Cooperation can lead to more efficient and sustainable use of water resources


The United Nations General Assembly declared 22 March « World Water Day ». As we approach this worldwide event, how can companies like Danone move one step closer to solving the challenge of access to water?


Danone.communities has made tackling this issue its raison d’être by supporting 3 social businesses: Naandi Community Water Services in India, 1001 Fountains in Cambodia and Eco Alberto in Mexico. Created in 2007, danone.communities is an innovative financial tool for supporting the development of social business initiatives and is now a social business incubator.

Today, 1.2 billion people, 80% of whom live in rural areas, still lack access to safe drinking water.

This means that more people in the world have access to a cell phone (92%) than to safe drinking water (89%)! This has dramatic consequences: on health (2.4 million deaths are caused every year by diarrhoea), on economic development (each day, 200 million hours are spent collecting water), on education (children miss school because of water-related sicknesses), etc.

But to address this major issue, cooperation between social business and mainstream business is needed. A first step towards collaboration between danone.communities and Water Division happened in Mexico during a learning expedition involving around 50 participants: 3 social businesses, Veolia, and Danone Water division representatives from 3 countries: Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.


The aim of this Learning Expedition was to see the Eco Alberto project in the field and give project leaders of other social businesses the opportunity to reflect jointly on issues related to access to water. Eco Alberto was founded in 2011 by Xochitl Galvez. Today, the project brings filtered groundwater to 25,000 people from 32 indigenous communities in Hidalgo, one of Mexico’s most arid regions. Indigenous communities there rely primarily on small water sources, which are often polluted, and in some cases villagers have to walk nearly two hours to reach them. To achieve its goal, the project provides training and sustainable work to more than 200 indigenous women as distributors, and volunteers from Bonafont HOD Mexico provide health and nutrition coaching to people in the communities. Today, there are water stores in over 30 municipalities, and Eco Alberto has more than 25,000 beneficiaries.

The expedition was held against the inspiring backdrop of the Global Social Business Summit (GSBS), where Paco Camacho, VP of Danone’s Water Division, and Chairman of Danone’s Social Innovation Committee, gave a testimonial about why corporate organizations need to pursue social impact.

This 6th edition of the GSBS was held on 27 and 28 November 2014 in Mexico City, under the ambitious title: “Shaping Social Business to Shape the World of 2020.” Since 2009, this annual event has been bringing together “experts from private sectors, civil society, governments and academia for a few days of meetings, forums and workshops” centred on social business. During GSBS 2014, danone.communities, Bonafont and Danone’s Water Sustainability teams organised a learning expedition to highlight how social business can help tackle a crucial challenge for development: access to water.

During the GSBS, Paco Camacho, VP of Danone’s Water Division, member of Danone’s Executive Committee and Chairman of Danone’s Social Innovation Committee, shared his views on access to water programmes. “If I look at the impact of El Alberto, I see a sustainable way to address a basic fundamental need; a fantastic way to attract young talents, motivate our Danone people, make them proud and have them develop new competencies; and a company, Bonafont, that is deeply involved in its ecosystem and bonding with local communities.” Today, El Alberto, Naandi Community Water Services and 1001 Fountains are impacting 700,000 people, with a promising business model close to breaking even. This success paves the road to the future of social business at Danone: “Our ambition now is very clear. We want to make more of these kinds of projects, we want to grow the existing ones, using the learning to leverage Danone, and we hope other partners will join us to bring bigger impact quicker.” Access to water is one of the fields where social business can help shape a better future, and Danone, notably through danone.communities, will continue to provide strong support.

Watch the video here

Danone.communities’ radio at the Global Social Business Summit

During the GSBS, danone.communities produced three daily radio shows focusing on access to water. The homemade shows were a success, with 2,600 people following each show.

Interviewees included:
> Anoop Ratnaker Rao, CEO of Naandi
> François Jaquenoud, Co-Founder of 1001 Fountains
> Julien Ancèle, a strategy consultant at Accenture
> Benoît Ringot, from Innove Veolia
> Diego Durazo, from the Danone Ecosystem Fund for Latin America
> José Cano, General Manager of Bonafont

To listen to the podcast of the 3 radio shows, tune in here!

Photos © Maria Gomez / Danone Communities

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