Coca-Cola, SABMiller In Talks To Join Collaborative Response To Water Scarcity

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VENTURES AFRICA – The Water Futures Partnership has revealed that it is in talks with six or seven companies with a view to enlarging membership of the Partnership, with four of the potential partners on the verge of officially joining the group. A high-profile interested party to these discussions is the Coca-Cola Company, which has expressed a significant desire to become part of the collaborative water-stewardship initiative.

Launched in 2009, the Water Futures Partnership (WFP) is a unique collaborative project founded by leading brewing company SABMiller, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the German international development agency GIZ. The WFP aims to combat water scarcity issues in a range of countries in which the founding organisations have a presence. Last year, the partnership opened its doors in a call for new partners – inviting companies, NGO’s and other organisations to join the partnership. A particularly notable party to answer this call was beverage giant Coca-Cola.

The Water Futures Partnership since its inception has established projects in South Africa, Tanzania, Peru and the Ukraine, working with SABMiller’s local businesses and reaching out to stakeholders to unite and address water security issues. In a current endeavour to highlight their work, the WFP has decided to rebrand – soon to become the Water Futures Initiative. The WFI is intended to have a much larger membership, and calling for new partners, Andy Wales, SABMiller’s head of sustainable development explained: “Single actors cannot alone effectively mitigate the complex and often deeply-embedded causes of water risks…We recognise that these challenges can only be addressed through multi-stakeholder collective action and openly invite other NGOs, donors and public sector agencies, who have a shared interest in the areas in which we are working, to join our partnership.”

Greg Koch, director of global water stewardship for the Coca-Cola Company spoke of Coca-Cola’s interest in becoming involved with the WFP: “We really like the partnership approach and hope to be a part of the Water Futures Initiative… There’s only so much you can do unilaterally and there’s not enough collective action occurring”. He went on to explain that the company is already working on developing four potential water-sustainability projects. The main project under consideration would be based in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, where Coca-Cola subsidiary Sabco maintains a large bottling plant. The other potential projects would be based in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa.

However, Mr. Koch did add that an official decision to join the Water Futures Initiative could not be made until the full rebrand of the WFP had been completed, and a more solid structure and strategy had been finalised for the newly-named Water Futures Initiative. Such a final decision can be expected in early 2013.

In the meantime, Robin Farrington, senior policy adviser for international water policy and infrastructure at WFP founding member GIZ has confirmed that it intends to provide funding for the initiative to continue its work on current and new projects for at least the coming six years, by which time it is hoped that the Water Future Initiative will be a multi-party collaborative organisation with a much expanded membership.