While climate change must be tackled at a global level, water challenges are much more localized. By better understanding our water use across the value chain, we can focus our efforts on where we can make the biggest difference.
We have mapped our water impact by understanding the volume of water we use throughout the value chain, as well as the context in which the water is being used. Our measure of water impact considers the availability, quality, and regulation of water and social issues across our value chain.
Using less water in our operations
We use 6.5 million m3 of water per year in our operations – research laboratories, manufacturing sites, and offices and we are focusing our reduction programs on the areas where we have the biggest overall water impact. We have cut water use by introducing more water-efficient cleaning procedures, identifying and repairing leaks, and investing inefficient equipment.
The amount of water used across our value chain is only one part of the story. We measure our overall water impact across four different categories: water scarcity, local water quality, health, and social risks, and regulatory and reputational risks.
Consumers and patients need water to use many of our products – whether brushing teeth or to help swallow tablets. We estimate that consumer use accounts for 13% of our water footprint – most from the water used in cleaning teeth. Consumer and patient use of our products can potentially alter water quality, as well as quantity. Pharmaceutical products are not always completely absorbed or broken down by the body, and residues can find their way into the environment – particularly watercourses – when medicines are excreted or disposed of. We assess the environmental risk associated with patients’ use of our products to help ensure that potential concentrations in the environment do not exceed safe levels. This includes testing the active pharmaceutical ingredients for eco-toxic properties
Wastewater pollution in the supply chain
The risk of pharmaceuticals – and particularly antibiotics – entering the environment through wastewater pollution is a growing concern and an active area of research.
We have robust controls in our own manufacturing and we are working with our supply chain partners to audit compliance and share best practices on managing environmental discharges.