December 15, 2019

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Creating Shared Value through Transparency: Nestlé Waters North America Answers Its Stakeholders

The point about giving water a value, beyond meeting drinking and hygiene requirements, is to address water scarcity, and ultimately food scarcity.

Heidi_paul_nwna

By Heidi Paul, EVP, Corporate Affairs, Nestlé Waters North America

Thank you to all who participated in the Twitter chat on June 18th to discuss our 2012 Creating Shared Value (CSV) Report. If you were unable to join me, here's the Storify summary.

Since there was not enough time to answer everyone’s questions in real time, I'm grateful for the opportunity to respond now. As with any issue-based dialogue, I know people have a variety of viewpoints.

Most of your questions fell under a few clear categories. In the interest of space, I will split these into three blog posts. The first post will discuss:

  • Creating Shared Value for our stakeholders
  • Water as a human right
  • Spring source siting
  • Water infrastructure

The second post will address:

  • Bottled water vs. tap vs. soda
  • Packaging responsibility and waste
  • Convenience
  • Consumer behavior and marketing
  • Pricing bottles to encourage recycling

The third post will address:

  • Privatization of water
  • Water as a vital resource

As you can see, there was a lot of ground (or in this case, water) to cover.

Creating Shared Value for Our Stakeholders

Many participants asked me what CSV means to NWNA. @JohnFriedman summed up the concept well:

“When biz advances society, restores environment & is profitable we all benefit.”

In other words, CSV is fostering the triple bottom line of social, financial and environmental sustainability.

“How does bottled water Create Shared Value?” was another repeated theme throughout the chat and an issue recently explored by Raz Godelnik in a follow-up Triple Pundit blog post. Yes, bottled water is a healthier alternative to sugar beverages and offers clean water in times of crisis, but that’s not all that we mean by Creating Shared Value. For my team, Creating Shared Value is an approach that nestle watersfocuses resources at the most significant intersections between the company and society.

So who are we sharing value with? And do we have a stakeholder list, asked @3blnow.

Our stakeholders include consumers, employees, shareholders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the socially responsible investing (SRI) community (which promotes sustainable business in the corporate realm) and the local communities where we operate. With some of them, we engage directly through dialogue while others we partner with on the creating shared value initiatives.

For example when we created our siting framework in collaboration with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), we solicited input and feedback from local community stakeholders, activists, other companies and environmental stakeholders. When we are looking to site a new spring and plant, we seek to have regular community interactions, which are part of the Siting Framework commitments. We also partner with NGOs like Recycling Reinvented, Keep America Beautiful, Americares, Ducks Unlimited and other organizations to address areas like improving watersheds and advancing recycling policy.

In preparation for the CSV Report, the North American Stakeholders’ Citizenship 360 Forum also brought together members of NWNA’s leadership and individuals with expertise in climate change and emissions reduction, environmental and water issues, land conservation and community engagement to have a direct dialogue on corporate citizenship.

Stakeholders of particular focus are the 130 North American communities where our offices, plants and spring source sites are located. We believe that open, two-way communication creates productive community relationships by directly responding to feedback and sharing the intentions of and information about our company. This was also one of the motivations for our decision to participate in the Twitter chat.

Water as a Human Right

@LillyanneD: Where is the #sharedvalue when @NestleWatersNA works to undermine the human right to water?

@maraschechter: You see water as a commodity, not a human right. How is that a #sharedvalue?

@Womenetics: How has access to clean water improved the lives of women? 

We unequivocally believe that access to clean, safe water for drinking and hygiene is a basic human right for citizens worldwide. Water must be made available to everyone, wherever they are, even if watershedsthey cannot afford to pay for it. The point about giving water a value, beyond meeting drinking and hygiene requirements, is to address water scarcity, and ultimately food scarcity. 

To be clear, clean water to meet hydration and basic hygiene needs is a human right.  The question is: how does society ensure enough water is available to also grow the food that is needed and support the other uses of water? 

The issue becomes clearer when you see how water can be wasted, either though lack of funding to shore up leaks in pipes (see the EPA report on Infrastructure needs in the U.S.), or using crops (corn ethanol) for fuel.

To @Womenetics' question, our parent company Nestlé SA has supported projects to deliver improved water and sanitation facilities to more than 100,000 men, women and children since 2007 through the International Federation of the Red Cross.

In North America, we provide bottled water during times of disaster when tap water becomes unavailable or undrinkable, for example, during hurricanes, floods and fires, etc. In 2012, we donated over 4,300,000 bottles of water and over 13 million bottles since 2010.

Spring Source Siting

@JohnFriedman asked In light of shrinking/shifting aquifers, how does NW manage competing needs w/ communities?

When NWNA identifies a potential source, we undertake significant scientific exploration to ensure that the source can be used sustainably over the long term and then the science is shared with authorities and the community. When investigating a spring for development, we study the resource to understand the sustainability regarding quantity and quality over the long term. 

In 2008, NWNA committed to working with stakeholders on a framework to more proactively manage the siting process and make siting efforts more transparent. With help from BSR, the company released its Community Siting Framework in 2010.

To @SGogliettino, who asked if any of our #sharedvalue objectives overlap with local non-profit initiatives, we partner with many local NGOs in communities. Some examples include our partnerships with The Nature Conservancy on its “Wood for Salmon” project, the Crystal Springs Preserve in Zephyrhills Florida, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland Maine, Ducks Unlimited Watershed protection projects in Texas and the Gulf Coast and the Southern California Mountains Foundation.

@HansLak, asked us several questions including:

  1. Is it true that Nestlé tried to force its way into Fryeburg by exhausting the town with law suits?
  2.  Is it true that you stopped supporting the water supply program in the Kebribeyah camp in Ethiopia?
  3. Is it true that you refused to participate in the film Bottled Life?

Poland Spring has operated in Fryeburg, Maine, for 16 years. Poland Spring is in business for the long-term, therefore our relationships with local communities are very important. Here is a comment by the town’s former planning board chairman:

The company purchases water from the Fryeburg water company and no lawsuits were filed to do so. The only lawsuits involving the town and Poland Spring were the result of a Fryeburg Planning Board permit that was approved in 2005 to allow Poland Spring to construct a small building in East Fryeburg. The proposed building construction was not related in any way to the Fryeburg Water Company. The permit approved by the Fryeburg Planning Board was appealed to the Fryeburg Board of Appeals by several Fryeburg residents. The Maine Law Court eventually decided the case in 2009, which ruled in favor of Poland Spring and upheld the original planning board permit.

As to the decision of not participating in Bottled Life, we think that water is a crucial issue and regret that the film does not represent the company and its employees in an objective and fair manner. Open dialogue is critical to building trust and we felt the conversation about participating in the film was one-sided, so we declined.

Regarding the Kebribeyah camp in Ethiopia, the Jarrar Valley pipeline project was initiated and led by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to improve the access of clean water to refugees living in the Kebribeyah camp. Nestlé was one of the early donors for this project, a donation also supported by the provision of technical expertise in 2004. A second site visit had been planned for 2005, but due to rising security concerns in the region it was cancelled.

As the video mentions, the UNHCR plans were to mobilize other donors to take over the support for Poland Springthe project, with the overall objective being to hand the management of the pipeline over to the Ethiopian authorities. Today the pipeline is part of the Jarrar Valley Water Supply System. In 2010, the UNHCR further expanded the project by supporting the extension of the electricity grid to Jarrar Valley, thus improving both the capacity and the reliability of the Water Supply System.

Water Infrastructure

To @unlikelyenviro [#SharedValue Report says, "We support long-term, sustainable investments in public water infrastructure improvements..." What are U doing?] and @jenniferwoofter [One of the main principles of #SharedValue is cluster development. Is @NestleWatersNA working on building local infrastructure?], firstly we publicly support sustainable investments in public water infrastructure improvements in the U.S. through mechanisms such as those envisioned in the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), introduced in the U.S. Congress in early 2013.

The program – modeled after the successful Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act –would provide low-cost financing assistance for large water infrastructure projects through secured loans and loan guarantees to help rebuild the nation’s tap water backbone, with minimum impact on the federal budget.

NWNA and Nestlé USA wrote a letter to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works urging passage, amidst our two-year effort to support this bill. This is a bipartisan bill that we view as preferable to other bills that single out bottled water for a tax. NWNA provides needed backup to water utilities when infrastructure fails or is interrupted by extreme weather.

We have also invested in protecting watersheds that are shared with municipal water suppliers.  During siting and development of the Evart, MI, project, for example, we worked with the City and County Fair to protect the Twin Creek well field area that support municipal wells as well as wells that NWNA purchases water from. We assisted in relocating parking for the County Fair to a new location to reduce the risk of ground water contamination and share the monitoring data we collect with the town and discuss our interpretation of the data with them.

To @svnickbarg who asked what new innovative water technologies we may be considering, NWNA is always looking for opportunities to improve and conserve water in our operations as well as in the communities where we serve.

More on the debate between bottled vs. tap water and soda, packaging and consumer marketing in Part II. Stay tuned!

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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