Access to safe, affordable and reliable water, sanitation and hygiene (known as WASH) are basic human rights.
As a company which operates globally, we are able to use our size and reach to help ensure that people in the agricultural communities that supply us - and the vulnerable communities that may surround them - can access clean water and sanitation.
Nestlé is committed to protecting these rights, which are innately linked to leading healthy lives, eradicating poverty, building peaceful societies and maintaining people's dignity. The importance of this has been reinforced during the COVID-19 pandemic, where access to water, sanitation and hygiene - and spreading knowledge about why that is important - can mean the difference between life and death.
Improving access to clean water
Demonstrating a clear commitment
Our position on access to water, sanitation and hygiene is clear: wherever we operate, access to drinking water in the community must have priority over the activities of the company. That means the basic human rights of local people and the needs of its ecosystem must be met before water can be used for agricultural and industrial use. We call this water 'stewardship' - that is, having a sensible, sensitive and ethical approach to the use of and access to water.
To make sure our initiatives have the most positive impact, we involve local communities on potential changes to water in their area and audit every factory on the strength of these community relations every year. Crucially, we also directly invest in facilities to improve access to water. We measure the potential performance of any proposed water schemes against strict criteria, including environmental impact, accessibility, quality and affordability.
A coordinated, global approach to water
Our approach to how our workers and their communities access water, and how our operations respect and support the human rights to water and sanitation, is governed by a set of guidelines created by Nestlé in 2016. These practical procedures help our factories and suppliers distinguish between low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk markets, based on the proportion of people in their communities lacking access to clean water. They also give guidance to factories on how to assess their impact and contribution to alleviating any problems. These rules ensure we uphold UN guidance on the issue.
Involving local communities in our decisions
For some years Nestlé has used a precise working methodology to help us identify who we should engage when we are considering new water, sanitation and hygiene schemes, whether they are planned for our operations, workers or their communities. This was updated in 2019 to ensure that people in communities that have the most difficulty in accessing clean water can play an active part in changes that can affect them.
Some of our actions
Supporting Kenyan communities during COVID-19
In Kenya, our work with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Kenya Red Cross Society has helped improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene. A portion of our donation financed the installation of a solar-powered water pumping system and water storage and distribution facilities in Samburu County. We also spread educational messages emphasizing the importance of handwashing during the pandemic.
Installing clean water for people in Egypt
In Benha, Egypt, home to one of our bottling facilities, a nearby village of 27 000 people was lacking much-needed access to clean water. In consultation with the community we worked to help address the issue, replacing an old water storage tank with a new, bigger one and improving the pumping efficiency of the existing well. We also installed a new filtration system and expanded piping so that more people could have clean running water in their homes.
Clean water and sanitation in Pakistan
In Pakistan, which ranks fourth highest in the world in terms of water use but which faces acute water shortages, we have invested to give the communities which surround our operations access to clean water and sanitation. We are proud that 60 000 people here can access clean drinking water every day from six such facilities we have constructed across the country.