“I would love to see companies fighting for market share based on their level of commitment to water stewardship.”
As citizens, communities, countries and companies, we must all come together to address the new realities of our world. Climate change, population growth and urbanization, among other contributing environmental and social factors require that we look inward and assess where each of us has influence and opportunity to drive the change we want – and need. As a company, Nestlé takes this responsibility very seriously. But for the skeptics out there, let me unpack this statement with some specifics.
First, let’s look at the big picture. Nestlé operates with a mindset of “Creating Shared Value” which comes from the top. Our website and latest CSV report states:
“Creating Shared Value is the fundamental guiding principle for how we do business. We strive for success in the long term by enabling healthier and happier lives for individuals and families, on helping the development of thriving and resilient communities and, finally, on stewarding the planet’s natural resources for future generations, with particular care for water. Creating Shared Value guides all of our behaviours, policies and actions.”
To help measure our efforts and to hold ourselves accountable, we’ve carefully tied our 42 specific commitments (which make up our Creating Shared Value (CSV) agenda) to the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Our commitments break down into three overarching ambitions, which are to:
- Enable healthier and happier lives
- Help develop thriving and resilient communities
- Steward resources for future generations
All 42 commitments are published to hold ourselves publicly accountable and we report annually to show our progress. Each commitment is carefully chosen to be directly aligned with our business operations.
As my role is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Nestle Waters North America, I focus mainly on those commitments that are directly tied to our water business and the people and communities which are tied to it through our operations. .
Over the coming weeks and months I will delve into a variety of our commitments (in no particular order) to ensure that our work at Nestle is clearly understood by all stakeholders who take an interest in the work that we do.
Advocate for effective water policies and stewardship
In this section I considered listing all of the initiatives that we are involved with, and there are many, but I’ve found that long lists of accomplishments don’t often resonate with people. So I’ve decided to dig in and share with you the why and the how.
As we all know, water is a shared resource and because of that, Nestle can’t solve our water challenges alone. Our best chance to protect and preserve our fresh water is to work with a variety of stakeholders who face similar challenges and who have complementary skill sets and experience. That is why we choose our areas of engagement very carefully, so that every effort leads towards one outcome – securing an abundant water future.
So in 2016, together with 19 companies and environmental organisations, Nestlé became a founding member of the California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC), a platform for stakeholders to work together on projects designed to improve water security in California for people, business, agriculture and nature. We are involved in two CWAC projects to determine how large-scale restoration can improve water supplies, and a collaboration to identify where the private sector can support the measurement, management and stewardship required.
If we can leverage water stewardship commitments to fight for market share, it would mean more water stewards and ultimately greater sustainability.
But I promised to be more specific so let me tell you about an initiative for which I am very proud – the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s (AWS) International Water Stewardship Standard.
One of the challenges in the business of water is how to showcase that a bottling facility is operating in a manner that is socially equitable, environmentally responsible and economically beneficial – the textbook definition of water stewardship. By committing and certifying to the AWS Standard, we are seeking to demonstrate just that. And, if we can create a movement around the adoption of this Standard by others, we can help secure that abundant water future. I’ll add this, if all goes well, the industry will leverage their water stewardship commitments to fight for market share. Personally I would love to see that because it would mean more water stewards and ultimately greater sustainability.
But these kinds of initiatives don’t happen quickly. It was way back in 2009 when the NGO, Alliance for Water Stewardship was founded by leading organizations representing social and environmental interests, including The Nature Conservancy, Pacific Institute, Water Stewardship Australia, and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Finally, earlier this year, our hard work paid off. Nestlé Waters North America set a milestone when its Ontario, California, factory became the first facility in North America to receive certification for meeting the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard.
So what does that standard mean?
According to Matt Howard, Director for AWS North America.“The AWS Standard guides water-using sites toward four outcomes: good water governance, sustainable water balance, good water quality, and healthy status of important water-related areas. The conformity of sites implementing the Standard is verified by credible third-party auditors prior to certification. We are excited about what will be the first of many AWS certificates issued in North America, as more companies adopt collaborative and transparent water use practices. For every facility that meets the core criteria of the Standard, we move a step closer to the goal of global, sustainable freshwater use that is socially, environmentally, and economically responsible.”
The standard was created with and for Nestle’s stakeholders which includes, environmental conservation groups, development organizations, and industry leaders. We could never have done it alone – this is what we mean when we talk about Creating Shared Value!
Nelson Switzer is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Nestlé Waters North America