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Liquid assets: The need for business action on water

By Francesca O’Hanlon

- Last updated on GMT

This World Water Day, CCEP's water lead Francesca O’Hanlon reflects on the company's progress and why action on water is a business imperative for all. Credit: CCEP + Getty/Jonathan Knowles
This World Water Day, CCEP's water lead Francesca O’Hanlon reflects on the company's progress and why action on water is a business imperative for all. Credit: CCEP + Getty/Jonathan Knowles

Related tags Food security Sustainability Beverages

The diamond-water paradox was a puzzle to the man that coined the term, economist Adam Smith. Although water is, unarguably, more valuable to humans, why do diamonds command a higher price?

The economist behind the diamond-water paradox proposed that because water was in more abundant supply than diamonds and easier to access, we assigned less financial value to water. Today, however, global water security is under threat.

The urban population facing water scarcity​ is projected to double from 930m in 2016 to between 1.7 and 2.4bn people in 2050. With 2bn people – over a quarter of the population – lacking access to safe drinking water, securing long-term access to water is now at the forefront of the global agenda.1

Where does business fit into all this?

We need to place more value on water and the wider role it has in supporting society, biodiversity and the health of our planet. Water is at the heart of our business and is critical to our manufacturing processes. That’s why we prioritise water security at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), in line with The Coca-Cola Company’s 2030 Global Water Strategy.2

With ambitious water strategies, companies can set themselves up for future success against the challenges that lie ahead. Milestones such as World Water Day are a timely reminder of the urgent action needed to protect global water supplies and the vital role of the business community in this.

The global water crisis – a substantial source of business risk

Water is central to all stages of the value chain, including agriculture, shipping and transportation, production and manufacturing. Disruption to any of these is a substantial source of risk, and with that risk comes associated economic cost. WWF has found that the water crisis threatens $58 trillion in economic value, food security and sustainability. ​By putting in place proactive water stewardship strategies, businesses can safeguard against future impacts of climate change and help to ensure long-term water security.

At CCEP, every one of our factories sets an individual water use efficiency target, identifying opportunities to reduce the water used to create our drinks. This target considers the specific, localised baseline water risk, including water scarcity, supply and quality risks, how much water we use, and whether there are any shared water challenges within the wider watershed.

We can’t tackle climate change without addressing water

Climate change​ and water are deeply interconnected. Businesses serious about reducing their impact on the planet can’t do this through climate change mitigation alone. At CCEP, we have set science-based targets to reach net zero across our entire value chain by 2040, and to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030.

Water is the medium through which we will most feel the impacts of climate change, and it is fundamental to the rest of the Earth’s systems, including biodiversity. By managing and using water in a sustainable way, we can protect ecosystems and support the climate resilience of our watersheds and communities.

We have a strong track record in water stewardship – reflecting our efficient use of water, and commitment to replenishment. We aim to replenish 100% of the total volume of the water used in our finished drinks by 2030. This means returning water to its original source, making it available for nature and communities. We do this in partnership with local NGOs and community groups in our main operating and sourcing regions.

The need for corporate leadership

Corporate action is critical in the fight against water scarcity, with well-timed pressure jumpstarting governments into action. There’s been positive momentum, with increasing awareness of water’s importance, and a heightened focus on the need for solutions. For example, last year we joined the 50 companies in the ‘Open Call to Accelerate Action on Water’ – a shared vision to achieve collective positive water impact in 100 water-stressed basins around the world by 2030.

Initiatives such as the new science-based targets for nature can support businesses in understanding water usage across the entire value. We now need companies to put water front and centre to help safeguard this shared resource for all. This isn’t a nice to have, but a business imperative.

The diamond–water paradox is a poignant reminder to treat our natural resources with the same respect that we would grant precious materials.

Find out more about CCEP's water management actions and others in the F&B sector in this exclusive deep dive article, which offers three ways you can improve your water use in the factory. 

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