PepsiCo achieves water efficiency target two years ahead of deadline

Pictured: Sean Power, sustainability manager at PepsiCo South Africa

The business had endeavored to improve water-use efficiency in facilities in areas considered to be at a high water risk by 25% between 2015 and 2025. It announced late last week that this target was achieved in 2023 – two years ahead of schedule.

PepsiCo has attributed the progress to a mix of process changes and investment in cutting-edge technologies.

On the former, it monitored water use during the potato-washing process used at some snack manufacturing plants in water-stressed areas and altered processes to deliver water efficiencies at zero cost. Similar changes are now set to be scaled across the corn washing process. Once used across more than 100 global manufacturing lines – a scale PepsiCo hopes to achieve within 12 months – there is the potential for 640 million litres of water savings annually.

Recapturing and reprocessing water has been another focus for PepsiCo. It has implemented technology at sites across India, Thailand, Mexico and Poland which captures the vapour released by potatoes during the cooking process and converts it into drinking-quality water.

Manufacturing sites can save up to 60 million litres of water annually by using this technology.

PepsiCo has also invested in other onsite water purification and reuse technologies. Its focus so far has been on membrane bioreactors, which are used by many water utilities at wastewater treatment plants.

PepsiCo’s chief sustainability officer Jim Andrew said that while he is “proud” of meeting the 2025 goal ahead of schedule, his team “will continue its unyielding focus on meeting the company’s 2030 ambitions”.

The firm has a headline ambition to achieve a net-positive impact on water systems in the areas it operates this decade. This will involve increasing water efficiency to industry-leading standards at all sites, plus replenishing back into each local watershed more than the equivalent of water used. In 2022, PepsiCo replenished 45% of the water it used, for context.

The news from PepsiCo was made to mark World Water Day – an annual observance day spearheaded by the UN, bringing attention to the pressing challenges facing the world’s water system, including the climate crisis.

edie’s Business Guide to Water Efficiency 

Water is quickly becoming an under-appreciated part of sustainable business. While many are focused on reducing carbon footprints, more work is taking place behind the scenes to ensure that businesses respond to growing water scarcity by promoting sustainable water usage.

So, what exactly does this mean in the context of corporate sustainability, and – crucially – how can businesses reduce water use and increase efficiencies in ways which cut costs and carbon?

edie’s new Business Guide to Water Efficiency, produced in association with Waterscan, provides a much-needed breakdown of how organisations can embed water efficiency into their sustainability strategy and minimise water use across the business and value chain. Click here to access your copy of this free-to-download guide.

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