Posted tagged ‘dan bena’

“Outstanding” response to PepsiCo acceptance of the human right to water

November 12, 2009

Dan Bena 2009

Dan Bena, is currently the Director of Sustainability, Health, Safety, and Environment for the international division of PepsiCo. He is also the opening keynote speaker at next month’s Corporate Water Footprinting conference in San Francisco. PepsiCo is one of the first, and probably the largest, companies to make an explicit commitment to the human right to water. In this pre-conference, 60-second interview he gives some details of the strategy and its place within a more comprehensive sustainability strategy.

GPC: Why has PepsiCo made a commitment to respect a “human right to water”?

DB: We worked with an NGO to commit to support water as a basic human right in the context of the UN/WHO document on the topic.  We believe intuitively that water is a human right, so we agreed on the elements of our commitment, and thought it was important to make this public.  By making it public, we hoped to raise awareness, and also bring other companies along to build momentum.  The elements of our recognition of water as a fundamental human right include safety, sufficiency, acceptability, physical accessibility, and affordability.

GPC:What operational issues does this create?

DB: I wouldn’t call them “issues” because they really aren’t.  They are merely challenges which are understandable at the start of any such journey, and challenges which can be overcome.  We believe that we have been satisfying many of the elements, to varying degree, all along in our daily operations.  The challenge is formalizing the process, and making it systemic.  This is where the journey will lead.  We are better at some elements than others, and need to make sure that we excel in all elements, to assure that our commitment is real.

GPC: What has been the response to this from your peers and from the NGO community? 

DB: In a word, outstanding.  When we presented this on a panel in Stockholm during World Water Week in August, the reaction was uniformly positive…from peers, NGOs, and other stakeholders.  They applaud this public recognition for a company of PepsiCo’s size and reach, since it brings immediate attention and awareness to the global issues, and to the potential global solutions.  Everyone is quick to point out, though, that this is clearly a first step, and we will need to report our progress transparently all along the journey.         

GPC: What are the main barriers to effective water stewardship across such a large organisation?

DB: Three main challenges: 

(1) Going beyond the proverbial “low hanging fruit.”  Usually, when you begin a water conservation program, there are easy wins.  Things that can be done economically, which result in significant water savings.  Once those are implemented, however, to continuously improve might require more innovative approaches, capital expenditure, or technology development. 

(2) Nothing exists in a vacuum…so another challenge is balancing the overall eco-footprint of our facilities.  We must be mindful that by saving water, we might, in fact be using more energy (and therefore more emissions). 

(3) Engaging our global supply chain in our water stewardship journey.  Our supply chain is huge, diverse, and complex, but also represents tremendous opportunity for not only water stewardship but also overall environmental stewardship.

GPC: What do you hope to hear from your fellow presenters and delegates at the conference?

DB: I would like to hear that we are all aligned on the objectives–ultimately doing our part to help mitigate the global water crises, and doing it together–collaboratively.