Net-zero is all about reducing water and energy consumption to improve the environment, save money, and help businesses be more resilient. Ecolab is addressing customer challenges that want to achieve net-zero. For them, it starts with water so if they can optimize water, they can help optimize their energy. Join Victoria Meyer as she talks to Calvin Emanuel about Ecolab and their net-zero solution. Calvin is the Vice President and General Manager, Net Zero Solutions, at Ecolab. Learn how they focus on customer experience first. Discover their focus on water, energy, and sustainability.

Thank you to our sponsor – Palmer Holland.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

The Net-Zero Water Solution To Sustainability With Calvin Emanuel

Thank you for making The Chemical Show one of the top 5% of podcasts globally. If you are enjoying the show, want to connect and talk with other chemical industry professionals about what you read, what’s going on in the industry and how you and your company are tackling those challenges, head over to You can join in and talk more about what’s going on in the industry, what we’re talking about on the show and more.

I am excited to be talking to my friend, Calvin Emanuel. He is the VP and General Manager of Net Zero Solutions for Nalco Water, which is an Ecolab company. He has spent many years in the chemical industry at major companies, including BASF, Shell and now at Ecolab. He’s a chemist by training and is also very committed to helping future generations of interested individuals become chemists. We are going to be talking about that and more. Calvin, welcome to the show.

Thank you. I’m glad to be here and get a chance to come on the show and talk with you about what I’m doing and some of the things I have got a passion around.

We are glad to have you here. Let’s just jump right in. You have had a very long career in chemicals. What got you interested in the chemical industry in the first place and what’s kept you here?

TCSP 43 | Net Zero

Net Zero: Water is the tie that binds Ecolab and Nalco Water together. Nalco Water is the service arm that focuses on service and process chemistries. While Ecolab brings in more non-manufacturing type operations.


This is a great starting point because, for me, there has been a common thread throughout the past many years. It starts off with an understanding of wanting to understand how things work and how can you use that knowledge in an applied format? How can you use that same knowledge to create value for the customer? If you take those three points and think about my career, it started off in the tenth grade. I had an amazing Chemistry instructor, Fletcher Williams.

I wanted to know how things work. He gave me that foundational understanding of what Chemistry was and lit a fire in me that continued going forward. I then went on to undergraduate at Auburn, where I’m a War Eagle, a proud alum of Auburn University. It took me on to graduate school at Wayne State University, where I graduated with a PhD.

When I think about my work at Wayne State, it was about, “Now I understand how things work. Now I have learned how to start to use that knowledge in an applied fashion to solve problems,” which then led me into the industry where I worked for BASF and Shell. It was there where I had that commercial book of saying, “I can take this knowledge and create value for our customers.” It led me through my career, into where I work for Ecolab. I’m glad to have these opportunities, but there’s a common thread of understanding science and putting it to good use.

You have moved to Ecolab and you have gone from what I would consider very manufacturing and product-focused organizations to one that’s service-oriented and certainly in the part of the business that you work in. What’s been the biggest surprise about that?

The biggest surprise for me came down to the breadth of the industries that Ecolab serves. If you think about it, we service everything from power companies to chemical plants, refining, paper, mining, data centers, food and beverage, to transportation. It’s the breadth of what we do that I found most surprising. As you dig down a layer below that breadth, it’s the fact in what you highlighted on was that we are a service-oriented company. It starts with our massive sales force and RD&E experts, which is around 25,000 people. They work hand in hand with our customers around the globe to focus on how do we solve problems at their sites, utilizing our hands-on knowledge, but digital and bringing this all together.

I’m probably most familiar maybe with the business that you’re part of, Nalco Water. When I was in manufacturing, Nalco Water was servicing one of the plants I was at. That’s where my introduction came. Is there a common theme around water and water chemistry that flows across Ecolab or is it more around this service orientation?

It is water. Water is the tie that binds Ecolab and Nalco Water together. If you think of Nalco Water, they are the service arm that’s focused on service and process chemistries. Ecolab brings in broader global hygiene and some of the more non-manufacturing type operations. It’s still the breadth, but the common tie is water.

If you can optimize on water, you can optimize outcomes for greenhouse gases and energy consumption.

One of the other things that’s interesting I have been talking with a lot of folks about is the customer experience. Inherently we all understand the customer experience is important. We understand that as consumers. Often across the chemical industry, it’s maybe not appreciated so much. It’s often undervalued because people perceive that it’s product, performance and price play that matters. Yet we know that the customer experience and how you do business with your customers really matters. This seems like it’s something that Ecolab has figured out, especially in its service orientations. How did you see this having an impact on your business? What does the customer experience mean to Ecolab?

Having had that experience of coming from large chemical manufacturing to Ecolab has been a night and day difference. It’s primarily driven by the fact that we’ve got this large sales and service staff that are focused on understanding customer challenges. We are looking for ways that we can help them be successful. A lot of this comes from a smart water management approach that we start to take in real-time monitoring digital insights, understanding from a service perspective and bringing in the solutions that are needed to address our customer’s problems.

It is a much different discussion than just saying, “I have got product A. Would you like product A?” It’s more about understanding the needs and making sure we are addressing the challenges they have. Let me give you an example that put a little more concrete terms. In the power industry, we work with power companies utilizing some of our trademark products, PURATE, 3D TRASAR and OMNI, but ultimately what we are doing is we are providing them the equipment and water treatment to help them provide safe, clean, low-cost energy to protect the environment.

It’s focused on where do they have the problems and how we can provide the technology to address the problems. For them, this is about reducing water to minimize chemical consumption, waste and reducing the chemicals’ overall environmental impacts. If you look at what we have enabled in terms of annual savings, we have saved 1.5 billion gallons of water and roughly 11 million kilowatt-hours of energy. There’s a lot of energy and water. They are all tied together.

TCSP 43 | Net Zero

Net Zero: Customer experience is more than just saying, “Hi, I’ve got a product you would like”. It’s about understanding the needs and making sure that you’re addressing the challenges they have.


A lot of companies are sometimes threatened by the idea of helping their customers use less because it ties back to the value in the product as opposed to the value in the overall experience and the results that can be derived from it.

This, for me, has been a great learning experience because I’m so often used to looking at how many KT of product we can move. Now having to focus on outcomes, especially the outcomes of our customers, that’s been a great space and also learning that water is intimately tied to energy. If you think about it, water is related to roughly 10% of the global emissions in some way or form. That’s whether it’s using storage, distribution or you are heating or cooling it, there’s a lot of energy that gets engaged in water and how it’s applied throughout an operation. If you can optimize on water, you can also lead to optimizing outcomes for greenhouse gases and energy consumption.

That’s a great segue. The energy industry is in transition and transformation. The chemical industry is also in transformation and significant shifts away from fossil fuels, a view of more “green” energy. How does that affect Nalco Water? Obviously, you are serving large components of the energy industry, refining power, etc. How does that affect you?

If you think about it, our core focus is to deliver solutions for our customers. If that’s what we’re trying to do, we are able to adapt to the changes around the world. As you talk about a global environment, we have customers that are in water-scarce environments. For those types of customers, we are willing to help them figure out how they can have zero liquid discharge solutions so that they can still maintain and grow their operations without requiring additional water.

In areas where there may be a higher focus on emissions and greenhouse gases, we are able to make that tie between water, energy and how if you optimize on water, you are going to optimize on greenhouse gas emissions ultimately. We can help customers in those regions. It’s a function of where they are and what are their needs and drivers. We have the solution set and toolbox to help address those problems.

Let’s talk about Net Zero Solutions, which is maybe what you’re alluding to. As of January 2022, your new title includes Net Zero Solutions. What does it mean to Ecolab and for the industry?

Often in the chemical industry, most folks think of Net-Zero-Solutions as being a carbon-based focus, but here, I’m talking about net-zero water, which is all about reducing water and energy to improve the environment, save money and help businesses and communities become more resilient in a changing time. For us, this is about how do we address our customer’s challenges that want to achieve net-zero? For us, it starts with water and if we can help optimize on water, we can help optimize their energy, which gets them closer to their overall goals.

Is this a Western world focus? I feel like a lot of a net-zero when we talk about it, not just water, but when we think about emissions, etc., feels like a more developed world focus area as opposed to a global and developing-world focus area. How do you see that playing out?

Water and net-zero are global climate issues. We have got to figure out how to solve the problems on a global basis. Unfortunately, it’s not like what we do on, one part of the world doesn’t impact the rest. This is a common community, and we’ve got to develop solutions on a global basis. For us, there’s nothing more fundamental, whether you are in a developed or developing world of having access to clean water, whether that be for supporting your own livelihoods or industries in your area. You have got to recognize that climate energy and water are all linked together. You have got to be able to solve that triangle.

I think about water probably falls into the base level or core of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

Ecolab has long had a real sustainability focus and I suppose this fits in. How does this fit into their sustainability focus?

Sustainability is highly correlated to efficiency. If you’re doing sustainable operations, you’re producing more and using less.

I joined Ecolab and there were a couple of key things that drew me here. One of those was the focus on sustainability. Early on, I learned about our focus on people’s health, planet health and business health. If you think about, when we talk about people’s health at Ecolab, this is focused on how we can make sure the food that gets delivered is clean, sanitary, and produced in the most efficient manner possible. Business health is a third outcome that’s important as well because we recognize that our customers have to be able to have sustainable businesses.

We all need money. We want the business to keep going.

We have got to be able to help our customers achieve their business outcomes, then there’s planet health, which is about, “How do we deliver sustainability in Net Zero Solutions?” That is core to what my role is about. I’m extremely fortunate that I’m able to work with our industrial businesses to help their customers achieve their net-zero water goals. I get the pull from engineering, from our digital group and a marketing team to make sure we have got the right solutions that meet those needs. For me, that’s super fun, exciting and it makes me glad to come to work every day.

One of the things I was talking with someone previously is that the industry-wide conversation on business health, planet health, and net-zero focus – it feels like a lot of the conversation is happening with the largest companies. It’s not yet trickled down to some of these midsize and smaller companies. Would you agree with that or do you see it happening across your footprint of customers?

We see it happening more broadly and that’s because if you think about sustainability, it is very highly correlated to efficiency. I oftentimes think about it as a coin with two sides, sustainability and efficiency. If you’re doing sustainable operations, that means you’re producing more and using less. If you have a company that wants to produce more using more versus somebody who wants to produce more using less, I’m betting on the more efficient and more sustainable company in the long run. That’s ultimately what we want to get to. For Ecolab, this is tied back to, “What it is we want to do in this space of being sustainable leaders?”

I’m going to turn the tide a little bit. You are a board member of the Chemical Education Foundation. I know that you have been very active in CEF for many years. Can you tell us a little bit about CEF and why it’s important to you?

TCSP 43 | Net Zero

Net Zero: Net-zero water is all about reducing water and energy to improve the environment, save money, and help businesses and communities be more resilient.


CEF is one of these things that I have an absolute passion for. Its overall mission is to make science fun and get kids engaged early on so that they are science literate and can support in STEM fields later on in their lives. I’m excited to support CEF because I fully recognize, if I had not had a teacher who got me excited about science, I wouldn’t be here where I am now.

This is a chance for me to give back and focus on those pillars of CEF, which are focused on how do you help teachers give good hands-on science education at that K-5 level where they may not have the right tools? How do we provide tools in general so that if students weren’t in a school setting and they wanted to do more hands-on science and get excited, we have tools for them?

We also have a national format where kids can compete on STEM literacy. It’s great to get a chance to see kids from across the nation get a chance to compete and show how great they do in these areas. I could talk about CEF forever because I get excited about it and I think it has such an opportunity to make a huge impact for not just the kids and the community, but for also the industries that are in those communities as well.

We need to help develop good community members who appreciate the chemistry around them. It crosses broadly whether you are in the industry or you are just a consumer of the industry. We need to have that knowledge spread broadly.

If you can help increase the skillset of the teachers in your community around you, it’s a great way. You start to build people that understand the value and the benefits that chemistry can begin at an early age. That’s great for us and especially supporting the communities in which we all work and live.

What’s next for you and for Ecolab? What do we see playing out in 2022 and beyond?

This is the exciting part. We’ve kicked off Net-Zero Solutions, but we have clear goals over the next ten years so that we will continue to be sustainability leaders. We have fairly aggressive goals from an Ecolab perspective that target around water, climate and demonstrate how we can help drive positive results for our customers and their surrounding communities.

If I look back and say, “That’s how the future look,” but if I look back, I can tell you we have made significant progress towards the achievement of our 2030 goals. We’re roughly 62% of the way to achieving our 2030 goals. We are roughly 30% of the way towards our water use and reduction goals. That was as of 2020. We are getting there. The key thing for us is we recognize there’s more to do. It’s about how do we focus on our customers and helping them achieve their goals.

I am glad we finally got to get connected and do a show. Others are going to be super excited about that as well. Thank you for joining us on the show.

Thank you so much. I’m glad to have a chance to join you. I look forward to seeing more, new and great shows coming out of your show as well.

Thanks to everyone for reading. Keep reading. Keep sharing the show and follow us on all your favorite podcast players.

This episode is sponsored by Palmer Holland. The whole world is a little crazy right now. Get your world back in control by partnering with the premier North American specialty chemical and fine ingredient distributor. Palmer Holland helps you control the chaos by providing unfiltered communication, global sourcing solutions, regulatory support, and unmatched flexibility. Visit Palmer Holland in booth 2074 at the American Coatings Show and find the support you’ve been looking for.

Important Links:

About Calvin Emanuel

TCSP 43 | Net ZeroCalvin Emanuel is currently Vice President and General Manager, Net Zero Solutions, at Nalco Water, an Ecolab Company. Ecolab is the global leader in water, process treatment, hygiene and infection prevention technologies and services that protect people and vital resources. In this role, Dr. Emanuel leads the global business focused on delivery of solutions, from engineering, total water management and digital tools to help our customers achieve their Net Zero Goals.

Previously, Dr. Emanuel had numerous roles in commercial management, sales, research and development, and manufacturing at Shell Chemical and BASF. His most recent role prior to joining Nalco Water was the Commercial Manager for Higher Olefins, Styrene Monomer, Solvents and Propylene Oxide derivatives businesses for Shell Chemical.

Dr. Emanuel currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Chemical Educational Foundation (CEF.) CEF programs help inspire students, educators, and communities to build the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce of the future. Dr. Emanuel graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. He also earned a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Wayne State University and an MBA from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Ecolab is a trusted partner at nearly three million customer locations. With annual sales of $12 billion and 44,000 associates, Ecolab delivers comprehensive solutions, data-driven insights and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use and improve operational efficiencies for customers in the food, healthcare, energy, hospitality and industrial markets in more than 170 countries around the world.