Water is a shared and precious resource that is essential for life. Communities need water to survive and thrive and business also depends on water. At Nestlé, we recognise that the long-term success of our company is built upon sustainable access to water in the regions where our raw materials are sourced, where our factories are located and where our suppliers and consumers live.
Over the years, we have learned that we cannot work in isolation. Water is a shared resource. The challenges around water can only be addressed through collaboration by multiple stakeholders.
This is water stewardship. It is defined as, “The use of fresh water that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial, achieved through a stakeholder-inclusive process that involves site- and catchment-based actions” (Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard).
The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) is a global water stewardship system, centered around the AWS Standard. The Standard is a globally-applicable framework for water users to understand their water use and impacts, and to work collaboratively and transparently for sustainable water management within a catchment context.
Responsible water management within the Nestlé group is driven by a solid water stewardship roadmap. To help us deliver on this roadmap, we are implementing the AWS Standard at several priority sites around the world. It helps us to identify areas for improvement: in our factories, in local watersheds, across our agricultural supply chain and in providing access to water in communities where we are present. The AWS Standard certification process, in particular, has helped us to broaden and improve our engagement with local stakeholders and to reinforce the way we transparently share our watershed data.
We have seen a number of benefits for local communities, the watershed and for Nestlé.
- Nestlé Pakistan is deeply engaged in our water stewardship journey and has already achieved AWS certification at two sites (Sheikhpura and Islamabad). The local team collaborates with partners on various projects, including optimising the amount of water we use in production, providing access to safe drinking water to local communities and working with farmers in our supply chain. They are currently working with farmers across 10,000 hectares of land to adopt furrow rather than flood irrigation – and, to a lesser degree, drip irrigation – for rice and corn. The water savings are estimated at 20 million cubic metres of water a year. The market also provides clean and safe drinking water to 60,000 people daily through six water stations.
- In California, all five of our water bottling facilities are AWS certified. The auditing process during certification revealed water savings of more than 204 million litres between 2016 and 2017 following initiatives focused on advanced monitoring and optimization of water use at our facilities. The Cabazon facility was also the first site in North America to be awarded gold-level certification due to its positive contribution to the local groundwater system and water quality measures that meet best practice standards. Importantly, local stakeholders in the catchment affirmed the positive contribution made by the Cabazon facility.
Our recent decision to certify all Nestlé’s water bottling sites to the AWS standard by 2025 reflects the value of the outcomes that have been achieved for all water users through the certification of eight of our sites.
We have been able to move away from self-declarations of good water stewardship towards credible, third-party endorsement of our water stewardship practices by using the standard. AWS is in the process of finalising the use of a label and claims for AWS-certified sites to communicate to their stakeholders, notably on-pack.
Nestlé was part of the multi-stakeholder process to develop the AWS Standard because we are convinced of the importance of a shared framework on responsible water management. Today, the Standard is the reference for what it means to be a good water steward and can be applied to sites across different sectors and regions. Our experience has shown that the Standard is effective in helping organisations scale up their water stewardship efforts.
Water stewardship is too important to be a competitive area. We strongly encourage other organisations to engage with the AWS Standard and system to ensure that water stewardship is the way water is responsibly and sustainably managed. At Nestlé, we are convinced that together we can steward water resources for future generations.