Reckitt Benckiser Sustainability Report: Water Use Down 6%

RB carbon

by | Jun 21, 2013

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RB decouplingReckitt Benckiser cut its relative water use by 6 percent in 2012, to 0.95 cubic meters per 1,000 consumer units of production, from 1.012 cubic meters in 2011, according to the company’s 2012 sustainability report.

The household goods manufacturer has restated its 2011 relative water use, due to improvements in the quality of data available, from 0.93 cubic meters per 1,000 CU. Since 2000, its relative water use has fallen by 31 percent.

The company says the decrease was due to process improvements, such as reduced gravel filter washing in Nowy Dwor, Poland; an upgraded line cooling system in Tatabanya, Hungary; and a water controlling system for dipping processes in Qingdao, China. RB says it increased water reuse and recycling at sites in India, Colombia, Mexico and China.

On an absolute basis, water consumption rose by 1.4 percent over the year to 6.7 million cubic meters. This was 17 percent over 2000 levels, due to increased output, the company says.

The company now concentrates on two water measures, water use and water impact – the latter a new measure in this year’s report. RB defines water impact as water use multiplied by a location-specific water scarcity factor, using methodology assured by Ernst & Young. These factors vary by country based on water availability – for example, Canada has a factor of 0.02 and Saudi Arabia has a factor of 10.79. RB assesses water impact per dose of product in water impact liter equivalents, or e liters. It is tracking both use and impact against a 2012 baseline (6.5 litres per dose and 5.1 e litres per dose respectively).

The company has a target, announced in September 2012, of cutting its water impact by a third by 2020 across products’ lifecycles, from a 2012 baseline.

Two-thirds of RB’s total water use footprint is associated with manufacturing raw materials and packaging, but looking at water impact, the company has found that it must concentrate more on consumer use (see chart).

RB water

Report overview

The report feels exhaustive, with key environmental figures presented both in a narrative and in tables at the end of the report. The company has published a full 2000-2012 data set using updated numbers assured by Ernst and Young.

The report is confusing at certain points, however. Most notably, water use is described as being measured against “units of production,” “consumer units (CU)” “consumer units of production,” and “doses.” The difference appears significant to interpreting the results, since a dose is the amount of product required to deliver the product’s intended service, and “consumer unit” is defined on page 39 as the normal unit of product purchased by the end-consumer.

Water discharges

RB cut water discharges by 8.5 percent per unit of production over 2012, and by 44 percent since 2000, last year discharging 0.48 cubic meters of water for every 1,000 consumer units. On an absolute basis water discharges fell almost 5 percent since 2000, to 3.4 million cubic meters.

Last year the company discharged 0.0197 kg of biological oxygen demand for every 1000 CUs of production and 0.0726 kg of chemical oxygen demand per 1000 CUs. Over half (51 percent) of the water it used in 2012 was discharged into water systems. The rest went into products, was sent off-site in liquid and solid waste, or evaporated from cooling and process systems.

GHGs and energy

In May 2012, RB announced that it beat its target of a 20 percent cut in products’ total footprint per dose by 2020, against a 2007 baseline. And in 2012 it found further reductions, cutting lifecycle emissions per dose by 4.6 percent from 2011, for a total of 25 percent from the 2007 baseline.

In January, RB announced a new target: it aims to cut its carbon footprint by a third by 2020, from its 2012 baseline of 54.76 grams CO2e per dose of product. To start the process, last year the company carried out research to identify where it should concentrate its efforts, and how best to measure progress. RB says its total carbon footprint metric covers cradle to grave emissions and accords with recognized international standards such as PAS 2050:2011 and the GHG protocol, and has been assured by Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young.

Last year RB’s greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and energy usage were also both down significantly against 2011, relative to production: 9 percent and 11 percent, respectively. But the company says only one percent of its carbon footprint comes from manufacturing, with 31 percent from raw and packaging materials, 2 percent from product distribution, 3 percent from retail and 62 percent from customer use.

RB uses combined heat and power or “green” energy – such as hydroelectric, biomass and solar – at 11 sites. It has replaced coal and furnace oil with biomass at three sites in India and Indonesia, and installed solar water heating at its Johannesburg site.

The company says it planted 371,000 trees in 2012 to keep its manufacturing effectively carbon neutral, and was recognized by being one of just 33 companies on the CDP’s Carbon Performance Leadership Index.

In 2012 RB used 0.47 GJ of energy for every 1,000 consumer units, down 49 percent from 2000. Absolute energy use fell 14 percent from 2000. Efficiency programs behind the improvement include compressed air upgrades and energy-efficient lighting, including LEDs.

RB carbon


Along with its 2020 water target, last September RB announced that it would generate a third of net revenue from more sustainable products, to be measured by a new Sustainable Innovation Calculator, which assesses the product-level, lifecycle impacts of ingredients, packaging, carbon and water. RB says it is now using the calculator to assess all new product developments.

The tool uses a simple traffic light system that allows product developers to quickly understand the environmental footprint of their innovation compared to that of a similar product, RB says. To count towards its net revenue target, a product innovation must score better in at least one environmental category without scoring worse in any others.

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