Water Use

Our water impact per consumer use has increased by 15% since 2010*

Our commitment

Halve the water associated with the consumer use of our products by 2020.*

Our performance

Our water impact per consumer use has increased by around 15% since 2010.*

  • achieved: 0
  • on-plan: 5
  • off-plan: 1
  • %of target achieved: 0

Our perspective

We have made good progress in those areas under our control. In our own operations, water abstraction is down by 29%† per tonne of production since 2008 and by 74% in absolute terms since 1995. However our biggest impact comes from the water used by consumers when they use our products where we have less control. By the end of 2013, our water impact per consumer use had increased by around 15% since 2010.

While we are making progress in some parts of our business through product innovation, other parts of our portfolio are evolving in ways which is increasing our footprint. Our laundry business has experienced high growth from bars in India which, while very affordable for people on low incomes, are also associated with a more water-intensive washing habit than other laundry handwash formats.

Domestic water use makes up the majority of our wider footprint. Our priority is to develop innovations, consumer campaigns and work with others to establish wider solutions which help lower–income, urban consumers in developing countries meet their water needs.

Reducing water abstracted by manufacturing sites

  • By 2020, water abstraction by our global factory network will be at or below 2008 levels, despite significantly higher volumes.

    This represents a reduction of around 40% per tonne of production. Versus a 1995 baseline, this represents a 78% reduction per tonne of production and a 65% absolute reduction.

    We will focus in particular on factories in water-scarce locations.

  • All newly-built factories will aim to abstract less than half the water of those in our 2008 baseline.
  • 14 million† fewer cubic metres of water abstracted in 2013 than in 2008 (a reduction of 29%† per tonne of production).

    Compared to 1995 this represents a 74% reduction in absolute terms.

  • New factories in India and Turkey started production in 2013. When fully operational each aims to abstract only half the water for factory operations than those factories in a representative 2008 baseline.

† Independently assured by PwC– see http://www.unilever.com/

Reduce water use in the laundry process

We will reduce the water required in the laundry process by:

  • Making easier rinsing products more widely available.
  • Providing 50 million households in water-scarce countries with laundry products that deliver excellent results but use less water by 2020.
  • 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.


† Independently assured by PwC– see http://www.unilever.com/

Reduce water use in skin cleansing and hair washing

  • By 2015 we intend to reach 200 million consumers with products and tools that will help them to use less water while washing and showering. Our goal is to reach 400 million by 2020.
  • In 2012 we have improved our understanding of this area but progress remains slow.


Reducing water use in agriculture

  • We will develop comprehensive plans with our suppliers and partners to reduce the water used to grow our crops in water-scarce countries.
  • In 2013 we were able to analyse the first data coming from our supplier self-assessment software system. Our analysis first looked at tomato farming in California, then regions of China, Spain, Turkey and Australia.


† Independently assured by PwC

* Our environmental targets are expressed on a ‘per consumer use’ basis. This means a single use, portion or serving of a product. We have taken a lifecycle approach with a baseline of 2010.