British American Tobacco - Water stewardship

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Water stewardship

A sustainable flow of innovation in water efficiency

It is both our responsibility and good business conduct to use water efficiently – from eliminating loss and leaks to increasing water recycling.

Water stewardship in our operations

While our manufacturing facilities are not particularly water intensive compared to other industries, with the changing climate, water scarcity is a growing concern.

Through our long-standing environmental management systems, we have been steadily decreasing water use and increasing water recycling across our operations for several years. Our Integrated Work Systems (IWS) help to optimise water use in all of our factories, and our sites implement a range of initiatives to save water, such as by eliminating leakages, and to increase water recycling, including reusing the water from manufacturing processes for utilities, cleaning and bathroom facilities.

Our target is to reduce the total amount of water withdrawn by 35% by 2025, from our 2017 baseline. By the end of 2020, we had achieved a 22.5% reduction and also recycled 15.3% of our total water used.

We are also aiming for 100% of our operations sites to be certified against the Alliance for Water Stewardship standard by 2025.

Water stewardship in tobacco growing

Water management is also vital to sustainable farming, especially given that agriculture accounts for an average 70% of freshwater withdrawals globally.

Rainwater is commonly sufficient for many tobacco crops. Due to the variety of locations in which we source our tobacco leaf, only 30% requires irrigation. In these situations we support the farmers to find more sustainable ways to water their crops while also protecting the access of local communities to water.

For example, we have introduced farmers to drip irrigation technology in seven countries. These include Brazil, Mexico and Pakistan, with upcoming trials planned for the next crop cycle in three more countries. This has been shown to increase water-usage efficiency by up to 90%, as well as reducing soil erosion and salination, ultimately boosting yields.

Through our global leaf agronomy centre, we have developed ‘floating’ systems for growing tobacco seedlings, based on hydroponics, that use about 85% less water per hectare and have the potential to increase the yield by up to 36% compared to traditional systems. These have been successfully introduced to our contracted farmers in eight countries, and we have plans to expand to more.

We also provide training for farmers on best practice water and soil management. We review their irrigation dependency, and offer guidance on how to reduce water use through new techniques and technologies. In 2020, it was reported that 76% of tobacco hectares in our supply chain had appropriate best practice soil and water management plans implemented1.

  1. Reported via our Thrive assessments covering BAT contracted farmers and farmers contracted to our strategic third-party suppliers, representing more than 80% of our total tobacco leaf purchases in 2020.
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