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’Green’ canal water helps fuel 21st century business


Up to 1,000 UK companies able to follow pharmaceutical giant’s sustainable lead

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and British Waterways are today unveiling an innovative energy saving scheme at the pharmaceutical giant’s canal-side global headquarters in West London. The new green initiative will use canal water and heat exchange technology to provide a more sustainable alternative to traditional air conditioning – with a target of reducing GSK’s head office carbon dioxide emissions by 920 tonnes per annum and lowering its energy bills.

As guardians of 2,200 miles of canals and rivers across the UK, British Waterways estimates that a further 1,000 waterside businesses nationwide could follow the company’s lead by using canal water for heating or cooling. This would result in annual energy savings of £100m and reductions in carbon dioxide emissions of approximately one million tonnes – the equivalent to some 400,000 family sized cars being taken off the roads. Income that British Waterways generates from the initiative will be reinvested into looking after the nation’s canal network.

Tony Hales, British Waterways’ chairman, comments: “A legacy of their industrial past, our waterways pass alongside thousands of waterside organisations seeking greener ways of doing business. GSK is leading the way as the first FTSE 100 company to embrace and realise the benefits of utilising their canal-side location to lower energy bills and reduce impact on the environment.”

The initiative in West London replaces a traditional air conditioning system and uses recyclable water from the Grand Union Canal to primarily cool GSK’s computer data centre via heat exchangers and a water-cooled chiller. The opportunity works in a similar way to a car radiator where cool air passes through the hot engine to lower its temperature. Because this results in water being returned to the canal slightly warmer, it has required an environmental analysis and consent from the Environment Agency.

Duncan Learmouth, Senior Vice President Corporate Communications and Global Community Partnerships, said: “GSK is committed to seeking innovative solutions to improve the environmental performance of the company. This approach will enable us to use a readily available source of water to cool our building – reducing the carbon dioxide emissions at our London headquarters by 920 tonnes each year. As well as making good business sense with a five year pay back of more than £100,000 of annual energy savings, the Grand Union Canal project is also one of our global sustainability initiatives that demonstrate our commitment to reducing GSK’s impact on the environment.”

Tony Hales continues: “Whilst the principle of using heat exchange technology to heat and cool buildings has been proven over a number of years in Northern Europe, harnessing the full heat exchange environmental opportunity afforded by Britain’s 200 year old network of canals and rivers is relatively new.

“The nation’s waterways have long provided a green network for boats, bikes, walkers and wildlife but they can do even more to help Britain become a cleaner and more sustainable place. The genius of the waterways is that, 200 years after they were first built, they continue to adapt and contribute to modern society. We are only at the start of unlocking their full potential.”

In addition to GSK, organisations using canal water to heat and cool their waterside buildings include a university, shopping centre and hotel. British Waterways estimates a further 1,000 businesses alongside its urban waterways could also harness the opportunity – primarily large offices that use considerable amounts of energy cooling their buildings as a result of the large amounts of heat generated by computers and lighting.

GlaxoSmithKline – one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies – is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer. For further information please visit

British Waterways cares for 2,200 miles of the nation’s canals and rivers. Rich in heritage, abundant in wildlife and teeming with activity, inland waterways are as popular today as they’ve ever been. Half the population lives within five miles of one of our waterways and an incredible 11 million people use them every year as part of their everyday life – as a short-cut to work, for walking the dog or simply for taking time-out and watching the boats. British Waterways’ job is to ensure the waterways attract enough investment to be well maintained and remain appealing to society and the local communities through which they pass.

Whilst using canal water for heating and cooling could benefit an estimated 1,000 waterside businesses, British Waterways, through its environmental appraisal, will consider dissolved oxygen levels and the impact on the local canal environment – limiting capacity so that it balances the local ecology with the global requirement for increased action on climate change.

This press release is intended for business journalists and analysts/investors. Please note that this release may not have been issued in every market in which GSK operates.


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