Water

While climate change must be tackled at a global level, water challenges are much more localised. 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 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 13 million m3 of water per year in our operations – research laboratories, manufacturing sites and offices and we are focusing our reduction programmes in 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 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. Through these assessments, we identified 13 high-risk sites, based on water scarcity, local water quality, health and social risks, and regulatory and reputational risks. These sites are now developing strategies to reduce their water impact. Our goal is to reduce our total water use at each high-risk site by 30% by 2030.

Product use

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 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.