Business Green: Unilever steps up water conservation efforts

Source: Business Green
Toby Hill
30 July 2020

Consumer goods giant unveils latest commitments from its recently announced €1bn ‘nature and climate fund’

Unilever has set out plans for a raft of water management and conservation projects over the next decade, as the consumer goods giant unveiled the latest investments from its recently-announced €1bn ‘nature and climate fund’.

The British-Dutch multinational yesterday said it would partner with the 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG) and the Alliance for Water Stewardship on several projects supporting water management resilience in key water-stressed countries including Vietnam, India, Brazil and South Africa.

WRG, a multistakeholder platform coordinated by the World Bank, will help implement projects at water-stressed sites surrounding manufactoring facilities in five of Unilever’s key markets – India, Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia – it said.

The work aims to build on Unilever’s collaboration with the WRG and the Red Crescent Society in Bangladesh, which helped supply clean drinking water for hospitals with Covid-19 patients, according to the consumer goods giant.

“With growing water scarcity challenges, exacerbated by climate change, it is more critical than ever for stakeholders to join forces to advance water security outcomes,” said World Bank vice president for sustainable development and co-chair of WRG, Juergen Voegele. “We are delighted to welcome Unilever as a global 2030 WRG partner, with its core commitment to the principles of water sustainability, equitable access and livelihood security.”

In addition, Unilever is to join the Alliance for Water Stewardship and trial the organisation’s AWS Standard, a global framework for water stewardship in select water-stressed sites, it said. The partnership is also aimed at helping Unilever expand its Prabhat water programme, which has been implemented in eight manufacturing sites to address gaps in water supply and demand in India, according to the firm.

It follows the launch of three 2030 water sustainability targets from Unilever last month: to make its product formulatons biodegradeable; to implement water stewardship programmes around 100 Unilever manufacturing sites; and to join the 2030 Water Resources Group.

Water scarcity and poor water quality affects 40 per cent of the world’s population, according to the World Bank, with more than 2.1bn people consuming unsafe drinking water. Last month, UN-Water, which coordinates the United Nation’s activity on water and sanitation, announced that the world was “alarmingly off-track” in meeting Sustainable Development Goal six to deliver clean water and sanitation for all.

“We all know water is critical for lives and livelihoods; yet we are wasting it, polluting it, and taking it for granted,”  said Unilever CEO Alan Jope. “We need collective action to solve a water crisis that is wreaking havoc in villages, towns and cities across our planet.”

The water-focused commitments are part of a range of climate and environmental initiatives announced by Unilever last month in the form of a €1bn ‘nature and climate fund’, which is aimed at supporting the firm’s target to reach net zero emissions across its value chain by 2039, backed a range of initiatives including landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection, and water preservation projects.