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Walking the Talk
World Water Day Illustrates Flow, Ebb of Corporate Progress

This year, WWD is typically awash in announcements of commitments and advancements in preserving our most precious resource, but new CDP data on the subject feels like a wet blanket.

Each year on World Water Day, players large and small resurface to mark their progress in a number of areas, and this year is no different — particularly, with regard to increasing access to safe water for communities in need around the world.

Kimberly-Clark’s innovative tech addressing risk in water-scarce communities

Image credit: Deltares

First, in line with this year’s World Water Day theme to “leave no one behind,” Kimberly-Clark is using an innovative, web-based analytical tool to help communities develop sustainable water management plans for watersheds at risk.

The maker of brands including Huggies, Cottonelle and Kotex has partnered with Deltares, an independent institute for applied research in the field of water, to develop WaterLOUPE — a dashboard which visualizes water-scarcity risks for an entire watershed, as well as specific sectors and sub-groups, such as industrial users, farmers and households. Kimberly-Clark is using the dashboard to raise stakeholder awareness of local water risks and to encourage collaboration between government, business, communities and NGOs to preserve freshwater resources.

“When we started our water conservation program, the goal was to reduce water usage in our mills to a sustainable level,” said Vetri Dhagumudi, Global Water Program Leader at Kimberly-Clark. “But we quickly realized that we couldn’t just focus on our own facilities. It is critical that we consider the whole watershed and work with local stakeholders to understand water risk. That way, no one gets left behind.”

Kimberly-Clark began using WaterLOUPE in 2017 to identify local water risks in the river basin surrounding its tissue mills in Colombia. Last month, the company introduced the tool in the Western Cape province of South Africa to more than 30 community and government leaders gathered at Kimberly-Clark’s Epping mill near Cape Town. The discussion focused on ways to address severe regional water shortages, which nearly led the city to turn off water taps and require residents to begin queuing for water last year.

“The first phase of the program, the stakeholder workshop, provides incredibly specific data that localizes and informs the online tool. It’s empowering for community leaders because for the first time they have visibility into water-scarcity risks of the entire watershed over a 30-year period,” said Dimmie Hendriks, Project Leader and Senior Expert on Drought at Deltares.

A risk assessment will be developed for the Western Cape Water Supply System area, using data from the workshop; on Thursday, Kimberly-Clark released a mini-documentary on the workshop.

“Everyone in the city of Cape Town and in the areas around the Western Cape are pretty much all dependent on the Western Cape water supply system,” Christine Colvin, Freshwater Senior Manager for WWF South Africa, commented during the WaterLOUPE water-scarcity workshop. “We realized that we couldn't rely on new sources of water coming within that short time horizon. We had to save our way out of a drought. Bringing different stakeholders to the table helps us to unpack different perspectives of water risk that are present in that system and look for solutions.”

Kimberly-Clark plans to implement WaterLOUPE in 12 water-stressed regions around the world where it operates. The tool is currently being applied in Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and South Africa.

One Drop Foundation, METRO to provide safe water access, sanitation for more than 250,000 people in India

Image credit: One Drop

Next, international wholesale and food specialist METRO is launching the METRO Water Initiative in partnership with international water foundation One Drop.

As part of the broader METRO Water Initiative, the company will host a two-week in-store campaign in METRO retail stores in 22 countries across Europe and Asia, where a portion of sales from products of 22 participating suppliers will be used to fund One Drop’s water access projects in India. The campaign aims to raise more than €1.2 million, with One Drop matching the amount raised in-store, and will be an annual event around World Water Day during the course of the three-year project.

Throughout India, more than 600 million people are exposed to extreme water stress and about 70 percent of available water is classified as contaminated. Specifically, the METRO Water Initiative will support the northern District of Sheohar, in Bihar, India where nearly half of the region does not have safe water coverage.

One Drop — an international foundation created by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté — is on a mission to ensure sustainable access to safe water and sanitation for the most vulnerable communities through innovative partnerships, creativity and the power of art. Together with its partners, for over 10 years One Drop has brought its unique Social Art for Behaviour Change™ approach to promote the adoption of healthy practices around water, sanitation and hygiene through locally inspired social art programs, empowering the communities to take ownership of the water projects over time.

In collaboration with international NGO Water for People, local governments, social art partners, civil society organizations, microfinancing institutions and the private sector, this joint initiative aims to provide permanent access to sustainable, safe water and sanitation to more than a quarter of a million people in India — one of the most affected areas by the global water crisis.

This project aims to achieve three specific goals in the region:

  1. Increase the use and sustainable management of safe water and sanitation services;

  2. Sustain the adoption of targeted water-related behaviors;

  3. Improve the market system for water-related products and services.

“As part of this effort, it is important to recognize the important role that social behaviour change can have on finding sustainable solutions for communities in need, like Sheohar. Providing access to safe water is just the beginning,” said Marie-Claude Bourgie, Chief Development Officer at One Drop. “Founded by the same creative mind behind Cirque du Soleil, One Drop has developed a unique Social Art for Behaviour Change approach to promote the adoption of healthy behaviours around water, sanitation, and hygiene. Through locally inspired social art programs, One Drop empowers communities to take ownership of their water projects, which ensures both long-term impact and sustainability.”

“This project is a common thread that allows a variety of companies and institutions to join forces to do good. Water is a human right, but it is so unequally distributed around the world that more than 2 billion people still live without safe access to clean water. By partnering for a common goal, we have the power to change the lives of more than a quarter of a million people for the better,” said Heiko Hutmacher, Chief Human Resources Officer and Member of the Management Board of METRO AG responsible for Sustainability

The participating suppliers in this year’s METRO Water initiative are (some with more than one brand): Barilla, Bolton, Campofrio, The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, Diageo, Ecolab, Glaxosmithkline, Henkel, Johnson Diversey, Lavazza, Mars, McCain, Mondelez, PepsiCo, RB, SC Johnson, Werner & Mertz Professional.

PepsiCo Foundation expands access to safe water for over 22M people worldwide

Image credit: PepsiCo

Meanwhile, PepsiCo announced today that it has helped more than 22 million people in underserved communities around the world gain access to safe water since 2006. In the last year alone, PepsiCo says the company and its partners expanded access for more than 6 million people, indicating it is on track to exceed its goal to support a total of 25 million people with safe water access by 2025.

Around the world, 1 in 9 people struggle with access to safe and clean drinking water. Clean water shortages threaten the health and safety of communities, profoundly impacting hygiene and contributing to waterborne diseases, famine, migration and violence. To address these issues, PepsiCo has set a number of interconnected goals that aim to contribute to its Positive Water Impact, meaning its efforts and partnerships are designed to enable long-term, sustainable water security for its business and others who depend on water availability.

As part of this effort, The PepsiCo Foundation works with leading non-profits to expand access in some of the world's most water-stressed areas — including working with to provide access to affordable financing for water and sanitation improvement projects in India; with the Inter-American Development Bank to better manage changes in water availability in Latin America, and the China Women’s Development Foundation to expand safe water access in rural areas of China.

The PepsiCo Foundation is also working with WaterAid in southern India to bring clean water to more than 200,000 people by restoring wells, harvesting rainwater in schools, and building piped water supply systems. In a project in Sri City, 21 tap stands were installed in Ananthapuram village, which will be converted into high-quality, permanent structures to establish a sustained water supply and proper waste water drainage. The PepsiCo Foundation and WaterAid plan to bring similar solutions to other high-water-risk communities with the intention that increasing access to clean water will positively impact the health, security and employment opportunities of local residents, particularly women, who otherwise have to walk long distances to collect water.

“The world faces a global water crisis, and we believe that PepsiCo can make a difference by acting as good stewards of local water resources. As members of the Alliance for Water Stewardship, we’re dedicated to increasing water use efficiency across our own value chain, and helping people gain access to safe water, which is a fundamental human right,” said Roberta Barbieri, PepsiCo’s VP of Global Sustainability. “Water availability is fundamentally a local issue and one that requires collaboration among residents, municipal leaders, industry stewards and technical experts to sustainably manage. For those reasons, PepsiCo will increase our participation in and support of local water conservation work, with particular focus on high-water-risk geographies where action to protect this precious natural resource is most urgent.”

PepsiCo is also working to conserve and protect fresh water as part of its Positive Water Impact strategy. Through a partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), PepsiCo is working directly with farmers, landowners, businesses, and communities throughout the United States, Latin America and South Africa to implement efficient irrigation technology, protect upstream forests, and establish Water Funds to replenish at-risk watersheds. In Latin America, PepsiCo and TNC are supporting watershed conservation projects that will enhance the supply and quality of water and improve the livelihoods of those in surrounding areas. In 2018, the partnership replenished more than 76 million gallons of water to the watersheds in Guatemala City, São Paulo, Santo Domingo, Bogotá, Mexico City and Monterrey through conservation efforts across more than 990 acres.

CDP: Corporates using more water, despite rising risks

Now, the bad news: Companies are reporting greater exposure to water risks yet withdrawing more water, according to new CDP research released today. The report, Treading Water, analyzes water data from 783 publicly listed companies, responsible for employing over 36 million people worldwide and representing US$18 trillion in market capitalization. 

The research highlights that the number of companies identifying water risks is rising year on year, with 75 percent now reporting exposure to substantive water risks, up from 70 percent in 2015*[1]*. The majority of risks reported are physical (76 percent), relating to water scarcity and declining water quality. Companies report that these risks could disrupt production, cause brand damage and lead to the loss of their license to operate in certain regions.

Despite this growing risk awareness, and the number of companies setting targets to reduce water withdrawals doubling, there has been** an almost 50 percent rise** in the number of companies reporting higher water withdrawals over that same period (2015–2018). This is most pronounced for companies operating in Asia and Latin America, as well as in the Food, Beverage and Agriculture; Manufacturing; and Mineral Extraction sectors.

With industry accounting for 19 percent of global water withdrawals and a further 70 percent coming from agricultural supply chains, companies have a massive role to play in meeting SDG 6 — Clean Water and Sanitation. And with three in every four jobs globally dependent on a stable supply of water, and companies reporting US$38 billion in water-related financial losses in 2018, there is a clear economic imperative to act.

However, despite the scale of the challenge, only 31 of all reporting companies showed enough progress to make the top-ranking ‘Water Security A List’ in 2018. 11 of these companies are based in Europe, 10 in Asia and 8 in the US. L’Oréal again tops the list, along with AstraZeneca, Diageo and Microsoft.

To achieve this position, companies must not only demonstrate that they regularly assess their risk exposure, but also show they have implemented a strategic response to these risks.

One area where many companies continue to underperform is when it comes to incentivizing boards to better manage water issues. Despite 93 percent of companies in the most at-risk[2] industries — such as mining and electric utilities — saying they have board-level oversight of water issues, just 31 percent have incentives in place for C-Suite executives.

Cate Lamb, Director of Water Security at CDP, commented: “The world is not on track to meet our global water goal of ensuring access to sustainable water and sanitation for all. The companies reporting to CDP are responsible for a huge proportion of global water use and pollution. While many of their practices and procedures currently contribute to the depletion of freshwater resources, these companies could also hold the key to a water secure future. This transition is full of possibility and opportunity - to succeed, those companies that affect our water, must work to protect it.”

According to CDP, retail performs worst out of all the sectors analysed in the report. With only 28 companies disclosing out of the 117 requested, retail is the least transparent of any sector, outstripping fossil fuels for the first time in nine years. Retailers also perform badly on risk assessment and governance & strategy, with just 36 percent of companies publishing a water policy and only 32 percent undertaking comprehensive assessments of the risks they may face.

With revenues anticipated to reach US$28 trillion this year, this sector is more powerful than ever. Made up of companies near the top of the agricultural value chain, the retail sector has the potential to drive substantial improvements in water performance in meat manufacturers, crop growers and dye houses around the world.

[1] Based on a sample of 296 consistent disclosers over four years

[2] High-impact companies are those in the following sectors: food, beverage and tobacco, metals and mining, oil and gas, electric utilities and chemicals. This sample covers 283 companies.