Water

By better understanding our water use across the value chain, we can focus our efforts 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 in 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. Download the footprint here:

Value chain water footprint thumbnail

Value chain water footprint

Download our value chain water footprint PDF

Using less water in our operations 

We use 14 million m3 of water per year in our operations – research laboratories, manufacturing sites and offices. We systematically audit our sites to identify opportunities to cut water use. We have cut water use by introducing more water efficient cleaning procedures, identifying and repairing leaks, and investing in efficient equipment. For example, in South Africa, we cut water use by 9% over just 12 months at our site in Cape Town, as well as running a campaign to encourage employees to save water at work and at home during the recent drought.

Wayne Williams is an employee of GSK in South Africa, Cape Town. Ingrid Adams is in the background.
Wayne Williams is an employee of GSK in South Africa, Cape Town.

From water use to water impact

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.

By the end of 2017, all our pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare manufacturing sites had completed water risk assessments against all four categories in line with our water stewardship standard. These sites are now in the process of developing plans to address any risks that have been identified which may include, in some situations, in working with local communities and other stakeholders. Our efforts to enhance water stewardship will prioritise sites in areas of water stress.

Raw materials

Around 86% of the water used across our value chain - an estimated 1.3 billion m3 a year – is in producing raw materials. Much of this is from agricultural produce such as milk, sugars and eggs.

We partnered with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a sustainable development NGO in India, to assess how we can help reduce water impact in the rural Indian communities that supply us with the wheat, barley and milk used to manufacture Horlicks.

In 2014, we piloted the approach with 10 of our direct suppliers and in 2015 we extended this work further down the supply chain to 20 suppliers at a rural community level. We have identified projects to address water conservation, rainwater harvesting, waste water treatment, groundwater recharge and rehabilitation of water bodies, and investigated options to implement this research.

Together with Alternative Development Initiatives, an Indian sustainable development NGO, we are also supporting communities in the Horlicks supply chain to improve water management and agricultural yields. An innovative project completed in 2016 in Rajasthan, an arid region of India, is now replenishing the local water source for the village of Sawaipura with nearly 200,000m3 water, which is around a quarter of the amount of water that our three Horlicks factories across India use in their operations. We are planning to do more projects like this in India. 

In the Punjab region of India we partner with others to improve local farmers’ water management through conservation practices such as fixing leaks, harvesting rainwater and managing the timing of crop sowing to coincide with rainfall. We are raising awareness through education programmes in over 60 villages across the region. Water is also needed to produce food crops used as fodder for cows so we are training farmers to make use of surplus grass that can be used as cow feed during droughts. This means they do not have to buy fodder and are able to sustain their milk yields all year-round.

Product use

Consumers and patients need water to use many of our products - making a cup of Horlicks, 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  water courses - 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.  Since 2014, we have published data summaries of our environmental risk assessments for many of our products.

Waste water pollution in the supply chain

The risk of pharmaceuticals – and particularly antibiotics – entering the environment through waste water pollution is a growing concern and an active area of research. GSK is part of the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Industry Alliance launched in 2017 and signatory to the Industry Roadmap for Progress on Combating AMR.

We have robust controls in our own manufacturing and we are working with our supply chain partners to audit compliance and share best practice on managing environmental discharges. Read more about our AMR efforts here.