The sustainable management of freshwater resources is one of the most critical issues that consumer-based organizations face today. Expanding beyond the concerns of organizations that produce either clothing or consumable products, the growing problem with water has always been one that’s needed to be addressed by more than one body – be it trade organizations or nonprofits.
Recognizing the need for a water-centric platform 25 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly designated March 22, 1993 as the first World Water Day. Since that time, UN-Water – the UN body that coordinates its work on water and sanitation – has established the theme for the annual day, which advocates year after year for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
This year’s theme was ‘Nature for Water’ – bringing together multiple organizations to explore nature-based solutions to the water challenges companies face in the 21st century. One of the ways that organizations are exploring this endeavor is through the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard.
Designed to help companies and other water users implement responsible practices, the AWS was created by industry leaders and prominent environmental conservation groups. Being one of the largest beverage companies in North America, Nestlé Waters recently was the first company in NA to certify their facilities according to the AWS Standard. To date, the company has certified six facilities in North America, including all five of their factories located in California, with an overall goal of certifying 20 sites around the world by 2020.
This is significant because, even though water usage is a global concern, it can’t be globally offset the same way that carbon emissions can. “Water issues can only be addressed at the local level,” said Nelson Switzer, Chief Sustainability Officer at Nestlé Waters North America, on this year’s World Water Day. “For example, a water recharge project in India won’t offset the water use in a watershed in California.”
As part of the AWS certification process, auditing of the five Nestlé Waters California factories revealed a combined savings of more than 54 million gallons of water between 2016 and 2017 – part of a goal that the company had outlined in the previous year.
“These recent certifications in California further prove that it is possible for sustainable freshwater use to be socially, environmentally and economically responsible,” said Matt Howard, Director for AWS North America.
In line with this year’s World Water Day theme, the work that Nestlé Waters has done with 3rd party partners, such as The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund, has shown just how important nature-based solutions to water are. For example, in an interview on World Water Day, Switzer stated, “Wildfires in California are natural systems. Those forests often burn themselves down naturally. We built houses in those areas and now we are trying to save them.
“Places get overgrown and timber gets larger, ergo the trees take a lot for water. We’re working to see how we can take out what would be naturally-thinned. This will help increase the American River by 1-3 percent, something that could feed Los Angeles daily – providing an abundance of water for the American people.”
The increased pressure for sustainable water initiatives should continue to push companies in the direction of good water stewardship. However, recent changes in the U.S. to the EPA may impact the stakeholders of water. “In the U.S., roll backs to EPA regulations and water cleanup initiatives provides all the more reason for businesses like ours to step up, and further embed sustainable practices into the business,” said Switzer on World Water Day.
“Water is our business,” continued Switzer “Every day is World Water Day. We spend every day thinking about how we can help protect this fundamental human right, and ensure the natural water remains sustainable for all stakeholders – communities, employees and all others.”
Nelson Switzer is an annual speaker at our Water & Long-Term value program. This year, the program takes place on December 6 – keep updated at https://skytopstrategies.com/conferences/ for a soon to be announced venue.
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