On World Water Day 2018, the big question we ask ourselves is - how can we lead with purpose?
Our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) gives us a clear purpose and roadmap to reduce our environmental impact through water conservation initiatives. Our goal is to halve the environmental footprint of the making and use of products as we grow our business by 2030. This includes specific global commitments on water reduction, that is, halving the water associated with the consumer use of our products by 2020.
We are happy to report that we are on our way to achieving our global commitment: by 2020, water abstraction by our factory network will be at or below 2008 levels despite significantly higher volumes.
Climate change and water scarcity
Climate change is causing changing rainfall patterns globally, impacting cities across the world.
For instance, a three-year drought in the Cape Town region of South Africa has compounded the city’s water supply problems. In February, the authorities projected “Day Zero” (or when water levels in the city’s dams would fall to 13.5 percent) to be in July 2018. This once-in-a-century drought is possibly the result of climate change.
Closer home, technology hub Bengaluru is facing a looming threat. With a drought in Karnataka in 2017, unchecked construction of bore wells, polluted lakes, and an outdated water supply and sewage system, the city is slowly heading toward a water crisis.
A holistic approach
According to estimates, by 2030 the supply of water in India will be half its demand. This calls for an urgent need for water conservation undertakings across the country.
We believe that effective water management must take into account all facets of water use. This is why our efforts are geared towards water management through product innovations, efficiency in production processes and supply chains as well as community projects.
Improvements in manufacturing: Rainwater use
Each year, our factory network increases rainwater consumption and usage for various processes and utilities. With the latest effluent treatment technologies, water abstraction from natural resources has been reduced as well.
Water usage (cubic meter per tonne of production) in our manufacturing operations has reduced by 53% compared to 2008 baseline.
Our partnership with NGOs includes ambitious programmes such as:
- Revival of 700 traditional rural water tanks in Tamil Nadu.
- Adoption of farming practices that reduce water consumption in agriculture while increasing yields for farmers such as System of Root Intensification in paddy and wheat.
- Non-pesticide management based paddy cultivation to reduce input costs for farmers.
To reach our programme’s objectives, we establish community institutions that govern water resources and usage in villages.
Additionally, our knowledge initiatives guide farmers to adopt practices that promote efficient use of water in agriculture. We also support various water research centres and studies that can improve water management in India.
HUF: Key partnerships
As one of the key partners in Maharashtra’s Village Social Transformation Mission (VSTM), we are implementing water conservation projects in 35 villages in Nandurbar and Amravati districts.
Besides this, we have partnered with over 20 NGO partners in geographies that represent the spectrum of rain-fed, irrigated and drought-prone regions of India. Through these collaborations, we seek to establish water security and promote well-being of rural communities.
Goals for 2020
The USLP target is to halve the water associated with the consumer use of our products by 2020.
We continue to engage with our partners and drive programmes that will help to reach our targets on schedule, and remain committed to safeguard this precious resource. Water, after all, is the driving force of nature.