How to better preserve water? With Carlo Galli

Carlo Galli is the head of Sustainability of Nestlé Waters and technical manager for water resources at Nestlé. He elaborates the corporate water stewardship strategy and ensure the adoption of best practices within all Nestlé operations. As for all our interviews, we first let him watch people’s testimonies and then asked him a few related questions. The video shows a selection of his answers, and you can read his full interview below.


20 Questions About Water: What is your first reaction when watching these testimonies?

Carlo Galli: When I watch the video, I see some common ground between people. They talk about being aware of the need for saving water, I think this is very common. I’ve also seen two or three people talking about education, which is something I truly believe is one of the best ways to spend resources, time and money because the money you put into education will probably deliver the greatest benefits as you raise awareness among new generations.


20QAW: What are the biggest sources of water consumption in the world today?

C.G.: It’s very clear that the majority of water goes to agriculture. In terms of water consumption, i.e. what is removed from local environments, over 90% of water is used in agriculture, followed by the industry and household consumption.


“A key ingredient is to ensure you understand who else is using water within the same catchment.”


20QAW: Historically, how have governments raised awareness about water preservation?

C.G.: So far at the government level, water hasn’t been given enough attention. In many places, water is very politically sensitive, and if politicians or lawmakers don’t think on the long run, it’s very difficult to implement policies to provide water at a fair price. It’s a very contentious point, but it is clear that most water used today – even non-drinking water – is not priced, which drives inefficiency. Overall, it’s all about awareness and being efficient. As we’ve noticed in our own factories, making a real issue out of quantity or pricing is a great way to raise efficiency.


How to better preserve water? With Carlo Galli


20QAW: What progress has been made in terms of water consciousness? Both at individual and industrial levels?

C.G.: From an industrial standpoint, in my 25 years of water management, I have noticed much more traction in the last couple of decades. We, as a company, have started driving efficiency many years ago but many other businesses - especially medium-sized enterprises - are now understanding the value of being efficient. However, efficiency itself isn’t enough. In our experience, we’ve seen that being efficient in our factories doesn’t solve all the issues we have locally, because water is used by many other stakeholders. A key ingredient is to ensure you understand who else is using water within the same catchment. If you’ve achieved your efficiency goals on your end, you should engage with other stakeholders and try to support them on their own journey. Otherwise there’s no resilience for our business and no sustainability in terms of water management for all local users.


“Unlike greenhouse-gas emissions, water issues are very localised.”


20QAW: Geographically, are there important disparities in terms of water management?

C.G.: If you’re talking about water policies, the answer is yes. Emerging countries are still lacking robust water policies, and these aren’t properly implemented. In developed countries, there are more – although not enough – policies already in place. I believe that living in developed countries doesn’t necessarily make us more aware or efficient, seeing how much water is used to fill swimming pools or irrigate lawns in the summertime; these are typically bad practices that we witness more often in developed parts of the world than in emerging countries.


20QAW: How can the situation improve in developing countries?

C.G.: Unlike greenhouse-gas emissions, water issues are very localised. From an institutional point of view, from a donor point of view, there is a lot the wealthier part of the world could do to help developing countries. That’s what’s happening with development and cooperation agencies in Europe. We as a Group work with these agencies to co-fund projects in developing countries. But improvements should also come locally, because one of the main drivers for failure in the past was providing support to projects that weren’t ultimately owned by local communities. This kind of support, akin to a gift, can quickly become very rusty. Nowadays I believe these initiatives are driven differently, the ownership of local communities is considered a key prerequisite for a project, which makes me more optimistic about how contributions are used today to support developing countries.


“An approach that delivers benefits for all stakeholders involved in the catchment and will ultimately be beneficial for your own business.”


20QAW: What more can be done to encourage people and companies to preserve water?

C.G.: I believe it’s a journey for everyone on an individual level. A company like ours has a lot of leverage to raise awareness and educate, using our direct link with consumers for instance through our products and communication channels. Today everyone is involved on social media, and even individuals have the opportunity to raise awareness and lead by example. You can now take action and gain visibility through these tools, which were not available ten or twenty years ago when similar initiatives would have remained largely anonymous.


How to better preserve water? With Carlo Galli


20QAW: As a water bottling company, how do you engage in water preservation?

C.G.: We’ve been driving efficiency within our operations for several decades. We’ve made massive investments every year to implement infrastructure and equipment to save water. We have also learned that after a while, every minor improvement in internal efficiency comes at a greater cost. It is important to understand that the water catchment from which we get water is shared with other stakeholders. So to become sustainable in managing local water resources, it is more interesting to invest the same amount of money – or even less – and help others move in the same direction. An approach that delivers benefits for all stakeholders involved in the catchment and will ultimately be beneficial for your own business. This has been our journey as a company.


20QAW: Is there an achievement that you are particularly proud of?

C.G.: There are many, but if I had to pick one it would be driving the

Alliance with the Stewardship, which is also my personal story. Another major achievement for me and the company I represent was championing a business-driven initiative called the “WASH pledge” (WASH – Access to water and sanitation). The first step is to ensure all your employees, within your factories and facilities around the world, are provided with adequate water and sanitation facilities. This is part of our DNA; we are the only company that has gone through this process to ensure a specific percentage of WASH in the workplace. We have also been pushing many other companies to do the same. This is something we initiated, assessed the impact of and thoroughly implemented in all our factories.


“This idea of joining forces is a very positive thing for the future because it highlights a genuine change in paradigm in the way we approach water solutions.”


20QAW: How do you imagine the water situation in a hundred years?

C.G.: Looking at the evolution of how much water is used compared to how much water is available and replenished by nature, projections are predicting a catastrophic scenario. However in recent years I’ve also witnessed a greater willingness among stakeholders to engage together to find solutions. I’m not sure if my generation can fix this, but definitely the next or the one after that. Looking back 10 or 20 years ago, all these elements that were really contentious and driving conflict among civil society, NGOs, the industry and the public sector, are today turning into opportunities to work together. This idea of joining forces is a very positive thing for the future because it highlights a genuine change in paradigm in the way we approach water solutions.


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