Pepsico and its rival Coco-Cola have often been accused of over-exploitation of water in India. Both companies have been engaging in water footprint analysis to understand the problem, as well as stewardship activities. Pepsico recently announced that all their plants in India are water positive. According to their reports, they were the first beverage company in India to achieve positive water balance in 2009.
The company said it retained and improved its positive water balance achievement in 2010 and replenished more than 10.1 billion litre of water as compared to a total intake of approximately 5.8 billion litre by its manufacturing facilities.
According to Annie Kishen, head of CSR at Pepsico India:
We were able to give back to society much more water than we used to manufacture our products by recharging and replenishing water through various initiatives in agriculture and replenishing water in communities around our manufacturing plants. What this means is that we are water positive at the country-wide level. Our next goal is to achieve positive water balance around our plants located in water stressed geographies. We have made good progress towards this goal, and in 2010 we also achieved location specific positive water balance at three plant neighbourhoods (Aurangabad, Neelamangala and Panipat) through interventions such as check dams and ponds that have been created to improve water availability.
Pepsico’s goal to become water positive started about eights years ago. Since then they have invested a substantial amount to make their manufacturing processes as water efficient as possible. Their technology includes rainwater harvesting systems within their plants, community water projects, and water conservation in agriculture through direct seeding of paddy and drip irrigation in potato. By 2015, their water saving measure are intended to positively impact between 75,000 to 100,000 people.
Water shortage is a very real and pressing problem in many parts of India. Being a country that is extremely dependent on the monsoon rains, it stands to be even more vulnerable to climate variations. Changing weather patterns are affecting the duration, timing, and intensity of rainfall causing unseasonal flooding and/or drought.
Many companies are beginning to realize that water stewardship should become one of the key areas of CSR. However, Pepsico is probably the only one taking a big lead in India in this area. Their business depends largely on the availability of fresh water and it is in their interest as well in the interest of their stakeholders to ensure that water resources are better protected.