Photo: SABMiller. Water reuse at Ndola Brewery, Zambia.
SABMiller: Securing SABMiller: Securing Africa’s Water Future
SABMiller is working to improve water efficiency in its own operations, and has already made significant progress. But much of the company’s water footprint occurs outside its own operations – for example, in the agricultural value chain. And long-term water security is an even broader, more systemic issue involving politics, patterns of production, population growth, climate change, and other factors. Therefore, to reduce its water footprint and help ensure long-term availability, SABMiller has to work in partnership outside the company gates.
SABMiller, WWF, and the German development agency GTZ have come together in the Water Futures partnership to protect watersheds critical to SABMiller’s operations and supply chains. At the same time, the partners aim to prove the business case for more companies to engage in sustainable water management. Currently, the three partners are collaborating in four countries: Peru, Ukraine, Tanzania and South Africa.
In each focus country, the partnership starts with a water footprinting exercise to measure water use and assess dependencies and risks throughout the SABMiller value chain. The in-depth, local understanding that results enables the partners and their stakeholders to prioritise risk and start to develop mitigation plans. Government policymakers, civil society organisations, and other local businesses are mobilised through dialogue to develop common approaches to shared water risks. And throughout the process, the Water Futures partners document their findings and lessons learned to disseminate more widely – hoping to inspire and enable others to take similar action.
The partners’ motivations for engaging in the Water Futures work may vary, but each has a unique contribution to make, enabling them to achieve more together than they could alone. For SABMiller, a primary motivation is to understand water availability, quality, and cost in its areas of operation – and to be able to take action to improve long- term water security. The company brings a commitment to change its behaviour, and the ability to influence other companies to do the same.
As an environmental organisation, WWF’s main motivation is to ensure water resources and ecosystems are protected and conserved. It brings thought leadership on shared water risk, experience in river basin management, and local implementation capacity. GTZ, for its part, seeks progress on a range of public policy objectives including human development, environmental sustainability, and even peace. The development agency contributes technical assistance and convening power, facilitating the multi-stakeholder dialogues that are key in translating ideas and information into action.
The Partnership Agenda
Lack of water security is a shared risk and a shared responsibility – but a company can work to address it in partnership with others.
So far in Africa, SABMiller has taken the initial step of working with partners to assess its footprint and understand shared water risk in Tanzania and South Africa. The company and its partners are now in the process of gathering additional stakeholders and translating this understanding into action.
For example, in Tanzania, insights were shared at a water workshop in Dar es Salaam in May 2010, where stakeholders of the Wami-Ruvu Basin learned about the concept of shared water risk, what the partnership is trying to achieve, and the potential opportunities for collaboration. Following this workshop, a watershed risk and sustainability assessment was undertaken to identify overall water risks to the city and specific business risks to Tanzania Breweries. The assessment is now being used as the foundation for a business case to mitigate against identified risks.
In South Africa, following the water footprinting study and subsequent workshop, activities are now focusing on SAB Ltd’s operations in Polokwane, an area identified as having high potential for water scarcity in future years. Partners are undertaking a review of water supplies to hop farms in the Gouritz water catchment – which supply SAB Ltd’s hop processing plant at George – to build a better understanding of ground water needed, and how more groundwater resources can be released.
A range of local actions are coming out of the Water Futures footprinting work in Tanzania and South Africa. At the same time, SABMiller sees a future for the partnership in stimulating larger collaborative projects and alliances. Because water is highly political, in both countries, the partners hope to engage more deeply with government to ensure supportive public policies – on water rights, for instance – are in place. As part of this, in South Africa, SAB Ltd is already working with WWF and the government to pilot the “water neutral” concept, in which companies reduce water consumption and offset the rest by restoring natural vegetation.