The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Case study: How Nestlé improves water efficiency

Nestlé tries to achieve continuous improvement in its withdrawal, use and treatment of water  Tweet This!, treating the water it uses as sustainably, responsibly and effectively as possible, protecting it through high-profile collaborations, educating communities in how to use water efficiently, and improving access to water and sanitation.


This case study is based on the 2016Nestlé in society” report by Nestlé published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Water is critical to every part of Nestlé’s value chain: employees, suppliers, customers and consumers, the farmers Nestlé works with and the communities in which it operates, all need access to safe, clean water and sanitation. In order to improve water efficiency Nestlé took action to:

  • reduce water withdrawals
  • conduct Water Resource Reviews
  • save water at high-priority sites

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2016 “Nestlé in society” report Nestlé identified a range of material issues, such as over- and under-nutrition, responsible marketing and influence, food and product safety, business ethics. Among these, improving water efficiency stands out as a key material issue for Nestlé.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Nestlé engages with:  

Stakeholder Group
Consumers and the general public
Employees and their representatives
Industry and trade associations
Intergovernmental organisations
Non-governmental organisations
Reporting agencies
Shareholders and the financial community
Suppliers (including farmers and smallholders)

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics Nestlé assessed the level of interest of its stakeholders in its material topics (including key stakeholders, opinion leaders and investors) through stakeholder convenings, independently commissioned key opinion leader research and investor engagement.

What actions were taken by Nestlé to improve water efficiency?

In its 2016 “Nestlé in society” report Nestlé reports that it took the following actions for improving water efficiency:

  • Reducing water withdrawals
  • Nestlé implements programmes to reduce water withdrawal, reuse water and use alternative sources. By the end of 2016, Nestlé had reduced water withdrawal by tonne of product in every product category, achieving an overall reduction of 25% versus 2010. In addition, Nestlé uses its Water Target Setting methodology to identify more reduction opportunities and, in 2016, assigned CHF 31.6 million to water-saving initiatives. Nestlé is currently applying 516 water-saving programmes across its factories, saving approximately 3.7 million m3 of water every year.
  • Conducting Water Resource Reviews
  • Nestlé’s Water Resource Reviews (WRRs) aim to raise awareness at an operational level, identify risks and opportunities, and develop action plans for more sustainable water use. In 2016, Nestlé conducted 22 new WRRs in various locations, including Cuba, the USA, Vietnam and Switzerland. Nestlé has reviewed a total of 158 of its factories worldwide since the WRRs began, while Nestlé Waters completed WRRs at 100% of its facilities, and continues to work on improving its overall water use ratio (the amount of water required to produce one litre of bottled water). 
  • Saving water at high-priority sites
  • High-priority manufacturing facilities (HPMF) are sites located in areas of severe water stress or that represent an important portion of Nestlé’s annual water withdrawals. In 2016, Nestlé identified 24 such facilities and implemented water-saving projects at 21 of the 24 sites, saving 1.8 million m3 of water. The remaining three sites underwent a Corporate Water Target Setting audit in late 2016, which identified significant water saving projects for future implementation.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standards addressed in this case are:

1) Disclosure 303-1 Water withdrawal by source

2) Disclosure 303-2 Water sources significantly affected by withdrawal of water

3) Disclosure 303-3 Water recycled and reused


Disclosure 303-1 Water withdrawal by source corresponds to:

Disclosure 303-2 Water sources significantly affected by withdrawal of water corresponds to:

Disclosure 303-3 Water recycled and reused corresponds to: 


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1) This case study is based on published information by Nestlé, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:




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