Saving water and tackling climate change

On World Water Day 2020

Sustainability 20 Mar 2020


Water is one of the world’s most precious resources – but as the planet’s climate changes and the population rises, up to 5.7 billion people could be living in areas where water is scarce for at least one month a year by 2050. That’s why companies and individuals are exploring ways of saving this life-giving liquid.

Humans need water to survive – and not just fresh water for drinking. We rely on different kinds of water for a huge range of services and products, from sanitation and healthcare through to growing food crops and making clothes. In our daily lives, we use water for taking showers and washing laundry, and it’s also a key ingredient in a wide variety of the products that we buy. But even though 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, less than 1 percent is fresh water that is suitable for human consumption. Today, around 1 in 3 people live without safe drinking water, and global water demand is expected to increase by more than 50 percent by 2040.

The link between water and climate change

This trend is being accelerated by climate change because floods, droughts and heat have a direct impact on the availability of the various types of water that humans need. Changing the way we use water will help to strengthen our planet’s ecosystem and reduce the risk of extreme weather events that make water more unpredictable, more polluted, and more scarce. This could involve using less fresh water for showering, collecting and using rainwater for growing crops or sanitation, or improving our systems for managing waste water.

On top of this, using less warm water makes it possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it avoids the need to generate energy to heat the water. By taking steps to consume less water when products are made and used, we can make sure water remains a human right – and does not become a luxury.

Saving water when products are made

Henkel aims to use 30 percent less water for every ton of product we make by 2020 compared to the base year 2010. Every day, our teams explore ways of cutting water consumption across our 184 production sites worldwide. In fact, we consider water-efficient production as early as the product development stage. In this way, we’ve created innovations like our Spee Aktiv Gel Nature brand of detergent, which has a concentrated formula that cuts the amount of water needed during production.

Saving water when products are used

We also create products and technologies that enable our customers and consumers to save water. A new range of label adhesives from our Aquence brand cuts water consumption when plastic bottles are recycled because the labels can be washed off cleanly and easily. And our Loctite brand offers a range of solutions that help manufacturers of liquid filtration systems to respond to the challenge of global water scarcity by making more reliable and efficient filters for water treatment.

Our consumer products are used in millions of households every day, and many of these products involve water when they are used. That’s why we develop Beauty Care products like our leave-in conditioner and our dry shampoo that do not require water for rinsing. Our Colour Catcher laundry sheets also save water by enabling customers to wash mixed colors together, which reduces the number of laundry loads.

Alongside these product innovations, we established our “Be smarter. Save water.” initiative to encourage water-saving behavior by placing information on product packaging and on a special website. For example, it explains that showering for a shorter time reduces CO2 emissions by cutting the amount of energy needed to heat water. If consumers who purchased Henkel products reduced their shower time by an average of 15 percent, it would be possible to avoid more than 200,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions and 30 million cubic meters of water each year – an important contribution to climate protection and water-efficiency.

Everybody can contribute

Everyone can play a role in helping to save water and fight climate change. From taking a shorter shower or washing at a lower temperature, small changes add up to make a big impact. In this spirit, Henkel is one of more than 20 companies participating in a project that aims to provide safe water and sanitation to half a million people in Bihar, India. As part of a partnership between the One Drop Foundation and METRO Group, a share of the price of products sold in METRO retail stores during the two-week period around World Water Day is donated to the project.

Activities like this demonstrate our strong belief that adapting to the water-related effects of climate change will protect health and save lives. Changing the way we use water will help reduce floods and droughts, prevent water scarcity and support the fight against climate change. The science is clear: We cannot afford to wait. The time for positive action to save water and protect our climate is now.