PepsiCo’s chief sustainability officer: ‘Half of the world’s population will face water scarcity as soon as 2025. It’s time everyone does their part in addressing the global water crisis’

22 03 2023

By Jim Andrew, Executive Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer for PepsiCo via Yahoo Finance • Reposted: March 22, 2023

Water is a fundamental human right. It is indispensable to every community, ecosystem, and economy around the world. Yet water insecurity has become one of the world’s greatest crises–and one that is overlooked, or even worse, ignored entirely.

Globally, more than 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 4 billion people experience severe water scarcity at least one month a year–and many far more frequently than that.

Climate change and other factors are harming water supply and quality, and ecosystems are being degraded as a result. It’s projected that at current rates of consumption, there will be a 56% gap between global water supply and demand by 2030.

And while the private sector and other stakeholders have made progress in addressing the causes of this water stress, the truth is it’s not nearly enough.

We are at an inflection point, which makes the upcoming UN Water Conference–being held for the first time in nearly five decades–a critical moment to drive action. It represents a transformative opportunity to ignite unprecedented collaboration among governments, NGOs, and the private sector to address this growing global crisis.

At PepsiCo, as the second-largest food and beverage company in the world, we know the critical role that water plays in the food system. When it comes to addressing water issues, we use a watershed management approach that encompasses our entire value chain, including on farms, in manufacturing facilities, along our value chain and in local communities. Through PepsiCo Positive–a strategic, end-to-end transformation of our business–we have developed robust goals to support our ambition of being “net water positive” by 2030. The aim is that our presence and action should improve the local water resources where we operate.

For example, we have implemented new technologies and processes in three of our largest food plants in Latin America that have taken us off the water grid, enabling us to make popular snacks like Lay’s, Doritos, and Cheetos without drawing anyfreshwater from local watersheds.

At our Vallejo facility in Mexico City, we source water from our manufacturing processes and other food companies in the area, purify it in house, and reuse the water in our operations. In Funza, Colombia, we treat and reuse our own processed water and capture rainwater for use in our facility. Both sites have operated using zero freshwater, with no burden on local municipalities, for approximately 250 days and counting since 2022, while our plant in Itu, Brazil, has yielded more than 100 days of using zero freshwater through similar approaches.

While operational efficiency is important for our business and water stewardship, it alone does not solve the larger problem. It’s critical that companies like PepsiCo continue to expand efforts beyond the walls of our facilities to protect and restore watersheds, while also ensuring that communities around the world have reliable access to safe, clean water.

In 2021 alone, our projects helped restore 6.1 billion liters of water back into local watersheds through replenishment partnerships with conservation organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund. And, over the last 15 years, PepsiCo and the PepsiCo Foundation have helped more than 80 million people access safe water. We’re aiming to reach 100 million people by 2030.

Fortunately, many companies have set ambitious water goals and are taking action. There are thousands of individual projects around the globe working to tackle water stress, but presently there are few opportunities for the private sector, NGOs, and governments to work together and pool the necessary resources to address this crisis at scale. We’re proud to be part of the CEO Water Mandate, for example, but such coalitions are few and far between.

We believe the only way to address the global water crisis is to get all stakeholders engaged and, through collective action, work towards a common goal of dramatically and urgently improving water conservation and governance, while ensuring that all people have access to safe, clean water. We need more open-source sharing of ideas and best practices. We need technological innovations and to rethink how we approach partnerships. We need collaboration among all stakeholders in impacted watersheds, advocating for solutions that drive fairness and address the specific needs of that locality. Only then will we drive the investment and scale that results in the level of change we need.

We are actively participating in the UN Water Conference and related events to share what we’ve learned and to learn from others, and to help inspire bolder collective action.

Half of the global population could face water scarcity challenges by 2025, according to UNICEF. We don’t have the luxury of time.

Jim Andrew is Executive Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer for PepsiCo.

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