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Pepsi water guru: Don't expect to manage to one water number

Pepsi water guru: Don't expect to manage to one water number

Posting in Environment

It's one thing to fix a leaky pipe, but your best practices for water conservation will be very locally driven.

I have water on the brain, literally if not figuratively, after spending a week of vacation scuba-diving in Roatan, Honduras. So this seems the perfect time to revisit my conversation earlier this month with Liese, Dallbauman, director of water stewardship for food and beverage giant PepsiCo.

The heightened interest in water conservation and sustainable water practices has been well-documented over the past year, with companies such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola being among the first to really talk about their best practice publicly and frequently. In its most recent corporate sustainability report (based on numbers through the third quarter of 2010), PepsiCo reported the following progress toward its specific water goals:

  • Through the third quarter of 2010, the company managed to reduce its water use intensity by 19.5 percent globally. That puts it really close to its overall goal to cut water use intensity by 20 percent by 2015 (based on its 2006 baseline measures).
  • By the end of 2011, the company believes it will be one-third of the way toward its goal of providing access to safe water to 3 million people who don't have it right now.

PepsiCo's other big water goal is to strive for a positive water balance in the communities that its business operations and revenue-generating opportunities are located. "It is not just about having enough water, you need to have good water," said Dallbauman, when I asked her about what drives PepsiCo's water priorities.

Here are the two big revelations that I picked out of our conversation, revelations that I believe will help shape your organization's own unique water priorities:

  1. Don't expect to manage to one water number. What works in one manufacturing plant or corporate headquarters building, might not be appropriate for another facility based in a country with different water challenges. The water priorities of a place your operation in India, for example, will be completely different from those of your facility in Abu Dhabi. "It's not really realistic to expect one size fits all or that there is one answer," Dallbauman said. Of course, if you ARE tracking your water number, that is a great place to start. Now dive deeper.
  2. Make sure you know where your water originates. This is not always as easy as it may seem. For perspective, consider the water supply situation in California. To develop a system for being on top of this information, PepsiCo is running five different pilot projects around the globe. The idea is develop a credit-debit mentality about water usage. In other words, if you use a certain amount of water from a water-challenged region, you should figure out a way to give it back.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure