Since clean water is essential for health, our water strategy will help us to fulfill our mission to help the world be well.
Our business, our suppliers and our customers depend on access to clean water. As we expand to meet the needs of emerging markets, we are increasingly operating and engaging with people and partners in regions of the world where clean water and sanitation are under great strain. Even in established markets, our business faces serious water-related risks. The vision of our global water strategy is to achieve sustainable water management within our operations and our supply chain and, as part of our commitment to fighting disease, to reduce the impact of water-related disease through our core business activities, partnerships, advocacy efforts and employee volunteerism.
In support of our vision Merck will:
- Work to reduce our operational water footprint
- Report publicly on our water use and goals
- Advocate for good water policy
- Work with partners to address water needs in communities globally
- Encourage and empower our employees to be water stewards at work, at home and in their local communities
Merck's commitments to water are aligned with the UN CEO Water Mandate and are detailed in our water public policy statement. Merck endorsed the UN CEO Water Mandate, a public commitment to adopt and implement a comprehensive approach to water management, in April 2011.
Merck also has established goals to reduce our use of water and improve the quality of our operational wastewater discharges. To facilitate achieving these goals, Merck has committed funding for improvements in reducing water demand and enhancing wastewater treatment.
Because of the strong interdependency between our water and energy use, Merck's global energy team is responsible for implementing water use reductions. The energy team is continuously evaluating how the company uses water, specifically in utilities, and has developed and is implementing water conservation best practices.
The water use data for 2009 and 2010 have been restated to include a large manufacturing plant purchased in 2010 that was operational in 2009. During 2011, Merck used 9.2 billion gallons of water versus 10.2 in 2009. This reflects a 10 percent reduction in water use over this period. Approximately 72 percent of the total water we use is supplied from nearby surface water and groundwater resources. The balance of our water comes from municipal water supplies.
At Merck, much of the water we use is for cooling utility systems in manufacturing plants that produce active pharmaceutical ingredients; these systems require large volumes of cooling water. Although 45 percent of the water we used globally in 2011 was for once-through non-contact cooling (NCC), a process by which water is pumped into a plant, circulated through heat-exchange piping to cool processes and then discharged, this use reflects a 26 percent reduction from 2010. We are working on further reductions in the use of NCC water.
Many Merck facilities employ water reuse and recovery strategies, such as recirculation of water in cooling towers and condensate recovery. During 2011, we recycled or reused 1.9 billion gallons of water, which reduces our demand for freshwater by 17 percent.
On World Water Day 2012, Merck announced a three-year partnership with the Safe Water Network, through which we are supporting efforts to bring sustainable water solutions to the rural poor in India. The initiative will provide safe water to another 20,000–30,000 people by adding a dozen new sites to Safe Water Network’s existing field projects in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The Network already provides nearly 40,000 people with access to clean water. In addition to supporting these water projects, we will also work to drive behavior change by increasing awareness in the region of the importance of clean water and hygiene. Key findings will be broadly shared to help lead to more wide-scale change.
We are also partnering with UN-Habitat, Coca-Cola and New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) on the innovative "Support My School" campaign, which aspires to increase access to clean water and sanitation facilities for school children across India.
As Merck's managing director in India, K.G. Ananthakrishnan, has said, access to clean water is too great for any one organization to tackle on its own. But together, over time, with the right partners, we can help bring significant change.
Water, Protecting a Global Resource, What Merck Employees Can Do, a booklet describing what we can do as a corporation and as individuals to address water issues at a local level, was created in 2011 and distributed to all our employees.
For details on the treatment of our wastewater, see Emissions, Effluents and Waste. For details on Pharmaceuticals in the Environment (PIE), see Product Stewardship.