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Access to clean water

Water is an essential ingredient for all our brands. Our responsibility to water is not simply in our operations but in providing clean water to our local communities that need it – particularly in Africa and increasingly in Asia.

Our approach

While water is a global necessity, water supplies are more stressed in some places than in others. Water stress occurs when annual water supplies drop below 1,700m3 per person. When supplies drop below 1,000 m3 per person per year, a country faces water scarcity for all or part of the year (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs definition).

Twelve of Diageo's wholly-owned sites are currently classified as water-stressed, all in Africa, representing 60% of our operations in the continent. Within our operations, we are working to reduce water use around the globe, but place particular emphasis on stewardship in water-stressed sites.

However, even communities that are not water-stressed may have restricted access to clean water given the limitations of local infrastructure. This is equally concerning to us because it affects health and livelihoods.

We therefore have a multi-faceted approach to water, set out in our Blueprint Water Framework. It covers aspirations that we have for our own operations, the provision of clean water to communities and how we are working collectively to address water issues. You can read about water management in our operations in our water and environment section.

Water of Life

Clean water is essential for sustainable development because it contributes to better health and levels of education, and helps reduce poverty. Our Water of Life programme (WOL) aims to provide access to safe drinking water where it really counts - to communities, families and individuals. Since June 2006, we have supported over 200 WOL projects in 16 countries, mostly in Africa, supporting a range of initiatives including boreholes, hand-dug wells, rainwater harvesting and domestic filtration devices. In the past year, this has benefited about 1 million people. Our aim is to deliver clean and safe water across Africa for an additional 1 million people every year to 2015.

Most of our projects are co-founded with other organisations to ensure a better degree of sustainability or to leverage local knowledge and expertise, whether it's Ecotact, an award-winning social enterprise building sanitation blocks in Kenya, or Coca-Cola, our partner for the Safe Water in Africa initiative that helps communities purify and disinfect contaminated water.

To estimate the number of people who benefit from our programmes, we aim to assess the following criteria. Each beneficiary should:

  • Live within 2km of the water source, or 500m if in an urban area
  • Be able to get his or her water from:
    • Piped water into a dwelling, plot or yard
    • A public tap / standpipe
    • A tube well / borehole
    • A protected dug well
    • A protected spring
    • Rainwater collection
    • Water filtration and purification.

To help ensure this programme achieves its goals, we are continuing to improve the quality of data we collect on WOL beneficiaries.

As well as providing access to clean water, the projects we support have a variety of goals to maximise their impact on economic development and health. For example, they aim to:

  • Combine safe water with sanitation - we're helping to eradicate Guinea worm in Ghana, a debilitating disease that is transmitted through unfiltered water. The Diageo Foundation and Guinness Ghana Breweries funded two small town water systems bringing clean and safe drinking water to over 5,000 people. The initiative also trained and employed two caretakers to manage the new water facilities.
  • Educate community on good hygiene and sanitation - read about our partnership with social enterprise Ecotact which builds and improves water and sanitation blocks for the urban poor in Kenya.
  • Develop people's skills and communities' ownership of projects - for example our work in Cameroon has trained the local community in Ntembang to repair, maintain and improve their clean drinking water supply.
  • Be self-financing, to ensure the upkeep of equipment and technology - read about our Safe Water for Africa initiative in partnership with the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and WaterHealth International.

WOL in Malaysia and China

Although most of our WOL projects are in Africa, we have also launched projects in Asia. Since 2007, the Diageo China WOL Project has been improving the safety of drinking water for residents in impoverished areas and protecting water resources. In 2011, employees travelled to Sichuan - Huilan Town Ziyang City - and invested over £30,000 to build 100 local wells that bring safe drinking water to villagers.

Similarly, in Malaysia, we invested £50,000 in a roaming interactive mobile education centre designed to teach communities about the importance of urban river conservation. Launched in 2011, it educated 400 people about their local water source and has helped to improve water quality in the local waterways.

In Vietnam's Ninh Thuan province, almost 20,000 community members and school children now have improved access to sustainable, clean drinking water, following Diageo's partnership with East Meets West Foundation to build water filtration systems and hygienic lavatories at local schools.

Reporting frameworks in this section

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