World Water Day: Water Stewardship is Not Just a Drop in the Bucket for Keurig Green Mountain

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World Water Day: Water Stewardship is Not Just a Drop in the Bucket for Keurig Green Mountain

By Monique Oxender, Chief Sustainability Officer, Keurig Green Mountain, Inc.

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Friday, March 20, 2015 - 9:25am


Over the last several years, extreme climate changes have impacted rainfall patterns and water availability, intensifying the global water crisis and leading to food shortages in many parts of the world. It is estimated that 780 million people lack access to clean water, while another 2.5 billion lack access to basic water sanitation, according to a 2012 report by WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. And while availability of clean water is a global issue, we also see increasing instances of water challenges in the United States where water is a resource that has often been taken for granted. 

As World Water Day approaches this Sunday, March 22nd, it is an important reminder for companies and individuals alike to consider these alarming, interconnected trends. It serves as a moment in time to step back and reexamine both the efficiency of resource use as well as access to water resources for both natural and community uses. 

As a beverage system company, we at Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. (Keurig) know water is a fundamental input to our business – whether through the rainwater that feeds crops like coffee, or the local surface and groundwater used by consumers in creating our beverages. We accept the social and environmental imperative of this challenge, and we recognize that it also makes good business sense. 

Keurig’s Water Stewardship Approach

In 2014, Keurig conducted a comprehensive water footprint of the creation and use of our coffee system to understand the impact and identify areas for water use efficiency and reduction. The review validated that Keurig is not a large direct consumer of water. 

However, water is essential to produce each Keurig® brewed beverage – an estimated 370 million gallons of beverages annually (and growing). Keurig® brewers actually help consumers use water efficiently; drawing only enough water to make the amount of coffee, tea or other beverage that will be consumed. Water also is required to grow the raw ingredients that go into our beverages, and thus is critical to the livelihoods of coffee farmers and other suppliers. 

Based on these understandings, we’ve defined our water stewardship approach in three action areas: 

Optimize use of water through efficiency in our operations and supply chain

Connect people to clean water sources, including our employees, communities and customers 

Balance the water volume of all of our beverages, ounce for ounce, through projects that restore an equal volume of water for natural and community uses by 2020 

Commitment from the Top Down

Collaboration between and among companies for common sustainability goals is quickly becoming the industry standard, where more and more companies are putting competitive interests and differences aside in order to solve complex, global sustainability challenges.   

Water is no exception. Keurig has unique expertise in building partnerships because our multi-brand business model fundamentally depends on collaboration. In 2015, our CEO Brian Kelley signed on to the CEO Water Mandate, a unique public-private initiative of the United Nations Global Compact. We join business leaders from a variety of sectors committing to address the global water crisis and to take collective action to strengthen stewardship impact.   

In that same spirit of joining forces to accelerate action and amplify impact, we hosted our first water stewardship summit in 2014 – CURRENT:  Collaborating for a Water-Secure World. This summit offered a platform for an open exchange of ideas and dialogue on water stewardship between more than 130 leaders in the private, public and NGO sectors. Due to the successful dialogue at CURRENT and the potential to serve as a catalyst for action within and beyond our network, we plan to host a second summit in September 2015.

Restoring Water in our Own Backyard and Abroad

In our home state of Vermont, we are investing up to $5 million over the next five years in water quality improvements, another catalytic action which will be matched by other funders. Vermont will be a testing ground – and hopefully serve as a replicable model for other watersheds – for innovative public-private partnerships. We are working closely with state officials, the University of Vermont, LimnoTech and others to identify opportunities to reduce phosphorus runoff impacts on Lake Champlain from both agricultural and urban development, while demonstrating and sharing new technologies for water quality improvement. These efforts will contribute to clean water in our local Vermont community and help us work toward our target to balance Keurig’s water use.

Our interest and investment in water extends beyond local water conservation to water security and ecosystem resilience in our global community. The livelihood of our coffee growing communities depends upon water to grow coffee and food to feed their families. 

Recognizing that we could not separate the issue of water shortages from other issues that our coffee farmers face (including climate change and food security), we decided in 2014 to integrate water stewardship into our 2020 supply chain livelihood target, aiming to engage 1 million people in our supply chains to significantly improve their livelihoods including water security and climate resilience. 

In our fiscal 2014, we invested more than $11 million in water partnerships with nonprofits like charity: water, the Global Water Initiative and American Rivers, who are working to address water access, conservation and watershed restoration. For instance, we funded a three-year project that will help to improve access to water for more than 150,000 people in seven Central American target areas where we source our coffee. 

On this World Water Day, we know we are just beginning our journey as water stewards and are doing so by linking this work to our long history of community engagement for resilience both where we operate and where we source. We look forward to continuing our sustainability journey, catalyzing action with new and existing partners every step of the way.

To learn more about Keurig’s water stewardship efforts, visit the company’s 2014 Sustainability Report

Keywords: Environment & Climate Change | Business & Trade | CSR Reports | Keurig Green Mountain | Reports | Water Conservation | sustainability | world water day