Olam International, a leading global processor of food ingredients with agricultural projects in Africa, has publicly endorsed the c-e-o water mandate of the u-n global compact. The mandate is a public-private initiative that helps companies develop and implement sustainable water policies and practices. The announcement came as the world observed World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden.
Olam International said the supply, quality and reliability of water resources are under pressure and the need to adapt to the impact of climate change is increasing.
The signing of the mandate underscores the company’s commitment to vigorously and publicly address global water issues regarding agriculture and food supply.
“If you reflect that water when you look at it as a hundred per cent value, 97-percent of water would be regarded as salty ocean water, two per cent is actually frozen, so we’re left with a one per cent marker of water basically for consumption and use in agriculture,” explained Chris Brett, Olam’s head of sustainability, who added, “and we split that one per cent, we get to point seven per cent for agriculture, just point three per cent is fresh water for basically human consumption.”
Given this he stressed that water is a key issue for them when they see the way people are going to compete for water in the future. As a result the company made a public commitment to use water in more resourceful ways.
“Making that commitment is not just a driver for change internally, or a driver for respect in use of water, as a resource, but it is also to communicate to all of our partners how serious we take water on the agenda,” said Brett.
He gave an example of success that they were having with irrigation going into their vegetable supply chains in California. The method of irrigation that decreases the use of water is called more crop per drop. It proved to be such a success that it was applied to other Olam operations.
“For example we are now undertaking irrigation of rice, and irrigation of coffee plantations in places like Tanzania and Zambia. As a global company we are transferring learning,” noted Brett.
The sustainability expert said over the last two years Olam has been measuring its water footprint and communicating that measurement to the public.
He added as a leader in addressing the challenges of water supply, they hope others will follow them in the pursuit of water rationalization and use in agriculture.