Reducing the water footprint of our dairy products

Location: Colombia

Impact Area

  • Nutrition
  • Water
  • Rural Development
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Compliance
  • Community engagement
  • Gender balance & diversity
Jul 3, 2015, updated July 2015

Reducing the water footprint of our dairy products
WATER USE HOTSPOTS:A majority of water consumption takes place at the dairy farm level.

With over 70% of the world’s available fresh water supplies used to grow food, the food and beverage industry is in a strong position to influence regional improvements in global water stewardship.

Industry leaders have already achieved significant advances in sustainable water management in their operations; but focus must be extended ‘outside of the factory gates’, where farmers are often the biggest users of water and may represent the key stakeholders in a catchment.

Programme description

Since 2010, Nestlé has been part of a public–private partnership in Colombia, with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, to apply the Water Footprint concept and methodology on dairy farms and at Nestlé production plants.

The initiative was designed to improve water use awareness, efficiency and water pollution control. It features four Swiss and seven local companies active in Colombia, along with research institutions.

The project goal has been to identify water use hotspots in the life cycle of dairy products, and to implement the necessary measures to reduce the water footprint. Water consumption was evaluated for the production of 1 ton of dairy product (powdered milk, milk cream and condensed milk), from farms to the final product.

The results showed that 60% of the water impact takes place at the dairy farm level.  At the factory level, the hotspots of water consumption were mostly related to energy consumption. Every partner in the project committed to implement water footprint reduction measures and monitor progress.

Following the results, Nestlé Colombia has taken various actions such as:

  • Water spring protection and reforestation;
  • Waste management within 93 dairy farms;
  • Water culture programmes and drinking water purification for eight rural schools;
  • Leak control, installation of a steam recycling system and standardised practices and procedures for production and cleansing in both our Florencia and Bugalagrande plants.

Value to Society

Every year, Nestlé works directly with around 695 000 farmers, providing a wide range of support, from drought-resistant plantlets, to sharing information about agricultural methods that maintain a strong crop yield, while using less water. Our sphere of influence touches millions more suppliers through the commodities we purchase, such as coffee, cocoa, milk and paper for our packaging.

We estimate that around 65 billion m3 of water is consumed by the agricultural goods we use in our products (94% from rainwater and 6% from irrigation). Engaging with our suppliers, especially those in agriculture and forestry, is therefore critical to achieving water security and to meet our water stewardship commitments.

Value to Nestlé

As a result of the partnership, from 2009 to 2013, the water extracted per ton of dairy product in the Florencia plant was reduced by 44%, while electricity consumption decreased by 28%.

Next Steps

Through local partnerships, as well as the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative at Nestlé (SAIN), we continue our work with our suppliers to implement sustainable water management in their operations.