Responsible water management is a critical issue for Nestlé and their stakeholders. In recent years the company has made great strides in water efficiency and stewardship. This is important with more than a third (38 percent) of their factories situated in water-stressed regions.
While Nestlé now claims that it welcomes the growing level of stakeholder interest in water issues this was not always the case. Nestlé now aims “to minimise the impact of our operations on natural water resources and the communities they support.” However, these objectives were not always core concerns for the company.
In 2011 social media campaigns helped to encourage Nestlé to adopt more sustainable businesses practices including water stewardship. One year later with the help of GE Nestlé managed to save millions of gallons of water.
Nestlé has been involved with water based efforts in India for almost a decade now. They support initiatives to provide clean drinking water and they are also working on building awareness about water conservation and sustainability. Nestlé has partnered with a number of institutions with expertise in the field of water research and outreach across the country including the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and the Embassy of Switzerland in India. Together they formed the Science Express, an innovative mobile exhibition mounted on a specially designed train, traveling across India since October 2007.
They also funded a study in partnership with the International Water Management Institute titled, “Measuring the water footprints of milk production: contributions to livelihood benefits and sustainable water use in the Moga District in Punjab” It explored the main factors for groundwater depletion in the Moga district by studying the water footprint for agriculture, and recommends interventions for sustainable irrigation and agriculture. These recommendations are being promoted by Nestlé among the dairy farmers in the region.
Nestlé is one of the first signatories of the pledge drawn up by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) that commits businesses to upholding the human right to water and sanitation within their operations. The pledge for ‘Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Implementation at the Workplace’ (WASH) challenges companies to provide access to safe water and sanitation, and appropriate facilities to ensure personal hygiene, to employees in all premises in their direct control, within three years of signing.
In 2013 Nestlé launched its water stewardship program that includes efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle water in their operations.
The right to water and sanitation is now systematically included in Nestlé’s
corporate Human Rights Impact Assessment. Nestlé conducts water
resource reviews to help them assess potential impacts to the Right to
Water and Sanitation of local communities. Where they deem necessary
they take corrective action. As of the end of 2014, 133 factories had
undergone a Water Resources Review.
In 2014 Nestlé introduced a global ‘Water Stewardship Master Plan’ at a corporate level, and they started to develop local master plans in key markets which includes documented responsibilities, targets and deadlines.
There are currently more than 376 water-saving projects in Nestlé’s factories which will save around 1.84 million m3 of water. In 2014, they reduced direct water withdrawals per tonne of product by 6 percent and 37 percent since 2005.
By the end of 2014, they have decreased water withdrawals and improved efficiency (compared to 2013 levels) in 42 percent of these facilities. They improve local water stewardship efforts by conducting Water Resource Reviews across our factory sites, with 18 new reviews carried out this year. WASH considerations are being integrated into the process.
The company has publicly announced the following responsible water stewardship goals for this year and next:
– Reduce direct water withdrawals per tonne of product in every product category to achieve an overall reduction of 40% since 2005.
– Establish and implement detailed guidelines on human rights to water and sanitation due diligence.
– Define water stewardship initiatives and start implementation in five high-priority locations.
– Implement water savings projects in 100% of high-priority manufacturing facilities.
– Carry out 45 new water resources reviews in selected manufacturing facilities, and all greenfield sites.
In addition to their purely water focused initiatives Nestlé now participates in efforts to help others engage sustainability and the company is also among those who were early supporters of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. While there are still reasons why environmental critics challenge Nestlé, no one can deny that they have come a long way in a relatively short span of time.
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