Does Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe believe that water is a human right?
Yes. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe thinks that water is a human right and that everyone, everywhere in the world, has the right to clean, safe water for drinking and sanitation.
But what does he mean when he says that water isn't 'free'?
Mr Brabeck supports the United Nations' view that ‘there is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people, but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed’.
According to UN Water, water scarcity already affects every continent. Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world's population, live in areas of physical water scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation.
Mr Brabeck has always argued that everyone should have free access to the water they need for drinking and sanitation, wherever they are in the world.
However, he does not believe it is fair that more than two billion people worldwide lack even a simple toilet, and more than one billion have no access to any kind of improved drinking source of water, while in other parts of the world people can use excess amounts of this precious and increasingly scarce resource for non-essential purposes, without bearing a cost for its infrastructure.
This is PR spin. Isn’t he just backtracking because people are criticising him online?
No. Mr Brabeck has been at the forefront of industry efforts to draw attention to water scarcity for years.
He has made his views on the subject clear in dozens of interviews, panel discussions and television programmes, including:
- 'Another inconvenient truth' (Opinion-editorial, New York Times, 2008)
- 'Water as a scarce resource' (Interview with McKinsey, 2009)
- 'The looming water shortage: Nestlé chief calls for more research as problem worsens' (Interview with Harvard Gazette, 2010)
- Peter Brabeck, Nestle Chairman, eyes looming world water crisis (Interview with Reuters, 2012)
- 'Nestlé's Peter Brabeck: our attitude towards water needs to change' (Interview with the Guardian, 2013)
- Nestlé’s Peter Brabeck-Letmathe discusses the future for water sustainability (Interview with CNBC, 2014)
- Nestlé Chairman warns water scarcity ‘more urgent’ than climate change (Interview with the Financial Times, 2014)
Mr Brabeck chairs the 2030 Water Resources Group, an innovative collaborative effort between business, government and civil society that looks for practical solutions to address water scarcity.
He is also the leader of the World Economic Forum Water Initiative, an influential public-private partnership that explores possible solutions to water scarcity and encourages stakeholder dialogue and collaboration.
Since 2012 he has led a water blog that aims to stimulate debate on the issue of water availability around the world. He regularly writes about his activities to drive the issue of water scarcity and access to water up the public policy agenda, such as advocating for universal access to safe drinking water by 2025 at the latest.
So why have some organisations started a petition against Nestlé?
People are using a video interview Mr Brabeck gave in 2005 to say that he thinks all water sources should be privatised. This is simply not true.
He is, and always has been, arguing for more efficient water management by individuals, industry, agriculture and governments.
Read more about how Nestlé supports the human right to water
Read our Commitment on Water Stewardship (pdf, 1Mb)
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