KDP has found the power of partnerships to be the best primer for innovation and has worked alongside various groups, including direct competitors, all of whom bring to the table a vested interest in shared water resources.
In conjunction with World Water Day this week, millions of people and businesses worldwide are recognizing the role of water in communities, livelihoods, culture, wellbeing and the environment. The beverage industry, in particular, plays an important role in stewarding water — a responsibility that Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) takes seriously. KDP launched its corporate responsibility platform, Drink Well. Do Good., in 2019, a year after the merger of Keurig Green Mountain and Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Both companies prioritized water stewardship, and KDP has since expanded its unified efforts through collective action and innovation.
"As a beverage company, water is the primary ingredient in our products," says Tina Bosch Ladd, Sustainability Director at Keurig Dr Pepper. "We have a responsibility to be a steward for that water — not only in our operations, but also in our communities and our supply chain. It's a clear business priority for us in two ways: protecting a key input and being a good citizen everywhere we operate."
The company's holistic water approach includes a corporate water policy, governance processes, transparency in reporting, measurable targets and engagement across its value chain.
Strong commitments and actionable goals
KDP's water stewardship goals are focused on safeguarding water resources and building healthy communities resilient to climate change. Since 2014, KDP has replenished 73 percent of the water used in its beverages. By 2025, the company commits to replenish 100 percent of the water it uses in its highest water-risk locations and boost its water efficiency by 20 percent.
KDP has identified six sites ripe for water stewardship initiatives that face high water risk and provide a great opportunity for conservation. The beverage giant targeted projects in those geographies throughout 2020, working with leading partners.
"Long-term, sustainable solutions are oftentimes found via partnerships and innovative approaches that bring funders or organizations from different sectors together to tackle shared water challenges in their local context," Bosch Ladd says.
For instance, KDP has joined forces with the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) to address shared water challenges in Jalisco, Mexico — through a first-of-its-kind watershed collaboration, “Charco Bendito.” Together with BIER members, KDP is now restoring land along waterways critical to water regeneration through native vegetation planting, infrastructure improvements and local engagement and educational campaigns.
"The Charco Bendito collaboration is unique and will be looked back on as a gamechanger," says Nick Martin, Executive Director of BIER. "KDP and the other collaborating companies have challenged all industries to do more and to address what cannot be achieved alone, which is local water security. Peer companies joining together within a local market on water is a powerful statement and challenge to industry."
Throughout the US, there's work to be done, too. Water resources are being depleted in the Southwest at an alarming rate. Along the Arizona and Nevada border, Lake Mead — an essential water reservoir for much of the Southwest — is reaching critically low levels. KDP joined other corporate funders in contributing a total of $1.7 million to conserve up to 150,000 acre-feet of water that will directly shore up declining water levels in Lake Mead through a system conservation project with the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT).
In California, KDP has joined the California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC) — a group of over 25 leading NGOs and corporations committed to California’s shared water future. This group helped develop the CRIT project and works with corporate members to replenish natural water supplies and drive regional watershed resilience, in alignment with state and global water stewardship goals.
“Core to our work as a collaborative network is to develop impactful, on-the-ground conservation and restoration projects; and innovate scalable water solutions that have multiple benefits and can be replicated in a range of California watersheds, from agricultural to urban regions, and in other Western states,” says Robert Gould, CWAC’s Network Lead. “KDP has been collaborating with us prior to joining CWAC, and we are very glad to have their energy and leadership.”
Building on a foundational partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), in 2020 KDP invested in a pilot project in Texas' Trinity River Watershed, which secured a water leasing agreement to restore natural environmental flows in the river during drought periods to support fish and wildlife.
Kyle Garmany, hydrologist and Water and Agriculture Program Director at TNC Texas, notes: “The challenge of freshwater scarcity in Texas requires new and innovative solutions for meeting environmental water demands. Working with KDP, TNC Texas successfully executed a first-of-its-kind environmental water transaction — securing flow releases from storage for environmental flow restoration. This transaction and subsequent legal dedication of water demonstrates a groundbreaking approach for addressing flow restoration in the Trinity river basin.”
KDP and TNC hope to demonstrate for others that this type of project can be replicated and scaled to other regional water basins. KDP is also a founding member the Texas Water Action Collaborative — a new coalition of industry, nonprofit and governmental organizations to benefit the quality and volume of water on the Trinity River and other river systems across the state.
These partnerships underscore KDP’s commitment to bettering water sustainability through collaboration, stakeholder engagement and innovative solutions that span far further than water use alone.
Beyond stewardship: A regenerative approach to water
The water footprint of the beverage industry's upstream supply chains represents a larger amount of untapped water stewardship potential. KDP sees regenerative agriculture as a key component of protecting resources, as regenerative practices focused on soil health also contribute to improved water quality and quantity, biodiversity and farmer resilience.
KDP partners with Blue Harvest in implementing regenerative agricultural practices with its Central American coffee supply chain. KDP's work with Blue Harvest has contributed to efforts that protect and restore water sources, improve coffee productivity, increase market access and strengthen local water resource management in Central America.
Since 2014, the partnership has trained over 3,000 farmers, offered improved water quality to nearly 80,000 people and saved over 52 million gallons of water through infrastructure upgrades and new water stewardship practices.
KDP announced a new commitment to support regenerative agriculture and conservation on 250,000 acres of land by 2030, representing half of the land used to grow KDP's climate-sensitive crops — including coffee, corn and apples.
Overall, KDP has found the power of partnerships to be the best primer for innovation and has worked alongside various groups, including direct competitors, all of whom bring to the table a vested interest in shared water resources. Rather than competing as individual companies for finite resources, this model shows that companies can work together to support a healthy, abundant and common resource.
"Solving challenges around climate and water are not something one company or industry can tackle alone," Bosch Ladd says. “By working together on solutions, we can contribute positively to our communities and protect this resource we all depend on."