Our use of water resources is both direct and indirect. Water is used:
by our suppliers of agricultural raw materials for the growing of crops;
in our factories both as an ingredient in our products and during the manufacturing process; and
by our consumers when they use our products to do their laundry and when showering, cleaning and cooking.
Our biggest impacts on water use occur in the use of our personal care and laundry products.
Measuring our water footprint
Our water metric considers the water added to the product and the water used by consumers in water-scarce countries. It is expressed on a ‘per consumer use’ basis, for example the water needed for one hair wash with shampoo.
To set the baseline we assessed the water impact of more than 1,600 representative products in 2008. We calculated it at an absolute level as well as on a ‘per consumer use’ basis.
We assessed domestic water used with our products in 14 countries and chose to focus on those seven countries that we have defined as water scarce. These are: China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and the US, representing around half of the world’s population. In our definition of domestic water scarcity, we evaluate how many people in each country experience physical water scarcity as well as the number of people who have access to an improved water source. Our calculation covers 70% of our volume in these water-scarce countries.
Our 2008 baseline was a relatively manual process. In 2012 we invested in an automated process to improve the speed and accuracy of our footprint calculations, which we measure on a rolling basis from 1 July to 30 June. The new measurement has also expanded the number of representative products we assess to over 2,000.
The automated process starts with 2010 data, not the original 2008 data, and so we have decided to use the 2010 footprint as the new baseline for our Plan goal to halve the environmental footprint of the making and use of our products in water, waste and GHG by 2020. This will enable us to report like-for-like figures which can be externally assured.
More on our water footprint
We consider water across the full value chain and we are making progress in this. Water used in our manufacturing operations is captured separately as part of our eco-efficiency in manufacturing programme.
We have also made great progress in assessing the water used to produce our agricultural materials. We have found that the water used in agriculture was less than we previously thought – about 15% versus our 2008 estimate of 50%.
We used the Waterstat database from the Water Footprint Network to estimate the water used to produce our agricultural raw materials. For this study we included all the water-scarce countries in the world from which we source agricultural raw materials. Unlike for domestic water, access to an improved water source is not relevant for growing crops. As such our calculations only included physical water scarcity as defined for the water footprint based on domestic water.