For Danone, this is an issue of overriding importance. The company’s mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible obviously includes hydration in its Water division. Water is also one of Danone’s priorities in its environmental strategy called “Nature” focused on four aspects: packaging, sustainable agriculture, climate and water. Within its Water Division and the projects supported by its social innovation platforms, Danone works to protect water resources as well as to guarantee a better access to them: a commitment illustrated by the Pasuruan project in Indonesia, supported by the Danone Ecosystem Fund, which we have decided to highlight for the 2017 World Water Day.
Protecting the Rejoso basin
The Rejoso basin on the island of Java is home to the second-biggest factory of Danone Aqua, the leading bottled water brand in Indonesia. But for several years now, the resource has been diminishing. Between 2007 and 2013, the flow from the Umbulan spring, which is supplied by the basin, fell by 17%, and the quality of the resource is itself threatened by pollution from agricultural inputs. This is partly due to non-sustainable farming practices and the boring carried out by farmers in the water-bearing layer, which causes leaks and makes the basin more vulnerable to pollution. As well as all this, the basin is facing “increasingly heavy demand from many users, around 75% being farmers, private companies and local communities. There is also a public/private sector partnership aiming to route water from the basin to Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-biggest city. So demand is about to soar, and will potentially over-exploit the basin,” says Jehanne Fabre, Danone’s Water Stewardship Manager.
For Danone, there is obviously a business issue at stake: “We need to set up water resource protection measures” to “guarantee the integrated management of the resource, ensuring its sustainability for all the users on the long run.” Because the stakeholders on the edge of the Rejoso basin are both numerous and varied, a partnership will ensure that this goal is met. In 2017, the NGO The Nature Conservancy, the Danone Ecosystem Fund and the Danone subsidiary in Indonesia joined forces around this project to “develop new basin protection models, by sharing risks and pooling their skills,” says Jehanne Fabre.
The Danone Ecosystem Fund, dedicated to general interest projects with a positive environmental, social and economic impact, is financing all the project’s pre-feasibility studies to ensure a scientific-based approach and that the actions implemented will lead to significant restoration of the basin.
A partnership to share risks and skills and design innovative solutions
The partners decided to create a Water Fund a written agreement laying down the three mechanisms required to ensure the long-term protection of basins: “the stakeholders’ investment in a fund, the creation of a governance system for deciding on protective actions, and then the roll-out of these actions” explains Jehanne Fabre.
The first stage of the project involves getting a clear picture of the issue. “We need to have an overall view of the resource, who uses it, and so on. We are carrying out a large number of in-depth studies on the water cycle to guarantee that the activities introduced will preserve the basin in the long-term.” Various partnerships have thus been created: with the local NGO SII Foundation, to “map” the stakeholders, and with the Universities of Montpellier in France and Gadhja Mada in Indonesia to carry out hydrological studies. These data will then make it possible to “draft a communication and engagement strategy with all the stakeholders.”
The second stage involves pinpointing the actions to be carried out. These are not yet entirely finalized, but Jehanne Fabre gives us a few examples, which include “carrying out reforestation operations beforehand to improve the infiltration of water, helping farmers to adopt less intensive and more sustainable farming practices, or encouraging less water-greedy irrigation techniques.” The idea is to preserve the quality and quantity of the water available in the basin in an approach that factors in all stages of the water cycle. “We are working on upstream agricultural activities, the protection of the basin — including the protection of biodiversity — and on access to water for communities living in the basin. At Danone, we have also made a commitment to reduce our water consumption by recycling, reusing and retreating the water we use in our industrial processes. It’s a holistic approach.”
The aim of the Pasuruan project is thus to benefit 100,000 people indirectly, and the first actions should be rolled out in 2018. Jehanne Fabre sums up the mission of this new project supported by the Danone Ecosystem Fund as follows: “Basins are facing several risks. We need to reduce those risks to guarantee the availability of the water resource, so critical for nature, local communities and sustainable economic activities.”