Access to clean water is critical for human health and is a key input to our manufacturing operations.

  • We invested $51 million in 2019 to fund projects that included the treatment of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), upgrades to biological wastewater treatment systems, and upgrades to stormwater collection systems
  • We have developed our site water-risk assessment methodology and have successfully completed assessments at two facilities
  • The CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) graded our disclosure with a B-“management” rating, indicating that we “provide evidence of actions associated with good environmental management” and are “taking coordinated action on water security”
  • We used 20.3 million cubic meters of water globally, versus 23.9 million cubic meters in 2015, representing a 15 percent reduction in water use

As we strive to meet the health needs of our patients, we are increasingly operating in regions of the world where access to clean water and proper sanitation is under great pressure. Even in established markets, our business faces water-related risks.

Our Water Management Standard requires our facilities to comply with applicable water use, management and discharge regulations and standards.

Our approach

Our global water strategy aims to achieve sustainable water management within our operations and our supply chain, which supports UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, “Clean Water and Sanitation.” To achieve these strategic objectives, we are focusing on the following commitments:

  • Ensuring that our wastewater discharges comply with local and national standards, as well as internal company requirements
  • Understanding and controlling our operational water footprint
  • Managing water risk at our facilities and in our supply chain
  • Reporting publicly on our water use and goals

We have established water goals to help us manage water-related risks in our operations and supply chain:

By 2020, we will develop water conservation plans for sites in “high water risk” locations.On track
On Track
By 2025, we will maintain global water use at or below 2015 levels.3.6 million m3 below 2015 levels (15% reduction)
On Track
In 2019, we collected water-use data from 96 percent of our strategic suppliers with the highest environmental impacts to help us better understand the amount of water used in our supply chain.On track
By 2020, we will engage with those suppliers and request that they identify water-use reduction opportunities.On track
On Track
By 2025, ≥ 90 percent of our strategic suppliers with the highest environmental impacts will set their own water-use reduction targets.On track
On Track


Water management is overseen globally by the Water Center of Excellence (CoE). This CoE reviews water data to monitor sites’ progress, and provides assistance as needed to support sites’ work towards these goals. The Environmental Review Committee provides oversight in establishing our internal Environmental Quality Criteria (EQC) standards.

Each site is responsible for management of water resources. In many cases, the Water CoE partners with sites for assistance to work toward the corporate water goal.

For information regarding our environmental management and governance, please see our Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Management & Compliance page.

Programs and initiatives

Effluent management

Our facilities are required to implement an internal EQC program that evaluates potential human health and environmental impacts of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in waterbodies where we discharge wastewater. These standards are based on criteria established in accordance with stringent product regulatory filing review process (as per our Pharmaceutical in the Environment Public Policy statement). Each facility uses the internal EQC standards to:

  • Assess the potential risk from its operations using science-based and industry-accepted risk assessment methods
  • Minimize environmental impacts from wastewater discharges in the local watershed
  • Establish procedures for managing, treating, or controlling APIs in wastewater prior to discharge where needed

Our production facilities have, or will be provided with, API-treatment technology where needed, so that our wastewater discharges meet both regulatory requirements and these internal standards.

We also provide EQC information to suppliers that manufacture pharmaceutical compounds for us and have initiated detailed assessments of our suppliers to better understand and address potential impacts.

In addition, as a member of the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Industry Alliance and signatory to the Industry Roadmap for Progress on Combating AMR, we are working to deliver on our commitments to reduce the environmental impacts from antibiotic residues in wastewater. We have reviewed the operations of our third-party suppliers to assess their wastewater treatment controls and have recommended improvements where needed, which we will follow through to completion.

Water related infrastructure improvements

We continue to invest in upgrades to water-related infrastructure improvements at our manufacturing facilities to implement our global water strategy. In 2019, we invested $51 million to fund projects that include the treatment of APIs, upgrades to biological wastewater treatment systems and upgrades to stormwater collection systems.

Execution of projects funded by our previously reported dedicated water infrastructure fund is nearing completion. Projects implemented through this dedicated fund since inception include:

  • Advanced oxidization systems; including ozone and Fenton’s reagent for oxidation of APIs
  • Evaporation systems to concentrate API containing wastewater from a clean distillate stream
  • API segregation systems, segregating API containing wastewater for destruction
  • Cooling towers to reduce water footprint and reliance on surface water withdrawals
  • Systems that enable reuse of treated effluent in cooling towers
  • Advanced biological treatment systems; including membrane bioreactor systems
  • Upgrades to potable water treatment systems

Water footprint reduction

Our internal environmental management standard for water requires each of our sites to assess the impact of its operations on the local watershed, assure compliance, maintain a water balance, and drive continuous improvement in how water is used and in the quality of water discharged. Our Energy CoE includes the total cost of water in energy-related project evaluations and drives best practices that conserve both energy and water.

Our water-use-reduction initiatives include:

  • Consideration of water use in process design
  • Cooling-system optimization
  • Prompt repairs and maintenance of steam-distribution systems and traps
  • Recovery and reuse of steam condensate and “reject water”
  • Process-water purification system optimization
  • Avoiding the use of water in mechanical seals, such as those in pumps

Our sites employ a variety of technologies and techniques aimed at reducing our water footprint and improving operational performance. Closed-loop cooling systems, which reduce freshwater use, are employed at more than half of our facilities worldwide. Reverse osmosis (RO) “reject water” is reused for non-potable and non-process applications such as cooling-tower feed water and fire water. In all, 1.1 million cubic meters of water was recovered, reused or recycled at our facilities in 2019, which is equivalent to five percent of our total water use.

The Nature Conservancy

In 2019, we supported the Nature Conservancy’s Mantiqueira Restoration Fund with a $100,000 donation. The Fund was created to build a solid case for how reforestation can improve water security and tackle climate change. This project will conduct forest restoration to a portion of the Mantiqueira to improve water security for the region, which includes our Cruzeiro, Brazil facility.

Our 2018 contribution of $100,000 to the Nature Conservancy’s Mexico City Water Fund Initiative near our Xochimilco facility helped to alleviate the serious groundwater depletion in and around Mexico City by restoring and conserving natural areas that recharge the city’s aquifers.

Key outcomes included:

  • Measurement of the social, economic and environmental impact of the first year of the project leading to the production of a business case, which will be tested out on potential funders, including companies who might be interested in including sustainable crops in their supply chains
  • Training was implemented for local farmers on sustainable practices which will help them to produce high-value crops with a minimal environmental footprint. Our contribution motivated the participation of other stakeholders for the project.

CEO Water Mandate

We have endorsed the UN CEO Water Mandate, a public commitment to adopt and implement a comprehensive approach to water management, and we have aligned our water program with its principles.

CEO Water Mandate endorsers have a responsibility to make water-resource management a priority and to work with governments, UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations, local communities and other interested parties to address global water challenges. We are working to identify partnerships that will help us advance our water stewardship priorities in the areas in which we operate. These projects also support the goals of SDG 15, which strives to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.”

We report our water security annually through CDP. In 2019, CDP graded our disclosure with a B- “management” rating, indicating that we “provide evidence of actions associated with good environmental management” and are “taking coordinated action on water security.”

Performance data

Water use and risk by region (million m3)Extremely HighHighMed to HighLow to MedLowN/A% of TotalTotal
North America0.002.552.979.880.430.0578%15.87
Europe, Middle East and Africa0.140.880.130.241.320.2314%2.93
Asia Pacific0.
Latin America0.
1All values above are rounded. As a result, the total values shown are not equal to the sum of the individual source totals.
Water use and risk by region (%)Extremely HighHighMed to HighLow to MedLowN/A
North America0%16%19%62%3%0%
Europe, Middle East and Africa5%30%4%8%45%8%
Asia Pacific1%4%10%0%65%20%
Latin America15% 34%0%0%26%25%
1May not add to 100 percent due to rounding.
Water use in areas of high to extremely high water risk by region (million m3)GroundwaterSurface WaterPurchased WaterTotal
North America0.450.002.112.55
Europe, Middle East and Africa0.230.130.661.02
Asia Pacific0.
Latin America0.
Water use by source (million m3)120152016201720182019
Surface water3.
Purchased water7.
1In accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, prior-year data have been adjusted to add or remove facilities that have been acquired and sold. Adjustments also reflect changes in methodology to ensure consistency from year to year.
2All values above are rounded to one decimal place. As a result, the total values shown are not equal to the sum of the individual source totals.

In 2019, we used 20.3 million cubic meters of water globally, versus 23.9 million cubic meters in 2015, representing a 15 percent reduction in water use.

Approximately 64 percent of the total water we used in 2019 was supplied from nearby surface water and groundwater resources, with the balance sourced from municipal water supplies. Many of our facilities employ water reuse and recovery strategies, including recirculation of water in cooling towers and condensate recovery.

We use the World Resources Institute’s (WRI’s) Aqueduct water-risk-assessment tool to measure and map our water risks. Sites are categorized using the “baseline water stress” indicator, which is the ratio of total annual water withdrawals to total available annual renewable supply, and accounts for upstream consumptive use. Higher stress values indicate more competition among water users. A new version of the Aqueduct tool (version 3.0) was launched in August 2019. The following upgrades to the tool have resulted in changes to the baseline water stress rating and scoring:

  • Inclusion of both surface and groundwater in the model
  • Modifications to the scoring scale
  • Changes to the indicators
  • Hydrological model underpinning the indicators
  • Hydrological sub-basins

In 2019, we operated five manufacturing and/or research facilities in areas with “extremely high” baseline water stress, according to the WRI’s Aqueduct 3.0 tool. The reduction from 11 in 2018 is directly related to the changes in the tool identified above. We are also assessing water risk status of sites brought into the network through recent acquisitions.

The facilities that use the most water in our network are U.S.-based. Of these, two are in areas of “high” baseline water stress.

We assess high-water-use facilities that are experiencing water interruptions or are located in areas of “extremely high” and “high” baseline water stress according to the WRI Aqueduct tool, and develop water management plans as needed. We work with a third-party water use expert to evaluate opportunities for water use reductions at these sites, resulting in site-specific water management plans. We are also working to identify “hot spots” of water use within our supply chain so that we can engage with our suppliers on the issue of water risk.

Wastewater from our facilities is managed and treated to meet regulatory standards and minimize environmental impacts prior to discharge. On-site wastewater treatment facilities are operated at many of our production and research facilities. Where on-site treatment is not provided, wastewater is discharged to local municipal wastewater treatment facilities that have the technology and capacity to treat our wastewater.

Global water use and risk—percentage by region

World map showing water use and risk by region: North America 78%, Asia Pacific 6%, Latin America 1%, Europe Middle East Africa 14%
Europe Middle East Africa water use and risk, with data in table below
Asia Pacific water use and risk, with data in table below
North American water use and risk, with data in table below
Latin America water use and risk, with data in table below
Global Water UseEurope, Middle East, Africa : Global Water UseAsia Pacific : Global Water UseNorth America : Global Water UseLatin America : Global Water Use