Post COP 28 reflections on water from The HEINEKEN Company, member of the CEO Water Mandate’s Water Resilience Coalition
- The climate crisis is a water crisis – and urgent action is needed for the long-term protection of critical watersheds.
- Businesses play a pivotal role, and by working collaboratively with others (local communities, governments, NGOs) we can develop systemic solutions to address water resilience.
- At COP28, the CEO Water Mandate’s Water Resilience Coalition (WRC), the United Nations Global Compact’s Forward Faster Water Resilience Target, and the Business Leaders’ Open Call for Water Action were all highlighted as key commitments from the private sector.
- As we begin 2024, there is a need to leverage the momentum created during COP28, where water was put at the heart of climate action. This is the moment to join the Water Resilience Coalition and the Forward Faster Water Resilience Target.
Water, the essence of life, stands at a crossroads. Today, 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries, of which 733 million live in high and critically water-stressed areas. The United Nations’ recent assessment of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) on water is nothing short of alarming. The targets for water and sanitation are off-track and projections indicate a staggering 40% shortfall in global water supply by 2030.
The climate crisis is also a water crisis – and corporate water stewardship is essential for water resilience. In this blog, we reflect on the imperative of achieving SDG 6, the crucial role of the private sector and how HEINEKEN and other leading companies, part of the CEO Water Mandate and Water Resilience Coalition, are playing a key role in conservation and restoration of water resources, as well as the implications of the COP28 outcomes on water.
The international community is experiencing a paradigm shift in acknowledging the water crisis, and recent global events make this newfound focus evident. COP26, in Glasgow in 2021, marked a historic moment – the inclusion of a dedicated water pavilion, a first in the history of COP In March 2023, the United Nations Water Conference in New York City was held for the first time in 47 years. During this historic event, the WRC launched the Business Leaders’ Open Call for Accelerating Water Action. At the United Nations General Assembly 2023, the United Nations Global Compact announced 55 companies had pledged to the Forward Faster Water Resilience target. This target is directly aligned with the Water Resilience Coalition ambition to have positive water impact through collective action in 100 critical water basins by 2030.
HEINEKEN is a proud member of the WRC and Forward Faster Initiatives because of the belief that the private sector can collectively contribute to significant impact by 2030 in areas such as water, climate and gender. It’s time to build on this momentum and make the efforts at COP28 not only about raising awareness but accelerating action.
Increasingly, the private sector is emerging as a pivotal driver of change in the pursuit of water resilience. Businesses recognize the potential of collaborative actions in water stewardship especially because water is a shared resource. There is an acknowledgment that multi-stakeholder efforts yield the most impactful results: an opportunity to scale impact, utilize resources efficiently and learn from collective experiences. Given the scale of the water security challenge, it will take businesses, governments, NGO, academia, and many others, working closely with local communities, to meet the needs of everyone.
HEINEKEN’s Work Towards Healthy Watersheds
Throughout its 159-year history, water has been a constant area of focus for HEINEKEN. Back in 1864, when Gerard Adriaan Heineken opened its first brewery in Amsterdam, clean water supply was also established for local communities because of the belief that businesses can only thrive when communities do well. Fast forward, the company has integrated sustainability and responsibility into its business strategy, EverGreen, and in 2021 launched a new sustainability strategy called Brew a Better World. Water is a key component within this strategy and the focus is on watershed health.
Today, HEINEKEN has 32 sites in water stressed areas and have started watershed protection programs in 28 of them, and 28% of these sites are fully water balanced*. Collaboration is a key enabler of the programs – with global and local NGOs, government bodies, academia and crucially with local communities to meet their needs. Water is as much a social issue as it is an environmental issue. Some examples of concrete actions are:
- Plans to annually plant 60,000 native trees in Nigeria until 2031.
- Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program in Vietnam to benefit over 6,000 people.
- In Mexico, together with more than 40 partners, the Monterrey Metropolitan Water Fund (FAMM) has reforested over 1,400 hectares of land.
- In Indonesia, working with other global companies along with local NGOs and the community, to build solutions for the Brantes and Cisdane watersheds.
*Water balancing: return all water that was used in HEINEKEN products to the local watershed
Moving Forward Faster
The water crisis requires an acceleration of efforts – hence the United Nation’s Global Compact call to move “Forward Faster.”
Although water deserves more attention than it currently is getting, it was a key topic at COP28. There is increased awareness that water is essential to securing food and other supplies to the world’s population. Food systems transformation was a core agenda item at COP28 with multiple sessions devoted to the topic. During the Ministerial Roundtable on the Protection and Restoration of Freshwater Ecosystems, over 30 countries joined the Fresh Water Challenge, an initiative to restore degraded rivers, lakes and wetlands and to protect vital freshwater ecosystems.
There was also recognition of the need to integrate water, sanitation, health and food systems into the Global Goals for Adaptation, a decision that was endorsed so far by 123 countries acknowledging the importance of water and sanitation for healthier populations.
The Water Resilience Coalition’s ambition to build water resilience across 100 river basins by 2030, with ongoing restoration efforts already in 15 basins, was highlighted as a powerful lever to enhance water resilience. As part of the WRC 2030 100-Basin plan, 700,000 hectares are already under active restoration to protect local water resources. This further strengthens the critical role that businesses can play to catalyse action on water where it is most needed.
Together, we can learn and drive action to protect critical watersheds and meet the needs of people and the planet now and in the future.