Nestlé tackling water issues in Central and West Africa

Water experts are convening this week in Stockholm on the occasion of World Water Week. Over 200 organisations will take place in the event, which is organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute, to discuss water and development issues.

Global water scarcity is increasingly threatening food security as two-thirds of all fresh water is being used in agriculture. This demand looks set to rise by 50% by 2030, intensifying the water crisis in Central and West Africa and worldwide.

Nestlé, the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company, is committed to play a part in addressing the urgent water issue.

About 768 million people remain without access to an improved source of drinking water, 40% of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

In this region, only 36% of the population has access to proper sanitation facilities and women – who are mostly responsible for supplying their families with water – are forced to spend hours fetching it.

Nestlé’s Commitment on Water Stewardship recognises that everyone has a right to access clean water to meet their basic needs. These are part of the Nestlé in Society report ‘Creating Shared Value and meeting our commitments 2013’.

Commitment to water

In 2010, Nestlé formally reaffirmed its public support for the human right to water by defining a number of W.A.T.E.R. commitments. Each letter defines what the company aims to do.

Its first commitment is to Work to achieve water efficiency across its operations by leading in water resource management, and excelling in the reduction of the direct use of water in its facilities.

Nestlé looks to do this over the next few years by cutting water withdrawals per tonne of product, in every product category, to achieve an overall reduction of 40% since 2005. Over the past six years, it has already reduced its water consumption by 40% per tonne of product in Central and West Africa, while doubling its volume in production.

Secondly, Nestlé intends to Advocate for effective water policies and stewardship by engaging in and supporting public policy dialogues at global level. This year, it aims to extend the 2030 Water Resources Group, of which Nestlé is a key partner, through public-private partnership to other countries.

Next it seeks to Treat effectively the water its discharges through setting strict targets for returning clean water to the environment. Nestlé will do this by introducing new environmental requirements for water quality and effluent discharge in all its factories by 2016.

In May 2012, a CH 3.2 million water treatment plant was built at the Tema factory in Ghana leading to significant improvements in waste water quality. An additional CHF 1.1 million will be invested this year in a pre-treatment system to ensure that at least 30% of the waste water is reused for non-core activities.

The company also seeks to Engage with suppliers, especially those in agriculture, by helping to improve their water management by focusing on impacts at watershed level.

Finally Nestlé wants to Raise awareness of water access and conservation by engaging employees, communities and consumers.

In Nigeria, the company is implementing Project WET (Water Education for Teachers), a global education programme that promotes water awareness among children and their teachers. In 2013, 3,105 pupils in 25 primary schools in the Lagos State were reached and over 80 teachers and educators trained.

“We believe that the responsible management of water by all users is an absolute necessity”, said Kais Marzouki, Market Head for Nestlé Central and West Africa.

As a company, we work to optimize water management around our operations and to give access to clean water in the communities where we operate”, he added.

Community engagement

Nestlé is working with local partners and non-governmental organizations by contributing funding, operational support and training to community water management schemes. 

Since 2007, Nestlé has worked with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Red Cross Society of Côte d’Ivoire to provide water and sanitation facilities and hygiene training in the country. 

The company’s work with the IFRC in Côte d’Ivoire is part of the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, which aims to enable farmers to run profitable farms, eliminate the use of child labour and ensure a sustainable supply of cocoa.

Improving water, hygiene and sanitation

Between 2007 and 2013, 196 546 people from 132 villages and 81 schools have benefitted from the project. Since the start of the project, 68 school latrines were constructed or rehabilitated, 4631 new community latrines were constructed, and 148 water points were repaired. Additionally, 105 088 community members and 58 057 children received hygiene awareness training.

Improving access to clean water and to sanitation facilities is important to address malnutrition, in particular stunting, among children under the age of 5. In Central and West Africa, it is estimated that 39 percent of children under 5 are stunted, a condition that may impact long term physical and cognitive development.

Related links:
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