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Stockholm award honours PepsiCo efforts to solve water problems

by Julie Mollins | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 31 August 2012 20:44 GMT

Q&A with PepsiCo's water steward Liese Dallbauman at World Water Week in Stockholm

By Julie Mollins

STOCKHOLM (AlertNet) - As people increasingly try to lessen their impact on the environment by conserving energy and water, many companies – including some of the large multinationals – are following suit.

This week in the Swedish capital, environmental sustainability was in focus for hundreds of delegates at the World Water Week conference where topics ranged from how best to achieve food security for almost 1 billion people who currently go hungry to corruption in the water sector and how to provide adequate sanitation for 2.5 billion people who lack it.

Among the water-sector achievements honoured with awards at the annual conference, PepsiCo, the maker of Diet Pepsi, Gatorade, Frito-Lay snacks and Tropicana orange juice, snatched up the prestigious Stockholm Industry Water Award for increasing water efficiency in its own production facilities and working to defeat water problems on a larger scale. PepsiCo has net revenues of more than $65 billion and 300,000 employees around the world.

“PepsiCo's water commitment has not stopped at the factory walls,” said a press release from the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), which hosts the awards.

“By assisting farmers in growing more water-efficient crops, implementing better agricultural practices and irrigation techniques, and by supporting watershed management initiatives, PepsiCo has saved water all along its agricultural supply chain.”

PepsiCo was among the first large firms in the world to recognise and to formally adopt the human right to water in 2009, the press release said, adding that the company has set up a number of public-private partnerships that have increased access to safe water and sanitation services around the world.

Liese Dallbauman, Pepsico's director of water stewardship, spoke with AlertNet about her work and about the SIWI award, established in 2000 in collaboration with the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

“There's an ever increasing recognition that nobody owns the water, that we all influence it, we all benefit from it and that it's much more efficient if we work together to make things better,” said Dallbauman. “We're very pleased that the prize reflects our holistic approach.”

Q: What does your job as director of water stewardship involve?

A: I get to worry about water for our operations around the world – food and beverage both – I also look at our supply chain: Do the farmers who work for us have adequate water? Are we being good water citizens? Are we anticipating water challenges in the future? How do we manage the risks associated with that? How do we become as efficient in the plant with respect to water and things of that sort?

Q: What is it about PepsiCo culture that helped you win the award?

A: One of the things that's really rewarding is that it viewed the whole – it didn't only look at our success achieving our goals early with respect to efficiency in the plant, it recognized our work with communities. It recognised our progress towards providing safe, clean water to 3 million people. It recognised our work with the nature conservancy for positive water impact. So it really was for the whole picture – the whole integrated effort that we put toward water.

We have a programme called ReCon, which is “resource conservation” – It is a PepsiCo-developed programme. The first stage of ReCon is understanding common priorities: Where am I using water in my plant? How can I be efficient about it? How can I identify the best opportunities for me to save water? ReCon Water was developed in 2009, and it's been deployed very broadly across the system. We've also shared it with key suppliers. The approach is basically to understand what you are doing, understand your situation, figure out what the best savings opportunities are for you. There are some that make sense absolutely everywhere.

For water, every plant should have a leak detection and repair programme. We have a plant in Colombia where an employee declared himself the “leak detective”. His boss gave him some leeway and he reduced their water use by five percent. We didn't need to have that demonstrated more than once. Every plant should have leak detection and repair. It doesn't have to be the leak detective, in some places it's teams. Leak detection and repair is what we call an A-priority. It's fast and dramatic and there's really no money involved.

Q: How do you work with local communities?

A: At a corporate level we say you have to be engaged with your local community. We don't prescribe how to do it because it is a socially and culturally determined effort. What makes sense in one place isn't the right approach in other places. Our Latin America businesses are very, very big on this. They are engaged in the community, they have community events.

When I teach classes, I ask at the beginning: Why are you here? In many places they'll say: “I'm here because it's my job to make clean water.” In at least two Latin American plants overwhelmingly the response was: “I'm here because of my children, I want my children to have water in the future.” Every business unit that we have should be engaged locally. And how they do it really depends on the norm of where they are.

Q: Where do you see PepsiCo in 50 years – will water stress allow for a drinks industry?

A: I think we as a sector and we as a company are very aware that water is a shared quantity. Water isn't something that's permanent for anyone, we borrow it for a little while. I think that drives all of us to be very mindful of not wasting. What we return to the environment we must return clean so we aren't contaminating the future. I think that guides our operations, our planning and philosophy.

Q: How does PepsiCo position itself on food and water security issues?

A: We have a broadening portfolio which includes what we call “fun for you” products, but we also strive to provide very healthy products. We are recently involved in the dairy business . . . it's important to recognise that our portfolio is balanced among “fun for you”, “good for you” healthy alternatives, nutritional products – I think there's a place for each of those.

(Editing by Lisa Anderson)

Also see related story: FACTBOX: How PepsiCo won Stockholm Industry Water Award

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