Fascinating profile of Peter Brabeck, Chair of Nestlé, and his crusade for world-wide water conservation and water sustainability. Especially fascinating since Nestlé’s water bottling approach has often gotten the company in trouble with water rights and environmental activists, and has occasionally brought it to court. (In my eighth book, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green, I discuss Nestlé being hauled into court in Canada by green activists, on greenwashing/misleading advertising charges.)
These days, Brabeck is saying that 5 liters of water to drink, and 25 for other personal needs, should be the daily right of every human being. But he also says that direct human consumption is the smallest portion of water consumed by humans—just 1.5 percent. The energy and agriculture sectors use far more (and he didn’t even discuss industry in general). He is particularly troubled by “unconventional oil” (such as tar sands), which he says consumes up to 6 liters of water for every liter of fuel, compared with just a tenth of a liter to produce a liter of oil conventionally. Water conservation, he says, is essential—and thus we shouldn’t be using those water-hogging technologies. Of course, there are MANY other environmental arguments against tar-sands oil, in addition to water conservation!
And he notes that when he was born 68 years ago, the world had 2.7 billion people and stayed well within its water budget, using only 40 percent of the renewable water. But now, with 7 billion people on the planet, we’re already exceeding what the planet can renew—and we’re heading to 10 billion.
Note: just because in our daily lives our water consumption far less than what industry and agriculture use, please don’t take that as a license to squander. As individuals, we still have a responsibility to be frugal with the world’s water. Even something as simple as brushing our teeth can be done with about 95 percent less water, just by not letting the water run the whole time—voila, instant water conservation. Wet the brush, turn off the water, repeat as necessary. Use the same principle when washing hands, washing dishes, etc. And when it makes sense (as it does in most of the US, Canada, and Europe), use filtered tap water instead of bottled water. Many people don’t realize how much water consumption is involved in the bottling process—wasting,often, up to three times as much water as actually goes in the bottle.
Go ahead and read the interview. If you’re skeptical about Nestlé, that’s OK. So am I. But I think there’s a lot of wisdom in Brabeck’s thinking, and a wake-up call to the world.