British American Tobacco - Water

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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 2025 targets are:

  • To reduce the total amount of water withdrawn by 35% (vs 2017 baseline); and
  • To achieve 30% of water recycled

By the end of 2022, we had achieved a 33% reduction in water withdrawn and also recycled 22.6% of our total water used.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 our directly contracted farmers to drip irrigation technology in seven countries, including Brazil, Mexico and Pakistan. This helps save water, reduce soil erosion and salination, and boosts yields. In 2022, we ran pilot programmes in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Initial results showed savings of between 25-50% of water use when compared to traditional furrow irrigation methods.

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.

Another important initiative for water saving is the Alternate Furrow Irrigation system. In 2022, we continued with trials and commercial evaluations in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Initial results are promising and show potential water savings of up to 8% compared to traditional furrow irrigation - without compromising crop yield or quality.

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 2022, it was reported that 82% 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 over 80% of the tobacco purchased by volume in 2022 ('Tobacco Supply Chain').

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