Water stewardship

What is Water stewardship at AstraZeneca?

Company operations can have adverse impacts on water. In water scarce regions, water quality and availability risks may be more pronounced for local stakeholders and company operations. This also includes the responsible discharge of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) from drug production to aquatic ecosystems. 

We address water impacts from the production and patient use of our products in Pharmaceuticals in the environment (PIE).

Our approach

We have initiatives across our operations to reduce our impact and be a positive actor in the river basins where we operate:

  • At AstraZeneca sites: Uncoupling water demand from business growth with our 2015–2025 water efficiency key performance indicators; developing context-based water targets
  • In drug development: Adopting process mass intensity (PMI) targets to reduce the water demand of the drugs we develop; conducting life cycle assessments (LCAs) to calculate the water footprint across the whole product life cycle including the raw materials used to make the drug substance. See more in Product environmental stewardship
  • Maintaining water quality: Preventing pollution by applying safe discharge limits for APIs produced or formulated by our manufacturing operations. See more in Pharmaceuticals in the environment (PIE).
  • In our supply chain: Applying safe discharge limits across our supply chain to prevent pollution from our API suppliers; implementing a Sustainability Partner Guide and Framework
  • In the communities where we operate: Supporting river basin-level collective action; developing context-based water target

To enable us to take a more holistic approach to managing our water risks across our site network, we have updated our methodology to include water scarcity. Based on the WWF Water Risk Filter tool, which identifies and evaluates water risks around the world, this methodology has enabled us to broaden our understanding of our water-related risks and identify areas for investment. We prioritise implementing water efficiency projects and water efficiency audits in water scarce areas. See our water scarcity map for more information.

Our longer-term ambition is to implement Science-Based Targets for Water, once a global methodology is available. With these targets, we aim to set a high bar on water stewardship for the pharmaceutical industry. This approach aims to ensure that we can more meaningfully contribute to the sustainable management of water resources within river basins. 

Our key target and progress

See the Sustainability Data Summary for all metrics and methodology

Our stories


Learn more about Water stewardship in our Sustainability Report.