Sustainable Development Report 2020
SwireTHRIVE – Water

Use and manage water responsibly


Water withdrawal 2020

17.8M m3

↓3% from 2019

Group water footprint 2020

2030 target


water withdrawal compared to 2018 frozen efficiency baseline

2050 target

Achieve water neutrality

Companies, communities and ecosystems need water to thrive. Population growth and economic development are putting increasing pressure on the planet’s limited freshwater resources. Climate change is intensifying these impacts. The risk of water shortages is rising. One-third of cities face high water stress and, according to UN projections, demand could outstrip supply by as much as 40% by 2030.

We use water in the beverages and meals we make, and to clean and cool our facilities and equipment. Our offices, malls, hotels, laundry and car washing services cannot operate without water. Companies can help to mitigate water risks by using water responsibly and protecting water sources. We introduced our Water Policy in 2020. What we do is this:

Reduce water use by improving efficiency and adopting new technologies

Use recycled water and alternative sources of water

Ensure our wastewater complies (at a minimum) with treatment laws

Replenish (with others) water in regions of high water stress

The Group and Swire Coca-Cola received A ratings in the 2020 CDP Water Security questionnaire.

In 2020, we used 17.8 million cubic metres of water, a 3% decrease from 2019. 99% of the water we used came from municipal water sources. Swire Coca-Cola withdrew the rest from groundwater sources. Swire Coca-Cola and Swire Properties account for 82% and 10% respectively of the water which we use. We do not collect data on Swire Pacific Offshore’s water use as it is not material.

Chart data Tabular data

Water withdrawal by division
(thousand cbm)

Water withdrawal by division
(thousand cbm)

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Property 1,522 1,390 1,519 2,009 1,757
Aviation 1,576 1,603 1,608 1,519 1,036
Beverages 7,585 8,847 13,439 14,402 14,572
Marine Services 77 115 85 81 86
Trading & Industrial 178 492 402 324 302

Our 2020 target was to achieve a 3-4% reduction in water withdrawal from a 2015 frozen efficiency baseline (from which our performance is projected assuming no improvement in efficiency). We achieved a 7.5% reduction from the baseline, but much of this was due to COVID-19 related reductions in business activity.

Swire Coca-Cola used slightly more water in 2020 despite producing less. More product types were produced, necessitating more cleaning during changeovers. Testing and commissioning of new production lines at two bottling plants sites also increased water use. Swire Coca-Cola’s water use ratio (WUR, the volume of water required to produce one litre of beverages) increased to 1.82 from 1.77.

Water intensity at Swire Properties increased by 33.1% in its Hong Kong property portfolio compared to its 2016 base year. In its Chinese mainland portfolio and at its hotels, water intensity decreased by 18.5% and 32.4% from 2016 respectively. Overall, it used 12.5% less water in 2020 than in 2019.

Water use at Cathay Pacific and HAECO decreased by 45% and 11% respectively in 2020. This reflected COVID-19 related reductions in air travel.

Water use in the Trading & Industrial division decreased by 7% in 2020. Taikoo Motors used 7.6% more water because it washed more cars.

By 2030, we aim to achieve a 27% reduction in water withdrawal from freshwater sources compared with a 2018 frozen efficiency baseline. Our long-term goal is to achieve water neutrality by 2050.

Target reduction in
water withdrawal
2030 target

(from 2018 frozen efficiency baseline)

2050 target

The target excludes the water in beverages produced by Swire Coca-Cola, because there is no substitute. The more beverages we produce, the more water we use. Our target will be achieved through improved water use efficiency of our operations.

There are trade-offs. Water-cooled chillers are more energy efficient than air-cooled chillers and so reduce carbon emissions. They are a central part of our decarbonisation strategy, but will increase our water footprint.

We adopt more efficient processes, repair leaks, install water flow regulators and use technologies that use less or no water.

To save water, Swire Coca-Cola:

  • Monitors water consumption by installing sub-meters at 95% of its bottling plants in the Chinese mainland
  • Uses dry lubricants instead of soapy water to move bottles and cans along conveyor belts
  • Uses ionised air instead of water for rinsing bottles
  • Uses pulses of water instead of a continuous spray to rinse equipment when switching production lines from one beverage type to another
  • Uses ultraviolet light to disinfect reverse osmosis water

In 2020, replacement of the water treatment system at Swire Coca-Cola’s Utah plant will reduce its WUR by an estimated 10%. The Zhanjiang plant replaced leaking valves and fittings.

Swire Properties renovated bathrooms at its Taikoo Hui mall in Guangzhou in 2020. Waterless urinals and low-flush toilets were installed, saving an estimated 1,969 cubic metres of water per year. Swire Properties uses water meters, water flow regulators, automatic taps and automatic flush toilets and urinals.

HAECO dry washes aircraft, using 90% less water and saving more than 860,000 litres of water per year. Dry washing cleans better, so aircraft need to be cleaned less often. HAECO uses automatic taps and water-saving nozzles. Better spray control when washing aircraft can save 8,400 cubic metres of water per year. In Xiamen and the US, HAECO has modified toilet flushing systems so as to use less water.

Qinyuan Bakery inspected and maintained its water supply network in 2020.

We use recycled water and rainwater to reduce our use of freshwater.

Swire Coca-Cola reuses wastewater from manufacturing in cooling towers and for cleaning, irrigation and toilet flushing. Water used in cooling lines and systems is reused in condensing towers. In Hong Kong, final rinsing water is collected and reused in the cooling tower. This saves approximately 1,560 cubic metres of water per year. In Guangdong and Hefei, reverse osmosis water and final rinsing water are used for cleaning. In Taiwan, water reuse and system optimisation achieved a 1% reduction in water use. Swire Coca-Cola recycled 871,000 cubic metres of water in 2020, 12,500 cubic metres less than in 2019.

Swire Properties uses wastewater and rainwater for toilet flushing and irrigation at some of its properties. Taikoo Hui, INDIGO, Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu, HKRI Taikoo Hui, One Island East and One Taikoo Place properties collect rainwater.

HAECO companies reuse 8% of the freshwater they withdraw. Treated wastewater is used at HAECO Xiamen for irrigation, vehicle cleaning, toilet flushing and apron watering. Rainwater is used for toilet flushing in Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific Catering Services collects water from air handling units for use in chillers. This recovers 730 tonnes of water per year (representing 0.15% of its total water consumption in a normal year), generates 9,000 kWh of electricity and reduces carbon emissions by 4.6 tonnes per year.

Going beyond our direct operations, we seek to positively influence the behaviour of our suppliers, customers and other water users in our local communities.

Shanghai Shenmei Beverage Co., Ltd. sells reclaimed water to neighbouring electronics and machinery manufacturing plants for cooling, irrigation, car washing and toilet flushing. This reduces the buyers’ freshwater costs, generates income for Shanghai Shenmei from reclaimed water sales and reduces sewage discharge fees. Approximately 36.1 million litres of reclaimed water were sold in 2020.

Swire Properties – Water saving pilot scheme

In 2020, Swire Properties installed water sub-meters in the premises of 14 office tenants, in order to monitor the amount and understand the pattern of their water use. Opportunities to reduce water use were identified.

Swire Properties encourages tenants to adopt guidelines on the use of fresh and flushing water, in order to assist in complying with enhancements to the Hong Kong government’s voluntary “Quality Water Supply Scheme for Buildings”.

Pollution impacts the water quality in our local water systems, so it is important to ensure that all water we discharge back to nature is safe and, at a minimum, meets local regulatory requirements.

Swire Coca-Cola’s bottling plants are required to meet the wastewater quality standards of The Coca-Cola Company and the World Health Organisation. Performance is monitored. In the Chinese mainland, an online monitoring system is used to track wastewater compliance.

Where necessary, Swire Coca-Cola bottling plants and companies in the HAECO group have on site wastewater treatment facilities. HAECO Xiamen uses heavy metal monitoring equipment and detectors to check effluents before discharge.

Swire Coca-Cola collaborates with The Coca-Cola Company on water replenishment projects in the Chinese mainland and the US. Its goal is to return a litre of clean water to natural water systems for every litre of water used in its beverages. In 2020, the Coca-Cola System replenished 277.8 billion litres of water, equivalent to 170% of the water used in its beverages. Water replenishment data is independently reviewed by Limno Tech and reported on by EY.

Two projects are being undertaken with Bonneville Environmental Foundation:

  • Provo River Flow Restoration Replenish Project (Utah) will replenish 256 million litres of water per year to the Provo River in central Utah by reducing water withdrawal and increasing flows in the summer. Low flows can cause stress to fish and other aquatic species and stop them going where they want to go
  • Eureka Ditch Project (Arizona) will replenish 10.9 million litres of water per year to the Verde River Valley by reducing leakage and water loss. This will enhance river flows and support fish habitats

Water availability is highly location dependent. Each watershed may be exposed to different risks depending on its climatic conditions and changing demand of all water users drawing from it. Understanding location specific water risks can inform a more targeted and strategic approach to water management, allowing focus on sites with the highest risks.

We use the World Resources Institutes (WRI) aqueduct tool to assess the extent to which the places where we operate are exposed to water stress. About 22% of the freshwater we use is drawn from sources classified as high stress, with locations where our Beverages and Properties divisions operate most affected. We have started to study emerging climate change risks, including those related to water. This will help us to strengthen our water security and build capacity, adaptability and resilience.

Proportion of total water withdrawal in 2020 by level of water stress

Chart data Tabular data

Water withdrawal by water stress level and division
(thousand cbm)

Low (<20%)    Medium (20-40%)    High (>40%)

Water withdrawal by water stress level and division
(thousand cbm)

Low (<20%) Medium (20-40%) High (>40%)
Swire Properties 1,043 58 656
Cathay Pacific Group 501 - -
HAECO Group 512 0.9 22
Swire Coca-Cola 8,610 2,659 3,303
HUD Group 86 - -
Trading & Industrial 301 - 1

Swire Coca-Cola evaluates site-specific water risks, including water quality and availability, for each bottling plant using The Coca-Cola Company’s Source Vulnerability Assessments (SVAs). SVAs are done by water resources experts with at least five years’ experience. Following SVAs, plants prepare water management plans (WMPs), which are updated every five years or as required by The Coca-Cola Company. Swire Coca-Cola aims to have SVAs and WMPs externally verified by 2025.

Swire Coca-Cola – SVAs and WMPs

In 2020, Swire Coca-Cola reviewed its site and water basin risks and management plans in its four geographical areas of operation. It found that 14 of its 27 manufacturing facilities are exposed to medium-to-high or high levels of water risk. This reinforces the importance of robust water management.

All bottling plants have done SVAs and have WMPs. But the quality varies significantly. The Coca-Cola Company has enhanced its assessment requirements, including requiring water risk heat maps and evaluation of water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure. A five year plan has been drawn up to engage external consultants to help with the preparation of SVAs. Swire Coca-Cola aims to have all SVAs and WMPs externally verified by 2025. For more information, please see Swire Coca-Cola Sustainable Development Report 2020.

Swire Properties has done water risk assessments in Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and Miami, USA. Availability of water, operational risks associated with water use, the efficiency of its buildings and the risk of higher water tariffs were assessed.

The Water working group will continue to improve the collection and monitoring of our water data, will develop a roadmap for achieving our 2030 target and will work towards understanding the water risks where we operate. We are exploring ways to achieve water neutrality by 2050.