More sustainable solutions for customers and our world

Advancing sustainability and taking action on climate change in particular are among the world’s most critical priorities to protect future generations. Manufacturers need to be at the forefront of this effort. The good news is that manufacturing – and the engineering behind it – can play an important role. After all, plants, machinery and production processes are at the heart of global value creation. They determine how effectively businesses can shape the transition to a more sustainable world.

Fortunately, existing technologies and solutions, combined with engineering creativity and deep-rooted know-how can make a big difference and will help usher in substantial progress.

An ambitious strategy with bold targets

At GEA, we have steadily made our machines, processes and solutions more environmentally friendly. To continue leading the way and further act as catalyst in our industry, in 2021 we published ambitious sustainability targets. They are embedded in an overarching climate and ESG strategy and in line with our purpose “Engineering for a better world.”

What we set out to do on this journey will boost our own performance and support our customers. Deploying environmentally sustainable solutions enables them to achieve their own climate and resource efficiency targets. In addition, we aim to create societal value with solutions that improve nutrition and health while also reducing food-, packaging and water waste.

A product portfolio that reduces GHG emissions

When it comes to tackling climate change, we have committed to reach net-zero emissions by 2040. We have also set interim targets, validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), to reduce indirect emissions (Scope 3) by 18 percent and direct emissions (Scopes 1 and 2) by 60 percent by 2030 compared to 2019.

Our biggest lever to achieve these targets is product innovation. We want to decarbonize our product portfolio and offer customers a constant stream of innovations with improved sustainability performance.

As an integrated provider, we support customers with holistic solutions that minimize energy consumption and CO2 emissions along entire process chains. For example, our heat pumps help turn waste heat into valuable energy for reuse in production processes or district heating. And for customers in heavy-emitting industries (e.g., cement and glass production), we offer waste heat recovery and gas pre-treatment technologies, as well as carbon capture solutions to support CO2 reduction and carbon reuse. All are well established strategies that we aim to implement more widely going forward.

We have a long tradition of improving the efficiency of our machines and plants – and will do more. However, you can only manage what you measure, therefore, we are in the process of recording the use cycle- and in some cases the full lifecycle emissions of our products. This data is required for tracking our climate efforts and used by our engineers as a baseline to reduce the impact of our machines. 

Technologies that safeguard freshwater

Beyond reducing emissions, we also have deep expertise in responsibly managing water usage. Many people live with acute water stress or only have access to poor quality water, requiring industry to reduce its freshwater withdrawals, reuse more water and return safe water back to the environment. “We can no longer expect unfettered access to water for industrial purposes,” explains Ilija Aprcovic, CEO, Liquid & Powder Technologies at GEA. “Therefore, we need to adopt solutions that safeguard this precious resource by supporting zero or near-zero water processes.”

We commit to offering technologies that further minimize freshwater withdrawals. Specifically, by 2030 we want all our machines and systems to have the option to be operated without additional freshwater intake, particularly during the cleaning process.

"We can no longer expect unfettered access to water for industrial purposes. Therefore, we need to adopt solutions that safeguard this precious resource by supporting zero or near-zero water processes."

Ilija Aprcovic

CEO, Liquid & Powder Technologies, GEA

Achieving near-zero freshwater withdrawals or zero-water discharge in plants is already possible. In fact, we offer many of the solutions that enable this, including:

  • membrane filtration
  • separation
  • evaporation
  • crystallization
  • product recovery- & automated clean-in-place (CIP) systems

A growing number of GEA customers from diverse sectors and regions achieve zero or near-zero water targets each year. Dairy processors, for example, are saving millions of liters of water per day, given milk is approximately 85 percent water. Using our reverse osmosis units, condensate can be collected from an evaporation plant and the water returned to the process, greatly reducing freshwater withdrawals.

Wastewater treatment is another important pillar in safeguarding water resources. It is estimated that between 50 to 80 percent of the world’s wastewater flows back into the ecosystem without treatment or being reused. And contaminated water still claims as many as three million human lives annually.

Waste water treatment

In India, for example, lack of sanitation facilities and access to clean water remain challenges. However, in the last two decades, the country has invested more in wastewater treatment. In recent years, India placed orders for more than 250 GEA decanters. “Thanks to our sludge dewatering centrifuges, 4.6 billion liters of water from 5.3 billion liters of wastewater sludge is recovered annually,” states Klaus Stojentin, CEO, Separation & Flow Technologies at GEA. “And after further treatment, it can be safely returned to the country’s freshwater networks.” 

Enabling more sustainable packaging

Packaging protects the food, beverages and medicines we depend on. Without it, many goods would spoil, leading to more food waste and carbon emissions. At the same time, the need for more sustainable packaging is growing.

At GEA, we strive to develop solutions that utilize more sustainable packaging. Specifically, by 2030 we commit that 100 percent of our packaging-related solutions will use more sustainable packaging materials.

To this end, we collaborate with materials specialists and customers to produce packaging with our machines that is easier to recycle and uses as little virgin plastic as possible. For example, we facilitate the reduction of plastics in packaging by continuously adapting our machine designs to properly handle thinner films and paper-based films without compromising packaging integrity, packaging quality or operational throughput. Our overall “design for recycling” approach means we build our machines to allow for the use of:

  • mono materials
  • recycled plastics
  • renewable feedstocks

For food processors, we offer several paper-based packaging formats, including a modified atmosphere packaging solution. Consisting of more than 80 percent paper, a thin plastic seal delivers barrier properties yet is easy to remove and therefore recycle.

For liquid foods and beverages, we offer machines that work seamlessly with recycled PET and lightweight preforms. Our equipment can also accommodate bio-derived PET. In addition, we fill to aluminum and glass, which are more recyclable in some markets. 

Less is more

In 2022 we will further reduce our GHG emissions. Each business unit is setting energy intensity reduction targets based on the lifecycle analyses of prioritized products. We will also continue to optimize our packaging portfolio, increasing the use of mono materials and thinner barriers, and introduce new, patented solutions that further reduce freshwater consumption.

In line with our purpose “Engineering for a better world”, we are optimistic that well designed technology combined with first-rate engineering know-how can deliver the solution to many of the world’s key environmental challenges. 


Reducing CO2e emissions

Safeguarding water

Rethinking waste

GEA V-Packer LM-HP


GEA V-Packer LM-HP: paper-based pasta packaging

High-speed continuous motion packaging machine designed for paper-based films in the pasta sector.
GEA H-Packer SO Plus


GEA H-Packer SO Plus: paper-based long-cut pasta packaging

A faster, highly reliable and technologically advanced system, comprising a double dosing unit and a continuous motion packaging machine for long-cut pasta packaging.
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