Availability of water is an inherently local phenomenon, defined by the supply, demand and quality of water within a watershed. Ecological and social impacts associated with unsustainable water use are similarly local by nature. Private sector companies need to understand the impact they have on their local watersheds, and the importance of protecting freshwater sources to help ensure that the company will continue to have the water it needs to support its operations and supply chain. PepsiCo understands that good water stewardship is good for business and was one of the first companies of its size to formally and publicly acknowledge water as a human right, thereby accepting the responsibility to help ensure that all watershed stakeholders have enough clean water to meet their basic human needs.
The Challenge – Protecting the Supply of Drinking Water
From the global level, the water future is looking rather bleak. Virtually all reports and forecasts suggest that the global water crisis will only get worse. Global water use doubled between 1951 and 2002. Today, nearly 3 billion people are living in river basins with “severe” water scarcity during at least part of the year. For a substantial portion of the global population, the availability of water for drinking, bathing, growing food and generating electricity seems to become less certain every year.
These water facts help to explain why The Nature Conservancy is working with PepsiCo to develop new approaches that address global water challenges. As one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies, PepsiCo has considerable influence over water use in many watersheds. For PepsiCo, water is fundamental to their ability to operate efficiently and vital to the communities they serve. Water stewardship is a central part of “Performance with Purpose”—PepsiCo’s mission to deliver sustainable growth by investing in a healthier future for people and the planet.
In 2009, PepsiCo developed goals around a straightforward premise: To respect the human right to water through world-class efficiency in the company’s operations, preserving water resources and enabling access to safe water. Specific commitments are:
- Improving water use efficiency by 20 percent per unit of production by 2015;
- Striving for “positive water balance” in operations in water-distressed areas; and
- Providing access to safe water to 3 million people in developing countries by the end of 2015.
Solutions in Action
Looking to have an impact over their own water usage, PepsiCo partnered with The Nature Conservancy to launch five Positive Water Impact pilot projects focused on understanding the watershed conditions and restoration opportunities for a group of diverse manufacturing plants in different parts of the world. Positive Water Impact recognizes that beyond simply having enough water, people need to have water that’s clean and safe to use. This connection between quantity and quality echoes the sufficiency and safety pillars of the human right to water, and is directly linked to water sources and their protection—topics in which The Nature Conservancy’s leadership is globally recognized.
The foundation of this understanding of watershed effect came through identifying the areas that PepsiCo influences through its use of water and the impacts and risks of that use. Conservancy research helped identify optimal sub-watersheds for restoration, potential activities for improving water conditions, and the estimated benefits and costs associated with these activities. The five sites that were identified as key pilot areas were:
- Phoenix, Arizona, United States
- Boxford, Suffolk, United Kingdom
- Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province, China
- Sangareddy, Andhra Pradesh, India
- Mexico City, Federal District, Mexico
These sites were selected because water risks appear to be moderate or high and their specific facilities and associated watersheds appear to have the right enabling conditions for rapid learning. Working together, PepsiCo and the Conservancy are examining water budgets, assessing the sustainability of water use and designing watershed conservation activities that can improve water availability and/or quality.
A Sustainable Future
Each of the five sites analyzed provided a variety of potential approaches and solutions to reaching a Positive Water Impact, including the purchase of water rights for conservation purposes, municipal groundwater mitigation, irrigation system improvements, re-use of treated wastewater for irrigation purposes, agricultural land practice changes, stormwater management, land use alterations, and aquifer recharge.
PepsiCo is working with the individual sites to determine the best approaches to move forward and which solutions are the most efficient and cost-beneficial to reach their Positive Water Impact goals, since each watershed is subject to a unique set of challenges and opportunities. The ultimate value of this phase of work is twofold. For each individual site, the assessment of the sustainability of water use resulted in a suite of actions that PepsiCo and others in the watershed can apply to improve the availability of clean water to meet the needs of both the environment and all water users. At the same time, this work provides lessons that can be integrated into future applications of this methodology, both within the PepsiCo system and in other watersheds where large water users operate. Moving forward, the Conservancy will work to leverage these results to provide true synergies with both existing partners and prospective programs.