March 22 has been designated World Water Day by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in a bid to ensure a secure future through water stewardship.

Those outside the beverage industry might be surprised to see a company such as MillerCoors leading a dialogue about water conservation. We are eager to do so because water is one of the most precious ingredients in our beer, and to continue selling our great beers requires that we protect the resources that enable us to brew it.

Water is as important as barley and hops, which can’t be grown without it. And we are determined to improve water quality and quantity in every community our business touches. It’s why we’ve partnered with The Nature Conservancy, among other organizations, to work with barley farmers in Idaho on water conservation practices. It’s also driven us to conduct water-risk assessments in our brewery communities in order to identify and mitigate future risks.

These initiatives are obviously good for our business: Without water, there’s no barley, no hops — and no beer. But the sustainable management of water resources is also crucial to businesses far beyond the beverage industry, because global and regional stability are important to all bottom lines. A study recently conducted by the 2030 Water Resources Group found that there could be a shortfall of 40 percent in water resources available across the world by 2030, an outcome that could have profound implications for food supplies, human health and the environment.

Good corporate citizens have a responsibility to ensure that they understand how their behavior impacts water supplies locally and globally. In our case, as a company that operates multiple breweries in areas where water supplies are scarce or stressed, we have to be sure our breweries are operating efficiently and also do what we can to encourage our value chain, from grain to glass, to do the same. 

At the same time, we have a responsibility to educate consumers to think in the same terms. It’s one thing to remember to turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth, but it’s quite another to apply knowledge of the water-use practices behind products you buy to reduce your personal “water footprint.” For us, that starts with our own employees, who volunteer in our communities to clean up rivers and lakes and help develop creative ways to use less water in our breweries.

As we continue raising awareness of this problem and contribute to a solution, World Water Day provides an ideal platform to both share and galvanize our own efforts and to inspire others to follow. A more secure future is worth the effort.

Kim Marotta is MillerCoors' vice president of corporate social responsibility.
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