its employees and the environment are well-protected.

    A substances database and list of hazardous substances showing their properties, as well as safety guidelines and classifications for hazardous substances, form the basis of a Group-wide environmental information system on the hazardous substances used. 

    Relevant safety data sheets contain the required information on the safe handling of chemical products and therefore serve to avoid accidents. ZEISS suppliers are obligated to provide current safety data sheets. When introducing new hazardous substances, the Group takes care to ensure that the suppliers observe the appropriate list of banned substances and the declaration list contained in a factory standard and demands the corresponding certificates of conformity.  

    Further information

    Examples of chemical management

    Cooling lubricant systems: switch from oil to water

    The cooling lubricant systems in all plants have been converted to the use of water-based instead of oil-based substances. This means around 95 percent of oil needed in the past could be saved and we can do our bit for water protection. The prevention of adverse events is a major part of this. Regular system monitoring, analyses of the cooling lubricants, and staff training all play a key role in increasing the service life of the cooling lubricants used and hence in reducing waste and saving resources. The oil contained in liquid waste is recovered in a recycling process at a certified recycling company.

    Use of volatile solvents

    At the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology business group site in Wetzlar, the highly volatile solvent acetone was replaced by a low-volatility solvent in 2014. With the material savings achieved through this low-volatility, non-flammable solvent, ZEISS is making a further contribution to environmental protection. If volatile solvents enter the lower atmosphere, ozone is created, which is harmful to the environment, people and animals. This is now being effectively prevented. Back in 2013, a number of production units in Oberkochen, Germany, stopped using volatile solvents.  

    Redesign of galvanizing processes

    Where possible, substances with dangerous properties are replaced by less dangerous substances. For example, an environmental and health and safety-oriented process was introduced back in 2006 banning the use of carcinogenic Cr(VI) compounds in the treatment of metal surfaces. 

    New gas bottle warehouse in Oberkochen

    In 2015, work was completed on a new gas bottle warehouse at the South Factory in Oberkochen. The gas bottles are safely stored in line with the applicable regulations. Fire safety is also enhanced as a result. 

    Fewer solvents used

    Where possible, solvents used for cleaning purposes have been replaced by water-based cleaning agents. Thus, ZEISS avoids emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Contaminated solvents are collected and, where possible, purified through distillation, reclaimed and reused. Exhaust air filters are used to keep unavoidable solvent emissions to a minimum. 

    Replacing and phasing out critical chemicals

    At the ZEISS Vision Care business group site in Mátészalka, Hungary, critical cleaning processes were replaced with safer ones. In this way, the environment is protected and possible hazards reduced.  

    Further examples

    Training sessions

    Regular training of staff on the handling of hazardous substances and goods, as well as inspections and workplace-related briefings, ensure that those involved handle these substances in a responsible and environmentally sound manner. ZEISS regularly conducts assessments to ensure that company locations are handling hazardous substances properly; it does this by means of internal and external audits.


    As a so-called “downstream user” ZEISS pays special attention to the efforts to revise REACH, an EU chemical policy (REACH – Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals). By means of chemical management, the Group ensures that only registered chemicals are used. It is also ensured that, where possible, the use of substances of very high concern (SVHC), as defined by REACH, is avoided.

    ZEISS has initiated its own project in order to implement the directive on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS). ZEISS implemented these legal stipulations in 2005 by means of software available to all business groups.

    Suppliers must confirm that the materials, substances and compounds they deliver to ZEISS comply with the stipulations of the above directives, laws and ordinances. Suppliers are instructed by ZEISS to provide conformity certificates. In case of doubt, ZEISS carries out its own chemical inspection of the delivered parts.

  • Waste and Recycling

    Environmental management at ZEISS combines environmental and economic aspects. At ZEISS, reducing waste on a continuous basis is regarded as good business sense. ZEISS strives to recycle as much waste as possible. The recycling quota at the German sites currently amounts to approximately 90 percent: for every 100 kg of waste, 90 kg is recycled.

    The Lose Waste campaign in Dublin, California

    In the past ten years, a Carl Zeiss Meditec AG site in Dublin, California, has been able to cut down its waste by half. This was made possible by the introduction of a recycling program and by composting the waste in the on-site restaurant. In 2015 the site launched a Lose Waste campaign, which called on employees to reduce waste in a host of ways. One example is that employees now use their own coffee mugs instead of opting for disposable paper cups. What was the result? A saving of 1,000 disposable paper cups per week, in fact.  

    Waste collection, waste separation and recycling at international sites

    In 2014 a suitable and authorized trash compactor was installed for the Medical Technology and Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology business groups, as well as for the site logistics center at the South Factory in Oberkochen, Germany. This means that compacting trash is highly efficient and it can then be recycled. 

    Compactor for plastic sludge

    In Guangzhou (China) and Aalen (Germany) compactors for plastics were installed. This means a significant reduction in the volume of waste plastics and is a terrific way of recycling and recovering energy. The cooling abrasives saved as a result can be used in production.  

    Waste management at ZEISS

    In 2015 there were quite a few good examples of waste management at ZEISS, meaning that waste collection points at different sites were either built or enhanced. This was the case at the site of Vision GmbH in Petrópolis, Brazil. Improvements were also made to waste management at the ZEISS site in Cambridge, UK. Household-type commercial waste can now be separated from recyclable material more efficiently.  

    Key figures at a glance

    The total amount of non-hazardous waste requiring disposal at the German sites was reduced from 9,804 tons in fiscal year 1993/94 to 285 tons in fiscal year 2013/14. This corresponds to a reduction of about 97 percent over the course of 20 years.

    The total amount of non-hazardous waste requiring disposal at the sites outside Germany was reduced from 653 tons in fiscal year 2003/04 to 331 tons in fiscal year 2013/14. This is equivalent to a reduction of almost 29 percent in ten years.

    The amount of waste was reduced from some 7,200 tons in fiscal year 2009/10 to 6,783 tons in fiscal year 2013/14.

    The amount of waste was reduced from some 7,200 tons in fiscal year 2009/10 to 6,783 tons in fiscal year 2013/14.

    The amount of waste was reduced from some 7,200 tons in fiscal year 2009/10 to 6,783 tons in fiscal year 2013/14.
    During the same period, the total waste generated relative to revenue fell by as much as 17.3 percent.

    During the same period, the total waste generated relative to revenue fell by as much as 17.3 percent.

    During the same period, the total waste generated relative to revenue fell by as much as 17.3 percent.
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