This week, businesses, governments and NGOs came together for the annual World Water Week conference in Stockholm. PepsiCo hosted three events, and participated in several others, focused on the nexus between water and sustainable agriculture. Of the three events we hosted, one was a small, closed session for two dozen peers and potential partners; the others were panels on the official agenda. One about farm verification programs cohosted with Unilever and BSR and the other about supply chains cohosted with the Columbia Water Center In addition, we gave a keynote presentation in the WBCSD Founders Business Seminar entitled “Water and Energy for Food, Fiber and Fuel.”
The reasons we’re focused on these issue are obvious: water stewardship and sustainable agriculture are part of our core business. Consider the following:
• Six out of 10 of PepsiCo’s top raw materials are agriculturally sourced.
• Agriculture represents, on average, 70% of global water withdrawal, and as high as 90% in developing economies.
• The water required to grow food globally is an estimated 200 million liters per second.
Simply put, the success of our business relies on a resilient, sustainable supply chain. Our participation in Stockholm focused on several issues that are key to food and water security, including how we source crops all over to the world, and how we manage those crops from our fields through to our factories. We think it’s necessary for PepsiCo to play a role when responding to global food security challenges. We also know that good policy helps promote both the private and informal food and water sectors to assist with global food security.
During the Founders Business Seminar, I spoke about the importance of a holistic definition of food security. While such a definition should address the World Health Organization’s definition that food security is “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life,” the definition should also incorporate the agricultural systems used to produce the food and the environmental impacts of producing it.
During a closed session, held over a PepsiCo-inspired menu, we discussed the training challenges everyone faces in farm verification programs – the social, economic and environmental aspects of food production at the farm and food security. We invited companies, government representatives and NGOs to the table as an effort to gauge the current status of programs, gain consensus on potential joint action, and lay out next steps.
As part of our farm verification work, we know that partnerships will help us make greater progress on these training programs and tools, and – just as importantly – make things more efficient for our growers. Given the myriad of water and climate change issues, helping our farmers be successful will help us secure our supply chain.
The next day, PepsiCo’s Ian Hope-Johnstone spoke about our Sustainable Farming Initiative and how we are collaborating with other companies, such as Unilever. He called sustainable agriculture a journey whose current focus is evolving to a more integrated agenda with increasing desire to invest back in the supply chain.
The discussion focused on the importance on the private sector to secure the supply chain and the potential solutions for corporations working on this challenge. Businesses such as Unilever and PepsiCo are focusing on how research, academia and technology can make an impact, and we believe that partner-led farm verification is increasingly creating the visibility required to deliver positive results at the farm level.
One of the final key points that panelists made was that we need to work with growers and be sensitive to their needs and motivations. For example, we need to deal with farmer’ fatigue with multiple surveys by finding a relevant practice-based solution – not an abstract approach.
The topic of this year’s World Water Week – water and food security – is one that is central to our business and sustainability goals, and is a critical ingredient in the recipe for feeding the next billion.