This page presents all relevant good practice case studies that showcase how business have addressed the Access to water dilemma. Case studies have been developed in close collaboration with a range of multi-national companies and relevant government, inter-governmental and civil society stakeholders. We also draw on public domain sources, including the UN Global Compact's own published Communications on Progress through which signatories are required to report on their performance against the Ten Principles.
The case studies explore the specific dilemmas and challenges faced by each organisation, good practice actions they have taken to resolve them and the results of such action. We reference challenges as well as achievements and invite you to submit commentary and suggestions through the Forum.
PepsiCo: Policy on the human right to water - Global
PepsiCo, the world’s second largest food and beverage company, has adopted a policy on the human right to water that guides its domestic and overseas operations. The company’s Human Right to Water Policy commits PepsiCo “not to take any action that would undermine a state’s obligation to its citizens to protect and fulfil the human right to water”. The company has also committed to follow the principles regarding the human right to water defined by the United Nations, where a country does not have a water policy. Such principles require ensuring that the local community has access to safe, sufficient, physically accessible, acceptable and affordable water. Of particular note, PepsiCo has undertaken to: a) improve water use efficiency by 20% per unit of production by 2015; b) strive for positive water balance in business operations in water-distressed areas; and c) provide access to safe water to three million people in developing countries.
PepsiCo: Working towards a 20% reduction in water intensity by 2015 – Global
PepsiCo reports that it has saved more than 14 billion litres of water through efficiency improvements within its direct operations, compared with a 2006 baseline. The efficiency improvements have also enabled the company to save more than US$15million in water-related costs. PepsiCo has furthermore focused on methods to conserve water in water-distressed areas near its operations in order to reduce the water footprint of its suppliers. These have included:
The company has pledged to reduce water use intensity per unit of production by 20% by 2015, compared with a 2006 baseline. PepsiCo says that its target date of 2015 is three years earlier than the date previously set.
PepsiCo: Using technology to reduce water use in the production process - US
In the US, PepsiCo has initiated a number of technological improvements to reduce water use. In Casa Grande, Arizona – for example – the company uses a water filtration and purification system to recycle and re-use about 80% of the process water used in production. The company has also started cleaning new Gatorade bottles in the US with purified air instead of rinsing them with water. The method has reportedly proved very efficient for both cleaning purposes and the conservation of water.
PepsiCo: Collaboration with NGOs to improve access to water - Global
PepsiCo: Collaboration with NGOs to improve community access to water and sanitation – Global
PepsiCo, through the PepsiCo Foundation, collaborates with various organisations – including Columbia University Earth Institute’s Global Water Center, Water.org, the Safe Water Network, the Energy Resources Institute (TERI) and the China Women’s Development Foundation (CWDF) – to develop projects aimed at improving local communities’ access to water.
Such projects include the installation of village water and irrigation systems, the establishment of water health centres, the construction of rainwater harvesting cisterns, programmes aimed at improving sanitation, funding for the building of purification plants and the recharging of aquifers in Ghana, Kenya, Brazil, China, the Philippines and India.
According to the company, more than 4.3 million people have been directly impacted by the efforts of the Global Water Center – resulting from the improved management of shared water resources in Brazil, India and China.
Coca-Cola: Provision of rain barrels reduces community water consumption – US, Global
Since 2011 Coca-Cola has partnered with River Network – a group of around 2,000 grassroots environmental organisations based in the US – to help reduce water use in the community. The multinational provides these groups with rain barrels that are designed to collect rainwater runoff. The 55-gallon syrup drums, which the company says cost around US$100 each, collect rainwater that can be applied to non-consumption usages, such as washing cars and watering lawns and plants. According to Coca-Cola, the initiative is helping to replenish the watersheds of local communities, whilst also helping increase clean water suppliers for agricultural use and sanitation – particularly relevant in drought-prone regions of the country. Coca-Cola cites a 40% reduction in water used by the average household as a result of barrel water collection techniques.
Coca-Cola: Water efficiency partnership with the WWF result in significant reductions in operations’ consumption – Global
Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage company, is working with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to improve water efficiency at the company’s global operations – as well as those of its suppliers. Some of these measures include:
Coca-Cola also conducts regular studies of its operations to calculate their specific ‘water footprint’, with this broken down by the different types of water – i.e. ‘green water’, ‘blue water’ and ‘grey water’ – used in the various manufacturing processes. The company reports that such efforts have resulted in significant progress in making its overall ‘water footprint’ more sustainable – despite the company expanding its product portfolio and increasing production levels. Coca-Cola cites, for example, a 21.4% improvement in water efficiency in 2012, compared to a 2004 baseline. The multinational is now aiming to improve water efficiency by 25% before 2020, compared to a 2010 baseline.
Unilever: Helping improve water efficiency amongst suppliers and reducing pollution in local communities - Brazil, Indonesia
Unilever reports that it has evaluated suppliers on water management and assisted them in improving water efficiency and reducing water usage. For instance, in Brazil, Unilever worked with tomato suppliers to reduce their water consumption by 30% through the use of a drip irrigation system. The company has also provided water management expertise and equipment to assist local communities in Surabaya, Indonesia – helping them to reduce pollution in a river close to a Unilever-run factory.
SABMiller: Reporting on water use in the supply chain - South Africa, Peru, Tanzania, Ukraine, Czech Republic
SABMiller, a UK-based brewing and beverage company, reports on water use within its direct operations through its ‘beyond-the-breweries’ approach. Using this approach, the company has measured the water footprints of its South African, Peruvian, Tanzania, Ukrainian and Czech operations. There are considerable disparities in water use between regions. For example, the company found that it takes 155 litres of water to produce one litre of beer in South Africa – compared to a maximum of 45 litres in the Czech Republic.
This difference was attributed mainly to climatic differences, packaging and the volumes of imported crops used. For instance, the use of surface water as well as water from aquifers (i.e. ‘blue water’) constituted only 6% of total water use in the company’s Czech operations, as they instead rely on flows found in soils rather than water basins. In South Africa, blue water accounted for about 34% of its operations’ total water use.
The study helped SABMiller formulate its sustainability strategy for future operations. For instance, in two regions of South Africa that were identified as posing certain water-related risks, the company has been considering the distribution of ‘toolkits’ to help promote sustainable agricultural practices and has employed agricultural extension workers to improve yield management.
Nestle: Development of a Combined Water Stress Index to map and assess operations’ water risks - Global
Nestle has developed a Combined Water Stress Index to help assess water stress at its different operations. This builds on the joint national Water Poverty Index (WPI) of the World Water Council and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), as well as a site-level evaluation of Nestle factories located in water-stressed regions. The WPI scores 147 countries for their characteristics and performance across five dimensions of potential water stress. These include resources, access, capacity, use and environment. It is expected that the new Combined Water Stress Index will improve Nestle’s ability to manage water issues by targeting its efforts at its ‘higher-risk’ operations.
Nestle: Support for Project WET to promote education on water security - Global
Nestle Waters, part of Switzerland-based food and beverage company Nestle, is the largest private sponsor of the Water Education for Teachers Project (Project WET). Project WET is a non-profit organisation aimed at disseminating education on challenges related to water security, through the publishing of materials, provision of training, organisation of community events and building of a global network of educators, water resource professionals and scientists. The project operates in over 50 countries.
Bayer CropScience: Promoting less water intensive rice crops through enhanced cultivation methods - Indonesia
Bayer CropScience (a subsidiary of the Bayer Group) creates products focused on crop protection, non-agricultural pest control (e.g. products used to preserve wood, anti-fouling products, surface biocides, etc.) and seed cultivation. In this context, the company is focused on improving rice yields while also reducing the amount of water needed for cultivation. The programme – which was launched in Indonesia – is based on a new method of cultivation, known as direct seeding. This method replaces customary wet rice cultivation, by which farmers manually plant young plants in flooded paddies. In contrast, direct seeding involves the dry planting of pre-germinated rice by machine. The company claims that the new method allows greater crop yields, while saving very large quantities of water and reducing the need for fertilisers.
Syngenta: Development of less water-intensive corn, sunflower and rice varieties - Global
Agribusiness company Syngenta reports that it is developing genetically modified varieties of corn, sunflower and rice that are resistant to high temperatures and drought,- and thus require less water to cultivate. In particular, the company has highlighted its new product, known as Invinsa, which was developed to protect crop yields in the face of changing weather patterns. Invinsa is effective in water-stressed environments as it produces a chemical called ethylene, which slows down the dying process in plants. Syngenta reports that initial tests – conducted in North America and South America – have shown that use of the product increases corn and wheat yields by up to 15%.
Intel: Achievement of 75% water reuse in Arizona through recycling - US
Intel, a semiconductor manufacturing company, has reported reductions in its daily water demand in the US city of Chandler, Arizona. The company achieved this significant reduction through three separate programmes:
These programmes helped the company reduce its water consumption by allowing it to reuse up to 75% of its water inputs.
Barrick Gold: Inviting communities to monitor water quality at the Pascua-Luma mine - Chile
Barrick Gold, a Canadian-based mining company, encourages local communities to participate in the company’s water monitoring activities at its Pascua-Luma mine in Chile. In 2013, community representatives were trained to undertake water sampling and then invited to test water quality at several different monitoring points along El Carmen River. They subsequently delivered these tests to an independent, accredited laboratory of their choice in the Chilean capital of Santiago. To improve the transparency of the process, public monitors collected the results of the evaluation in person and received clarifications of the results – including how these matched the “acceptable standards for water quality” – from technicians. The company has also conducted similar water testing initiatives at its Lagunas Norte mine in Peru and its Veladero mine in Argentina.
General Mills: Helping crop growers improve their water efficiency - Global
General Mills’ Green Giant division works with growers to reduce their water consumption for key crops – as well as their use of chemical fertilisers. For instance, the company has assisted its suppliers in central Mexico by helping them transition from less efficient furrow irrigation methods to modern drip irrigation methods. The company says the project resulted in a reduction of water use of almost 1.1 billion gallons a year, measured between 2010 and 2011.
General Mills provided local growers in Mexico with interest-free loans to purchase drip irrigation equipment. Drip irrigation uses only around half the water that would normally be required for conventional furrow irrigation.
Alcoa et al.: Companies offer increasingly transparent reporting around water management - Global
A number of multinational companies have increased their transparency around water reporting – including the water impacts of their operations, water use, wastewater and future targets. Some examples of multinational companies setting targets include:
Areva: Construction of desalination plant to provide water to uranium mines and local communities - Namibia
French industrial conglomerate Areva has installed a desalination plant in Wlotzkasbaken on the Namibian coast, which will provide clean water to both the country’s uranium mines (reportedly including those of Rio Tinto and Paladin Energy) and to local communities for domestic and industrial use. The plant is the first of its kind to be built in Southern Africa and works by removing salt from seawater taken from the Atlantic Ocean. A 48-km long aqueduct will, once completed, carry 20 million m³ of potable water per year, with 6 million m³ being distributed locally. As a result, local water supplies will be improved for both domestic consumption and economic development.
Antofagasta Minerals: Stakeholder engagement results in a low-impact water solution for copper and gold mine - Chile
Chilean mining company Antofagasta Minerals reports that it has engaged local communities near its Minera Esperanza copper and gold mine in Sierra Gorda, Chile on its water use. The company hopes to ensure that the project does not divert supply away from human consumption. The result of this engagement was a decision to run the plant on untreated seawater, pumped 145km from the Pacific coast, thereby removing the need to transport fresh water in from the nearest cities, 50-70 km away.
Mars: Petcare water self-sufficiency programme generates savings and reduces waste - Brazil
The pet food division of multinational food giant Mars, based in Mogi Mirim, Brazil, has become the first of the company’s operations to develop a water self-sufficiency programme. Through a combination of water conservation and reuse, rainwater collection and an onsite well, Mars Petcare is able to save around US$626,000 per year, whilst also preventing the release of wastewater into municipal supplies. This initiative is just a small part of a company-wide drive to reduce water consumption around the world. Between 2007 and 2011, Mars’ total water use fell by 18%.
Diageo: ‘Water of Life’ programme aims to provide clean water to a million people every year - sub-Saharan Africa
Multinational alcoholic beverage company Diageo runs a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme called Water of Life, the aim of which is to provide clean water access to one million new people in Africa every year until 2015. The programme is focused in the vicinity of Diageo’s operations – in order to mitigate the impacts of the company’s own water use. The scheme is aimed at improving water efficiency and decreasing water pollution across Diageo bottling plants, as well as promoting sustainable water use by suppliers in water-stressed countries. Diageo has also partnered with WaterAid, an international charity focused on improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation, to carry out its Water of Life CSR programme.
Coca-Cola: Ongoing financial support for the ‘Every Drop Matters’ initiative – Global, Armenia, Azerbaijan
In 2013, Coca-Cola pledged US$2 million to Every Drop Matters – an established partnership initiative with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The initiative addresses water related challenges such as availability, sanitation, water management and climate change adaptation in 18 different countries. Prior to the latest pledge, Coca-Cola had contributed a total of US$11 million to the initiative since its launch in 2006. An example of a project supported by the initiative (through a seed grant) includes work to clean up Armenia’s Aghstev River (which had been subject to pollution) and promote eco-tourism in the area. Progress on this project resulted in the granting of additional funds from Every Drop Matters and the Armenian government (as well as a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) to construct sewage treatment works and rebuild local sewers – benefiting not only the local population but also those living downstream in Azerbaijan.
Nestle: Working with the Red Cross to improve water access and sanitation for local communities – Cote d’Ivoire
Nestle has partnered with the Red Cross to improve water access and sanitation for local communities through the Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHST) programme. The PHST programme is a global initiative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the Ivorian Red Cross. It is aimed at raising awareness around the importance of latrines and hand-washing, and also helps to improve local water access (for example through the installation of boreholes and pumps in water-scarce villages). As Nestle notes, improved water access reduces infant mortality rates and infections from water-borne diseases. The PHST programme is also reported to be improving female literacy – as young girls would otherwise walk long distances to collect water, preventing them from attending schools.
PepsiCo: Promoting mass access to safe water/sanitation through ‘WaterCredit’ – India
PepsiCo, through the PepsiCo Foundation, is working with non-profit organisation Water.org to improve access to safe water and sanitation in parts of India. This includes the provision of grants to support the innovative WaterCredit initiative – which facilitates micro-credit loans for water and sanitation projects and aims to encourage a wider ‘multiplier effect’. Key elements of WaterCredit include:
By 2010, 157,000 people had received household water connections as a result of the programme – as well as 85,000, household toilet improvements. In 2013, PepsiCo Foundation announced it was providing Water.org a grant worth US$8 million over a five-year period, with the aim of giving 800,000 people access to safe water by March 2016.
Philip Morris International: Helping water-scarce farming communities capture rainwater via the Water For Life initiative – Thailand
Philip Morris International, a US-based tobacco company, notes that drought is an issue of concern in the rural north-east of Thailand – where the company’s tobacco operations are located. The company is supporting a project – Water For Life – to capture rainwater for use by more than 280 local villages. This includes funding for the construction of more than 489 large rainwater tanks in public areas of villages – providing year-round access to water. As well as helping to address poor local water infrastructure, the provision of water tanks offers farmers ongoing access to water for their crops – helping to maintain their incomes in times of drought. The project is being carried out through the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), which has longstanding experience of promoting community development in the country.
Alliance for Water Stewardship: Development of Standard to help companies manage their water impacts – Peru, Global
In May 2014, a total of 27 organisations – including both Nestle and General Mills – announced their commitment to the new Alliance for Water Stewardship (Alliance) and the sustainable use of the world's freshwater resources. The Alliance – which was launched in Peru, where companies’ actual and perceived water impacts have proven a particularly contentious issue – is aimed at offering a range of ways to improve, incentivise and recognise responsible water use. This includes assistance for members seeking to engage with stakeholders within their respective watersheds and supply chains.
In addition, the event was used to launch the Alliance’s International Water Stewardship Standard 1.0, aimed at helping companies understand – and manage – their water impacts. The Standard defines the criteria for good water stewardship – and has been designed to align with other related sustainability initiatives. The Standard was developed via a four-year, multi-stakeholder initiative that included international stakeholders from business, government and civil society. The Standard has reportedly been piloted by companies in the pulp and paper, mining, chemicals, oil and gas, water service provision and agriculture sectors in seven different countries. Carlo Galli, Water Resources, Technical and Strategic Advisor at Nestle is reported as saying: "The AWS Standard will enable companies to better assess their performance against a defined set of principles, identify opportunities for improvement and take collaborative steps to improve their water use."
Inditex: Fashion brands commit to reducing chemical discharges – China, Global
Inditex Group – which comprises high street brands Zara, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Stradivarius, Oysho and Uterque – announced a commitment on 27 November 2012 to reduce chemical discharges associated with its companies’ products and supply chains by 2020. The Inditex Commitment to Zero Discharge followed a concerted campaign against the brands by several environmental groups, including Greenpeace. It is hoped that by reducing chemical discharges from its factories, Inditex will help improve water quality for local communities and increase the availability of potable water. Inditex is also planning to require some of its suppliers – mostly in countries where water controls are weak such as in China – to publically disclose data on individual chemical discharges by facility. Zara additionally pledged to remove some of the most toxic discharges associated with its products by the end of 2015, including perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) which are sometimes found in waterproof clothing. A range of other multinational companies have previously disclosed data on chemical discharges, such as clothing brands Nike, Adidas, Puma, H&M and Marks & Spencer.
SABMiller: Beverage company pledges ambitious targets for sustainable water use – India, Global
In July 2014, SABMiller announced an ambitious set of targets focused on greater sustainability within the company’s operations, including improving water efficiency. Under its new Prosper scheme, the UK-based brewing and beverage company pledged to reduce water use to 3.0 litres of water per litre of beer produced (down from 3.5 litres, measured in March 2014). The company also plans to work with local communities to educate farmers and other groups on water efficiency and ways in which to manage water-related risks.
SABMiller is aiming to improve water use efficiency by reducing water inputs in the company’s agricultural operations, depending on specific local water conditions. Methods tested in some of the company’s most drought-prone operations in India include, for example:
Under the company’s Water Futures public-partnership, set up with World Wilde Fund for Nature (WWF) in 2009, SABMiller has already started reducing the amount of water that is used to produce beer. The company cites a 25% improvement in brewery water efficiency between 2008 and 2014.
Chiquita: Banana producer sets ambitious target to reduce water footprint – Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, US
In August 2013, Chiquita Brands International (a US-based marketer and distributor of bananas and other fresh products) released its ninth corporate responsibility report. In the report, entitled Our Renewed Promise, Chiquita commits itself to a target of reducing its overall freshwater consumption by 15% by 2020. The company was able to arrive at this target after carrying out a detailed water risk assessment, developed jointly with the World Wilde Fund for Nature (WWF). The Water Footprint Assessment – Banana and Lettuce Products, released in September 2012, collected data from a representative sample of Chiquita’s global operations, including bananas produced in Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama, as well as bagged lettuce produced by Fresh Express in the US. A range of measures were identified to lower the company’s overall water footprint, including:
Chiquita’s 2013 corporate responsibility report described commercial-scale field trials of some of these measures in the Salinas and Imperial valleys in California. According to the company, the application of improved water management techniques resulted in reductions of 15% for irrigation water use and of 50% for nutrient fertiliser applications.
Ben & Jerry’s/Unilever: Sustainable energy initiative reuses wastewater in manufacturing process – Netherlands
In July 2014, Ben & Jerry’s (a US-based ice cream company and division of Unilever), reported that it was adopting a new processing system at its Dutch operations that uses wastewater to produce biogas. The IOPAQ®AFR Biodigester – known as ‘the Chunkinator’ – absorbs a mixture of discarded ice cream and wastewater. Natural micro-organisms break down the mixture into biogas, which in turn can be used to power the company’s ice cream plant. Ben & Jerry’s reports that the Chunkinator reuses all of the wastewater produced at the ice cream factory, as well as around half of its discarded ice cream. In tests, carried out during 2013, the Chunkinator has produced enough energy to make 16 million pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. In addition to reducing the overall impact on the environment through the use of sustainable energy, reusing wastewater prevents pollutants from entering the water basin following the manufacturing process. In future, such technology could be rolled out by multinational companies in developing countries, where water pollution can present an acute challenge for communities in heavily-populated and industrialised areas.
Nestle: New technology reduces factory water consumption – Spain, Global
In August 2013, Nestle reported that a combination of employee awareness training and the adoption of new technology had enabled one of its factories to reduce water consumption by 60% over the past year. The Nestle factory in La Penilla, Cantabria province, produces chocolate, confectionary milk and infant formula. Water efficiency measures adopted by the company included:
These measures, amongst others, costs around €1million (US$1.35 million) to implement. Nonetheless, the multinational company was able to reduce its overall water costs. The company also reported that river levels in the nearby River Pisena were significantly higher. Nestle says it is planning to roll out water reduction schemes at its other global operations.
Coca-Cola: Replenish the Water We Use project achieved five years early - Global
Coca-Cola’s ‘Replenish the Water We Use’ project aims to return the same amount of water the company uses to produce its finished beverages to communities and nature. The original goal was to achieve this by 2020. In fact, this goal was met in 2015, as Coca-Cola estimates that 115% of the water used in its global sales volume was restored.
Coca-Cola implemented the replenish project by conducting source water vulnerability assessments at its bottling plants. Source water protection plans were then developed to address vulnerabilities within given communities, and this information was used to develop water partnership projects.
Partnership projects usually bring together local communities, governments and other third-parties to address one of the following objectives: improve safe access to water and sanitation, protect watersheds, provide water for productive use, and raise awareness regarding water-related issues.
For example, the Coca-Cola Foundation in India, together with NGO partners, helps groups of villages determine optimal locations for dams to store monsoon rains. Support is provided through topographical studies and financing. The foundation estimates it has helped build 150 dams in Northern India, creating 13 billion litres of water storage benefiting an estimate 500,000 people.
Alcoa: Using advanced technology to reduce freshwater intensity - Global
In 2016, Alcoa, a global producer of aluminium products, committed to reducing its freshwater intensity – i.e. the freshwater used to manufacture its products. Alcoa committed to reductions of 25% by 2020, and 30% by 2030, starting from a 2005 baseline.
Alcoa reports that its water use is highest at its refineries and it faces a particular risk to its operations in Western Australia, where water resources are scarce.
In order to manage water consumption across its operations, the company periodically conducts a global water-risk survey that includes an assessment of local and regional water stress and identifies potential areas of stress. The results of this assessment are verified by cross-referencing to other global assessments by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Resources Institute.
In Australia, Alcoa has turned to secondary sources of water and technology to reduce evaporation of stored water at mines and refineries. One type of advanced technology used by Alcoa includes residual filtration, applied at the Kwinana refinery in Western Australia in 2016. The company reports that this filtration technology forces bauxite residue generated from the alumina refining process through very large filters that squeeze out the water, which is then recycled in the process. This technology reduces the refinery’s freshwater use by 1.2 gigaliters (317 million gallons) annually and also reduces the volume of bauxite residue.
Business Alliance for Water and Climate Change: putting water resources on climate change agenda
In December 2015, over 30 companies launched the Business Alliance for Water and Climate Change (BAFWAC) to highlight the importance of water being included in the global climate change agenda. Companies signing the declaration called for water to be taken into account in the global climate agenda and committed to address urgent sustainable development challenges related to water and climate change.
The Alliance is supported by public authorities and jointly led by CDP (formerly, the Carbon Disclosure Project), the CEO Water Mandate of the UN Global Compact (UNGC) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
The Alliance commits companies to analyse and report water-and-climate-related risks and impacts, and to implement collaborative response strategies along the value chain. Each signatory company commits to at least one of the three goals:
· Analyse and report water risks and implement collaborative response strategies
· Measure water impacts along corporate value chains by following standardised methods
· Reduce impacts on water availability and quality along the value chain
BAFWAC aims to expand its members beyond the 50 that had signed up in 2016; ensure private sector action on improving water security; and to track the progress of member companies in achieving the three goals listed above. BAFWAC encourages members to collaborate through the Water Action Hub, an online matchmaking tool that helps business identify and work with other stakeholders to meet long-term water objectives. A progress report will be issued in 2020 on progress achieved by members.