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Spotlight on CPG Environmental Successes: Water

August 11, 2016

By: Meghan Stasz, Senior Director, Sustainability

The availability, use, and quality of water is becoming a top sustainability priority, due to events like the record drought in California and quality issues in watersheds.

GMA’s 2016 Environmental Success Stories in the Consumer Products Industry report which highlights the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector as a leader in water use and efficiency. Food and household products companies are finding ways to be even better stewards of the watersheds in which they operate.

Examples of best practices in the report will be featured at the FMI-GMA Global Sustainability Summit this week, including several sessions on water risk and sustainability.

Water is necessary to grow the ingredients that go into CPG products and also in manufacturing to clean and cool equipment, in distribution, and in consumer use. Recognizing the importance of this vital resource, the CPG sector is working throughout the supply chain and in operations to conserve water and maintain or improve quality.

Companies are finding innovative ways to recapture and use water in their own operations. Nestle USA, for instance, operates several facilities in California, a state facing a historic drought. The company’s milk plant in Modesto is undergoing a transformation into a ‘zero-water’ facility this year that will save about 63 million gallons of water annually. The plant is modeled on a successful dairy plant the company operates in Mexico, another water stressed region. In that facility, no local freshwater is used in operations. Instead, water extracted from milk is used to manufacture dairy products, helping to minimize the company’s environmental footprint.

Overall reduction of water use is another strategy being put into practice. Cargill Inc., has reduced water use at a beef plant in Friona, Texas by nearly 25 percent over six years, saving 150 million gallons per year of this critical resource per year. The plant was the only manufacturing facility to win the Texas Water Foundation’s Blue Legacy Award in 2015.

Collaboration also plays a role in protecting water. The Kellogg Company formed a partnership with an organization called Field to Market to help maintain water quality and provide farmers in the U.S. with tools to measure inputs such as water and fertilizer use on key commodity crops. This measurement tool helps farmers reduce inputs while still increasing yield, a key factor in both meeting consumer demand for safe affordable food and reducing the company’s environmental footprint.

Water is critical and the CPG industry is a leading steward of this natural resource far beyond the four walls of manufacturing facilities. In fact, according to a 2015 report by the nonprofit CDP, over 70 percent of CPG companies reported conducting a water assessment that includes both immediate operations and the company’s supply chain – a commitment well above other sectors.

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