Sustainability Priority Addressed on this Page

Baxter Will Drive Reductions in its Natural Resource Use

Water and Wastewater

Water issues continue to grow in visibility and importance worldwide, and many consider access to clean water to be a basic human right. Although global concerns, addressing these issues requires action at a local or regional level. Due to the location-specific nature of water issues, companies first must understand water risks associated with individual operations before they can take appropriate and meaningful action.

Water is integral to many of Baxter’s products and manufacturing processes, and the company considers water conservation and reuse to be key focus areas. Baxter works to better understand the impacts of its water use across the value chain, and implements conservation and efficiency projects at its manufacturing facilities to improve its performance.

Baxter is committed to reducing water consumption by 35% indexed to revenue by 2015, compared to 2005. The company also has committed to implement two projects by 2015 to help protect vulnerable watersheds and provide communities with enhanced access to clean water.

Water consumption, energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions are interrelated issues, including within Baxter’s manufacturing operations. The production of highly purified water requires energy to operate water purification equipment such as reverse osmosis and water distillation units. As water quality decreases, Baxter will need to use additional energy and water for these purposes.

Water Usage

Baxter closely manages how it obtains, uses, treats, re-circulates and discharges water. In 2012, the company acquired slightly less than half of its water from on-site wells and the remainder from municipal water distribution systems.

During the year, Baxter used approximately 14.0 million cubic meters1 of water, roughly equivalent to filling 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools every day. The company used 5% less water in 2012 than in 2005 in absolute terms and 34% less indexed to revenue, on target to meet its 2015 water-reduction goal. Baxter used approximately 60,000 cubic meters more water in 2012 than in 2011, largely due to changes in manufacturing practices and product development activities at numerous Baxter facilities globally.

Water Usage

Baxter uses water in three main ways:

  • Process-related operations include cooling towers, chillers, steam boilers, sterilizers and water purification (80% of total);
  • Use of purified water in the company’s solution products (15% of total); and
  • Other uses such as in bathrooms, cafeterias and landscaping (5% of total).

Water Conservation

Facilities with water-intensive operations develop site-specific water efficiency initiatives and metrics. Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) and Facilities Engineering Services personnel review performance to identify best practices for application at other locations.

Baxter considers several factors to identify water usage reduction opportunities and possible water conservation projects at sites, including total water used, water usage efficiency, water cost and water availability. Due to the strong link between energy usage and water processing, optimizing water systems remains a key focus of the company’s facility energy assessments. Additionally, Baxter integrates Lean manufacturing principles and tools such as value stream mapping2 with water management to help facilities identify areas for additional conservation.

During 2012, Baxter implemented water recovery and reuse projects at several facilities:

  • England - Baxter’s facility in Liverpool installed a closed-circuit cooling water loop, helping to reduce water usage by 104,000 cubic meters compared to 2011.
  • Spain - Building on an initiative started in 2010, Baxter's Sabiñanigo facility expanded the removal of a two-stage washing bath from additional manufacturing lines for Viaflo, Baxter’s non-PVC flexible intravenous (IV) bag. Continued implementation of this project in 2012 contributed to a 59,000 cubic meter reduction in water usage during the year.
  • United States - Baxter’s Hayward, California, facility completed improvements on its steam management system, enhanced insulation of steam valves and piping throughout the facility, and reduced reverse osmosis water system operational time. These projects contributed to the facility’s 10,000 cubic meter reduction in water consumption, compared to 2011.

Water-Stressed Locations

Water issues vary significantly by location. Baxter used the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Global Water Tool to evaluate the availability of renewable water resources at Baxter’s 51 largest water-consuming locations, which represent approximately 96% of the company’s total water use. Twelve of those sites are located in water-scarce areas, 10 in water-stressed areas and 29 in water-sufficient areas (see second note on graph below).

Water usage in water-scarce and water-stressed areas increased 3% in absolute terms and 5% normalized to production in 2012 compared to 2011, primarily due to more water-intensive manufacturing practices and sanitation protocols.

Water Usage by Availability

Baxter has established partnerships with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to implement projects to help protect vulnerable watersheds or provide communities with enhanced access to clean water and sanitation.

In 2012, Baxter launched a project with Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation (PCWS) to improve the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions for the nearly 1,500 inhabitants of Sitio Silangan, a community within walking distance of the company's manufacturing facility in Canlubang, Philippines, which is located in a water-scarce region. PCWS builds the capabilities of communities, households, non-governmental organizations and other groups to address water, sanitation and hygiene challenges throughout the country. See Case Study: Addressing Community Water Needs in the Philippines.

In early 2013, Baxter also entered into a partnership with Sarar Transformación SC to implement a community water project near Baxter’s facility in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The project's goals are to improve water and sanitary conditions at local schools in the surrounding water-stressed area of Tepoztlán, Mexico; to educate the community on sustainable water use; and to implement processes to ensure maintenance of the installed improvements. Nearly 1,000 residents of the Tepoztlán area are expected to benefit from this project.


Wastewater discharged from Baxter's production operations represents one of the company's most significant environmental compliance risks. In 2012, all of Baxter’s 85 self-reported environmental incidents were exceedances of permitted wastewater discharge limits, and 95% of those were from one location. The company’s Castlebar, Ireland facility reported 81 wastewater exceedances related to biological oxygen demand (BOD), pH, flow volume, chloride and sulphate.

To address these items, Baxter continues to apply internal and external legal and engineering resources to improve compliance at this facility. The site has worked extensively with local regulatory agencies, external wastewater experts, and the private third-party operator of the municipal wastewater treatment plant to develop technical options to expand the treatment capacity of the Baxter-dedicated wastewater pre-treatment system. Additionally, Baxter continues to manage its operations, including its required rigorous cleaning solutions and other ways to reduce the loading on the wastewater treatment system. This and many other enhanced internal operational practices have engaged the entire facility staff and management in identifying ways to further reduce the risk of wastewater exceedances.

On a global level, to address existing wastewater compliance issues and to anticipate potential future ones, Baxter’s environmental engineering group continues to perform comprehensive wastewater risk evaluations and develop recommendations for facilities with elevated wastewater compliance risk. These evaluations review processes for managing change at the facility, wastewater compliance performance, wastewater permit conditions, projected changes in production over the next five years, wastewater monitoring practices, reserve wastewater treatment capacity analyses, and other operational practices that help ensure proper management of wastewater discharges and compliance.

Baxter-Operated Wastewater Treatment Systems

Twelve of Baxter’s manufacturing operations treat wastewater on-site and either discharge to a waterway or operate as zero-discharge facilities. These facilities typically do not have access to regional or municipal wastewater-treatment systems. For example, Baxter’s facilities in Alathur and Waluj, India, reuse all treated wastewater on-site for landscaping and irrigation or, after further treatment by reverse osmosis, for cooling-towers. In 2012, these 12 facilities treated more than 4.3 million cubic meters of wastewater, nearly 31% of Baxter's total water consumption.

The combined treated effluent from the 10 facilities that discharge to a waterway contained substances that represent 36 metric tons of BOD5, 120 metric tons of chemical oxygen demand (COD) and 34 metric tons of total suspended solids (TSS). This equals average concentrations of 8 mg/liter BOD5, 28 mg/liter COD and 8 mg/liter TSS. These levels generally are regarded as indicators of adequately treated wastewater and are well below typical regulatory discharge limits.

Wastewater Pollutants*
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Typical Acceptable Discharge Level (mg/L)
BOD5** Metric Tons 26 26 28 28 31 41 24 36
mg/L 6 6 6 7 8 10 5 8 20
COD** Metric Tons 111 119 134 132 102 106 98 120
mg/L 26 27 30 31 27 27 22 28 60
TSS** Metric Tons 45 49 53 48 31 34 49 34
mg/L 11 11 12 11 8 9 11 8 20
4,340,000 4,565,000 4,538,000 4,295,000 3,777,000 3,948,000 4,404,000 4,348,000
* Estimated total water pollutant levels for treated wastewater discharged directly into waterways. Data do not include two facilities that operate zero-discharge systems in accordance with local regulatory requirements.
** When actual performance data were not available, estimates were developed based on performance at similar facilities or on other measured performance indicators.

Wastewater and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients

Baxter takes seriously the concern about active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) entering the public water supply. The company primarily produces solutions whose principal ingredients include water, salts and simple sugars. However, Baxter purchases and uses some solution therapies and products for injection that include APIs.

The company properly manages the APIs that it uses to help ensure they are not released into the environment during manufacturing. Baxter has developed proprietary processes to remove, destroy or deactivate some compounds though not required to do so by law. All other compounds that cannot be managed this way or through traditional wastewater systems are destroyed by incineration or other environmentally responsible means.

Complementing these global processes, each Baxter facility determines the most effective and environmentally responsible method of protecting the public water supply and public health in accordance with company policies and local regulations. For example, Baxter’s major research and development facility in Round Lake, Illinois, United States, has an ongoing program launched in 1989 to evaluate its solution products, including those containing APIs, for their removal in wastewater treatment systems. The company shares this information with Baxter facilities around the world.

1 One cubic meter equals 1,000 liters or 264 gallons.
2 Water value stream mapping is an interactive, Lean manufacturing tool that helps facilities better understand the quantity and quality of water used in their processes and identify opportunities for reduction or reuse.