Water scarcity is recognized by the World Economic Forum as the largest global risk in terms of potential impact for both humanity and the environment. Growing populations and economies as well as global climate changes have provoked an increase in demand, competition and disputes over fresh water resources.
Water restrictions are currently in place in many countries around the world in response to chronic shortages or insufficiency in freshwater availability. Overexploitation, pollution and general mismanagement of the water resource are leading to an increase in stressed water environments which, according to the United Nations Water Agency, will be housing approximately 6 billion people in the following decade.
The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) is an international standard, the respect of which is recognized through a certification, aimed at implementing and driving a sustainable water governance at local and regional scale through the development of a global network of so-called water stewards. The list of world-wide water stewards certified AWS includes Coca-Cola, Philip Morris International and Nestlé. The INOGEN International Environmental Alliance and hydrogeological consultants Denkstatt (Vienna) and HPC (Frankfurt and Milano) have prepared numerous companies for AWS certification and are aiming to achieve a global leadership position as AWS Experts.
Theory of Change
Long-term commitment and change in terms of water management and sustainability is an action that faces every one of us. Many multinational companies and activities are currently looking into AWS certification as its implementation brings numerous demonstrable changes and benefits.
Apart from addressing a company’s water challenges and decreasing its water footprint, that is the amount of consumed and/or polluted water, AWS looks out for the territory in which the company itself is located. This is done by gathering catchment-level data on water balance, water-related risks and status of the sensitive environments present.
Philip Morris International (here forward PMI) has always adopted ambitious sustainability initiatives and actions as part of their business strategy. With support of the INOGEN International Environmental Alliance and hydrogeological consultants Denkstatt (Vienna) and HPC (Frankfurt and Milano), PMI has implemented from 2017 the AWS Standard with the aim to certify all facilities by 2025. PMI’s first to be certified in 2018 was the Brazilian facility, followed by the Portuguese affiliate Tabaqueira and the Turkish affiliate Philisa in 2019. The Italian affiliate of Crespellano, constructed in 2016 and known as Philip Morris Manufactory and Tecnology Bologna (here forward MTB), was certified in June 2019 as the first ever RRP facility and second company in Italy.
The Six-step wheel
The MTB affiliate underwent an AWS certification procedure that followed 6-steps:
- STEP 1: MTB committed to be a responsible water steward and ensured a leadership support to enact the criteria within the Standard.
- STEP 2: MTB gathered and analyzed shared water challenges and water related risks, impacts and opportunities both on-site and at catchment level. This process ensured that the site gathered sufficient and explicit data on its water use and catchment context, as well as understanding its shared water challenges and contributions.
- STEP 3: MTB developed a water stewardship plan and strategy based on reducing the site’s potable water consumption and waste water emission. This was achieved by implementing new technologies at plant level and implementing water saving settings in order to optimize water use and reduce shortages at catchment level.
- STEP 4: MTB implemented the site’s stewardship plan and monitored its performance and outcomes, in order to ensure execution of the outlined plan mitigate previously highlighted risks and improve its performance
- Step 5: MTB evaluated its performance through a self and external evaluation procedure. This abled MTB to review its performance against the actions taken in Step 4, learn from the outcomes and integrate improvement actions as future follow-ups.
- Step 6: MTB engaged in active communication through communication activities and awareness campaigns with MTB employees, stakeholders and relevant authorities to raise awareness for water stewardship and disclose the site’s efforts to comply to a sustainable water management. Due to an internal PMI policy, MTB will publicly disclose AWS outcomes and results successively to the Core Certification
MTB implemented the AWS Standard with the aim to manage the water resource not only internally, in terms of facility premises, but also contribute to the general well-being and conservation of the water resources in the catchment area.
The use of the AWS Standard resulted in a through analyze and implementation of several themes:
- Catchment area study, including an understanding of the geological and hydrogeological characteristics and the presence of protected environmental areas
- Suppliers and service provider identification, along with the actions they have taken as a result of the site’s engagement relating to indirect water use
- Stakeholders engagement and their water-related challenges
- Monitoring activities in daily consumption, leak detection and behavioral changes.
The scientific support of an environmental consulting company allowed the identification of the following low-cost effective mitigation activities:
- Primary water consumption improvements
- Elimination water usage for wet scrubbers in Primary with plasma system
- Reduction of water for dryer belts washing and washing slurry tanks
- Optimization of Boiler blowdown and Steam boiler flash vessel
- Optimization of the onsite water treatment plant
- Re-use treated waste water for cooling towers and production
The increase in awareness of water issues within the site along with the implementation of the technical mitigation activities implemented by the AWS plan, foresee the reduction of water use of 8% in 2019, 12% in 2020, 12% in 2021, and 8% in 2022.
The AWS Standard implemented in the MTB facility offered a credible, globally-applicable framework for a major water user, to understand its own water use and impacts, and to work collaboratively and transparently with other local stakeholders for sustainable water management within the wider water catchment context.
By implementing the steps and guidance of the AWS Standard we contributed to achieving good water stewardship practices that improve site water performance and contribute to wider sustainability goals.