Pollution, waste and poor management leaves one in eight people lacking access to safe water, according to the United Nations. PepsiCo finds that statistic unacceptable.
Its latest philanthropic initiative is targeting India, where PepsiCo achieved a "positive water balance" in 2009, giving back to communities more water than it consumed in its manufacturing processes, a significant milestone in its growing water stewardship by implementing sustainable water initiatives, reducing wasteful water use and recycling where possible, in addition to other measures.
Increasing that commitment, PepsiCo just announced an $8 million donation to Water.org, the non-profit co-founded by actor/activist Matt Damon, to be used for micro-loans with a goal of providing 800,000 Indian families safe water by 2016.
The WaterCredit model enables the poorest of the poor to tap into existing water lines, avoiding hours of lost employment spent waiting to buy water at hefty prices. U.S. beverage companies are increasingly involved in water initiatives since criticism of polluting and depleting local water supplies in India for business was levied against them in 2000.
PepsiCo has pledged nearly $34 million since 2005 on water-related programs in developing countries as well as cutting its own usage by switching to air cleaning of bottles in its plants and aiding farmers in direct seeding rather than flood irrigation.
Since agriculture accounts for the bulk of water consumption worldwide and India is one of PepsiCo’s fastest-growing regions, WaterCredit is a savvy business and social decision.
Water stewardship is central to the company’s Performance with Purpose mission. "Water is an integral part of PepsiCo's business ecosystem, and ensuring access to clean, reliable sources of water is vital to the health and livelihood of communities around the world," stated Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo.
"It's so critical when you look at our business," said Dan Bena, head of sustainable development for PepsiCo. "We believe that if you can help people out at or near the bottom of the pyramid, if we can help them develop their access to resources, they will lift out of poverty.”
Star power like Damon can only help raise visibility. "There will never be enough charity in the world to solve this problem. What we need to do is double down on smart solutions like WaterCredit which can rapidly scale safe water and sanitation access for families that are in desperate need right now," said Damon. "In the U.S., we have the luxury to debate and plan for water shortages and investments in our infrastructure. For billions, this is a daily nightmare and fight for survival.”
PepsiCo is ranked number one in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes Food and Beverage Supersector, leading the sector for three consecutive years, and rose to #22 on Interbrand's Best Global Brands this year.
This $8 million donation, by the way, marks the largest contribution in the PepsiCo Foundation’s 50-year history. Kudos to a corporate citizen for applying its resources to a fundamental human right.