Internal Actions


The corporate water management programs, strategies, and goals described above are effective only insofar as they drive meaningful change at the facility and basin levels. One aspect of such change is action that improves the company’s operational performance and mitigates the negative impacts associated with the company’s operations and those of its suppliers.

Content Scope Format
  • Improvements in direct operations
Companywide and location-specific Narrative; quantitative and qualitative
Advanced (includes basic reporting)
  • Product innovation
  • Value chain prioritization, engagement, and improvements


Improvements in direct operations

Often the first water-related operational improvements relate to management practices, such as monitoring facility water use (and that of specific processes), regularly checking for leaks, establishing water committees, and strengthening employee awareness and training. These types of improvements often constitute the low-hanging fruit of water conservation efforts. Reporting on these topics is typically done briefly, with a short description of the practice and a quantitative description of its effect on water performance. Companies can also report on the implementation of facility water management systems that offer an internal protocol for implementing a wide range of the practices listed above. In doing so, companies describe the practices inherent to their facility water management systems and then the extent to which those systems have been implemented across the company, typically as a percentage of all facilities.

Companies also invest in technologies designed to drive efficiency and reduce pollution, such as water meters, systems forwater recycling and reuse, treatment plants, and alternative production processes. Many companies disclose the volume of water recycled throughout their operations to demonstrate the degree to which they have implemented efficiency measures.

Quantifying the extent of implementation
Companies can report the degree to which these management practices and technologies drive performance improvements at specific facilities. However, particularly effective reporting describes the overall effect of the practice or technology on the company’s water-related performance. Specific metrics that companies can use to quantify achievement include:

  • The percent of facilities fully implementing a certain practice or technology
  • The effect of the practice or technology on the company’s overall quantity of water withdrawals or water consumption or quality of wastewater discharge
  • The overall financial costs of purchasing and implementing specific practices or technologies
  • The cost savings achieved by implementing the practice or technology

Such metrics can also serve as the basis for company goals and targets. For example, a company might set a target of implementing water recycling systems at 80 percent of its facilities by 2017.


Product innovation

Product innovation with respect to water refers to any design changes that allow the company or its products to save water or reduce pollution, or otherwise seize water-related opportunities. Ideal reporting on this topic captures:

  • The nature of innovation
  • Quantified performance improvements during production and in the product-use phase
  • Consumer reaction and product marketability
  • Quantified analysis of the company’s use of the product relative to its own comparable, less sustainable products

Value chain prioritization, engagement, and improvements

Companies also choose to engage with their suppliers and other value chain actors to encourage sustainable water practices. In reporting, descriptions of value chain engagement strategies and programs are typically located adjacent to value chain data. Since engaging hundreds or thousands of Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 suppliers is often impractical, companies ideally report how they prioritize engagement among a subgroup of suppliers.

Such prioritization efforts can take into account the extent to which suppliers face their own risks and create impacts (that is, whether they are located in water-scarce or water-stressed areas and what their water performance is). Companies will also want to determine the importance of the supplier to them, and their ability to influence the supplier’s practice. Companies should clearly describe the process and filters used in such prioritizations.

Companies also report how they engage with value chain actors. Company efforts to leverage improved water performance in entities it does not own or control can include:

  • Awareness-building campaigns
  • Promotion of water technologies and good management practices
  • Training materials and technical support
  • Water use or water discharge requirements that are linked to procurement

Reporting on supplier engagement ideally notes the percentage of total suppliers engaged and the tangible improvements made, so as to articulate the extent to which a meaningful impact across the supply chain has been achieved.

Connected Reporting

Parameter / Metric Baseline Performance Risk or Impact Addressed Company Action Percent of Facilities Implementing Resulting Change in Performance

Additional resources

  • The Water Technology Product List, developed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and HM Revenue and Customs, in partnership with AEA Technology,

Many of our sites employ a variety of technologies and techniques aimed at reducing our water footprint and improving operational performance.

  • Closed-loop cooling systems are employed at over half our facilities worldwide and reduce our freshwater use by approximately 3.3 billion gallons a year
  • Reverse osmosis (RO) reject water is reused for nonpotable and non-process applications such as cooling-tower feed water, fire water and irrigation and saves an estimated 50 million gallons of freshwater every year

We have committed approximately $67 million from a $100 million capital reserve fund for improvements in infrastructure to help achieve Merck’s water commitments at our operating facilities around the world.

In those developing and emerging countries where water is scarce, around 40% of domestic water is used to wash clothes, a task which is done by hand. Our One Rinse fabric conditioner reduces the amount of water needed to rinse out the detergent to one bucket rather than three. This can save up to half the water per wash, around 30 litres, if used correctly.

In 2013 we expanded our Comfort One Rinse fabric conditioner range in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. It is also available in Cambodia, India and the Philippines.
In 2013, One Rinse products were used in 1.7 billion washes in 31 million† households worldwide, a 78% increase on 2010.

In 2013, we developed the first standard for water recycling and reuse in the apparel industry and we worked with one of our suppliers in China to set up a system that can produce high quality products using 100% recycled water. At the first approved production location, we made 100,000 pairs of Levi’s women jeans with recycled water and our goal is to scale this innovative process to many of our wet finishing suppliers and collections. For more explanation on the process, click on the infographic below, and read our recycled water blog post.

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