World Water Week: Recognising the unseen value of water

29 Aug 2022

According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, around 1 in 4 people lack safe drinking water and nearly half the world’s population lack safely managed sanitation. This year we’ve seen flooding in South Africa, the current drought across much of Europe and increasing number and severity of Atlantic hurricanes. It’s a stark reminder to us all of what a growing and real threat this is and how it’s impacting communities around the world. And it shows that when we effectively manage our water supplies, we can more effectively manage climate change.

This week is World Water Week and it provides the opportunity for subject matter experts, companies and civil society to come together to recognise the important part we can all play to preserve water for life. We’re proud to be attending the World Water Weeks event in Stockholm this year. We’ll be participating in thought-provoking and necessary discussions on how as a global company, we need to collaborate to make a lasting change and positive impact on water, the gender inequalities in the access to clean water and the business value in investing in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes.

‘Seeing the Unseen: The Value of Water,’ is this year’s theme and is something we care deeply about. At Diageo, we passionately believe that access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) should be a fundamental human right. Water unlocks the potential of communities, and particularly women, whilst making communities healthier, safer and more resilient to climate impacts. We’ve also committed to replenish water in the water-stressed communities where we operate, and to engage in essential collective action in key water basins, to build water security through collaboration with our peers and wider society.

We wanted to look further into the value of investing in water, and particularly WASH, to our business so others could follow suit. In partnership with WaterAid and other FMCG companies, we carried out a four-year study to see the investment results for ourselves. The research showed that in a factory setting, for every $1 invested in WASH facilities, there was a $1.32 return on investment, and in tea sector projects, this grew to $2.01. This is down to overall absences at work decreasing, productivity increasing and workplace incidents decreasing. It also showed that the results were best when WASH services were installed in the employees’ community which also benefitted employee families.

Preserving water is crucial to our communities and business–it’s vital for healthy communities, and it’s in every drink we make at Diageo. This past year we provided access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) through 22 projects across eight countries and replenished the equivalent of over 420 Olympic sized swimming pools of water in our communities. As our work on water efficiency continues, we’ve reused the equivalent of almost 2 billion pints of water in our direct operations and we are using less water to make our products.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the projects we’ve undertaken around the world in the last year (July 2021 – July 2022):

  • In Brazil, we’ve helped to pipe water directly in homes to almost 500 people to provide them with almost 3.5million litres of drinking water a year, and we’re replenishing water in the local area.
  • In Ghana, Guinness Ghana and WaterAid installed a solar power water system will benefit over 10,000 people by providing almost 44,000 pints of water per day including to a local health centre and maternity ward.
  • In India, we’ve completed 31 projects across 12 villages to replenish the water equivalent of almost 80 Olympic swimming pools. We’ve also delivered 24 community workshops to teach individuals how to use water more effectively and efficiently in their daily lives.
  • In North America we have made great progress reusing treated wastewater in cooling processes at our US Virgin Islands distillery, anticipating to save approximately 12 million gallons of water annually. We have also implemented several initiatives at our Plainfield, Illinois bottling site to significantly reduce water usage – 51 million liters less compared to the previous year.

Advocacy and collaboration are essential to our ambitions for water stewardship. We continue to encourage collective action as part of our engagement in the Water Resilience Coalition and achieved formal water stewardship certification from the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) on twelve of our distilleries this year in Scotland.

Understanding water’s full value to society and acting now, collectively, is critical to preserve this precious resource and build a resilient and sustainable future for all.

Further information

We are committed to pioneering grain-to-glass sustainability, and our goal to preserve water for life is a vital part of this.

Diageo's water targets