World Water Day: Valuing water

This World Water Day, Kavita Kalicharran, Group Environmental Sustainability Manager at Tiger Brands, reflects on the complex value that water plays in our everyday lives and how we can better manage this irreplaceable natural resource. 

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 is about ensuring clean water and sanitation for all. The SDG 6 also outlines why business action on water matters, by providing explicit targets. Water is integral to life – within our households and work environment, in maintaining our health, and as part of our food, culture and beliefs. Most importantly, water sustains our natural environment. Yet, we so easily take water supply for granted.

While water has been commoditised in our economies, as such we must consider its long-term sustainability, so as to never face water insecurity. The 2018-2019 drought made this threat real, especially as it affected some of our operations and the farmers who supply us with fresh produce. Despite the abundance of rain we’ve had this season, climate change is gradually changing the location of large-scale climate systems that influence rainfall, thus making the future unpredictable. Tiger Brands is cognisant of this risk and continues to explore how it can use information about rainfall patterns to inform effective adaptation measures and various activities that are dependent on rainfall seasonality.

As the country’s largest food manufacturer, 95% of our manufacturing facilities are certified against the ISO 14 001: 2015 global standard for environmental management. Tiger Brands uses a combination of municipal, borehole and harvested rainwater for its manufacturing processes and operational use. We diligently track, monitor and report on our water withdrawals, discharge and consumption. Our operations continuously monitor and manage discharged water to assure compliance with municipal by-laws and that we do not negatively impact the environment and surrounding communities. In our operations where we treat our water to a reusable level, it is redirected for activities such as watering gardens, flushing toilets, cleaning delivery trucks and our grounds.

Each of our 38 manufacturing facilities has an on-site team of risk managers, plant managers and engineering personnel who oversee the environmental sustainability and safety strategic thrust of each plant. They identify water-saving initiatives in line with water use efficiency, reduction in water consumption and flow into the effluent stream.

Some initiatives undertaken to date include: the integration of water availability and quality into our risk assessments, as well as the exploration of circular economy techniques and discharging waste-water for other organisational use.

In line with our group sustainability strategy, capability building is critical to our environmental strategy execution. We partner with industry experts when undertaking facility assessments to identify and define water-saving opportunities. Tiger Brands regularly conducts benchmarking activities with our suppliers during environmental awareness campaigns because as a responsible corporate citizen, Tiger Brands is committed to being forward-looking in terms of resource management.