Water will run out before oil, warns Nestlé chairman

Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe has warned that the world's resource base will run out of water before oil, in an urgent call for action.

Speaking at the company’s recent Global Creating Shared Value Forum 2012 in New Delhi, India, Brabeck-Letmathe highlighted a pressing need to act on the worldwide water challenge.

“We will run out of water before we run out of oil,” he said. “We need more and more water for every calorie we produce. This is a problem.”

Brabeck-Letmathe’s warning builds on earlier comments he has made on the topic. Last March at the launch of the company’s Meeting the Global Water Challenge report, he spoke of the importance of local action to get to grips with the problem.

“Initiative has to be taken at local level by addressing specific issues on individual river basins. It has to be government driven and supported by a broad local public-private partnership,” he said.

It’s a view shared by the president of Third World Centre for Water Management, Asit Biswas, who was also speaking at the forum in New Delhi. He warned that water needs to have a price.

“In India, pumping of water for farmers is free. As a result they pump 24 hours a day whether they need water or not,” he told delegates.

One of the main global challenges is the availability of clean drinking water and it’s an area which Nestlé’s corporate business strategy, Creating Shared Value (CSV), aims to address.

The company has integrated CSV into each stage of its value chain from agriculture and rural development, through to delivering products to customers and disposing of waste.

While it is fundamentally about business opportunities, according to Brabeck-Letmathe, CSV can also help businesses contribute to social solutions.

“[CSV] be most effective when it stimulates creating thinking in all sectors across the globe. Its greatest force lies in the fact this is an open concept. Everyone can use it,” he said.

Maxine Perella

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