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Diageo invests in water to empower women - join them

Diageo invests in water to empower women - join them

 March 21, 2023

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As a sustainability-focused employer, Diageo marks World Water Day, an annual United Nations (UN) observance day held on March 22 that highlights the importance of fresh water.  

"Investing in water goes beyond our Environment, Social & Governance (ESG) goals. It’s about empowering women, developing leaders, and building resilient communities," said Diageo.

World Water Day marks an important opportunity to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources, with a focus on topics relevant to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

"Investing in access to clean water is an investment in resilience and the empowerment of women and girls. It provides women with leadership opportunities and representation within their communities. These same communities are often on the frontline of climate change, facing water scarcity. And we know first-hand that access to clean water resources mitigates climate-induced shocks that can ruin livelihoods. When you build community resilience, you also build business resilience: more water is available for crop production, more individuals are available to work across your supply chain, and people are less susceptible to disease. With greater levels of employment, incomes are higher and more sustainable, bringing more choice and opportunities for communities," explained Diageo.

Investing in water to empower women

Diageo plays its part in taking action and making a difference because one in ten people globally are without clean water close to home, with women and girls who face the greatest impact of this and who are disproportionately affected. 

"Diageo invests in water to empower women, so they have sustainable access to water, which builds community resilience. For Diageo, putting the infrastructure in place isn't enough – women’s voices are key to ensure sustainability in water preservation," says Diageo.

As such, Diageo has a strong partnership with CARE International UK.

"Through Diageo's partnership with CARE International, Diageo leverages its water sustainability expertise and global reach to make a meaningful impact. By working together, Diageo and CARE International are creating a sustainable model that can be replicated in other regions, providing lasting benefits to communities around the world, while promoting gender equality to ensure equal opportunities for all in the future," says Diageo.

Recent projects that Diageo has worked with CARE include:

  • In Ethiopia, CARE conducted an analysis of Diageo’s smallholder barley supply chain which identified barriers to and opportunities for women’s empowerment within Diageo’s Local Raw Materials programmes.
  • In Cambodia, CARE helped Diageo to its Global Brand Promoter Standard which is tackling sexual harassment in parts of the hospitality industry.
  • Diageo supported CARE’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic through CARE’s Emergency Response Fund which reached people in 69 of the 100 countries where CARE works. COVID-19 has had a devastating effect across the world, and as CARE’s research has shown, with a disproportionate impact on women and girls and those living in poverty.

Working with CARE International in Kenya

Another important project sees Diageo working with CARE International to invest in water and empower women through WASH in Kenya.

Diageo Sustainability Manager, Maryanne Nderu, and CARE representatives Dorothy Akinyi and Helen Pankhurt shares their insights into this project.

Aiming for greater gender equality in water projects 

"We noticed that women are the ones who use these water projects. They're the ones who wash clothes, they're the ones who cook food. When a woman has water close by, her household is taken care of. My hope is that all our water projects have a minimum of 50 percent of women in their water communities. That they are able to organize themselves the way we have seen this committee in Ujimbe, and they are able to sustain their project on their own. I would like to see them fly!" says Maryanne Nderu. 

Supporting women to bring their ideas to the table 

"Diageo supported the community to have a water project here. Part of the sustainability included at least 50 percent women participating in all the management of that water project. Our role as CARE was to help the community understand why they needed women to make it even more sustainable, and guide them on how to form a committee that was actually inclusive and gender-balanced. These meetings right now, the women are speaking up, they are giving their ideas, they are giving their thoughts, they are suggesting ways of doing things, which was not the case before. I came back and found that the committees was even more than 50 percent women. It is important that everyone's voice is heard. So part of the reason why we do gender mainstreaming is that we bring all ideas to the table," explains CARE International Gender Technical Lead, Dorothy Akinyi.

Making a transformational impact on women's lives

"People tend to think you just put the water there, and then job done. That just isn't the reality of how these things can be made sustainable. You need to involve women and girls in sustainability of issues, the management because otherwise that water point will dry up. WASH has a transformational impact on women's lives, in particular because if you bring water systems closer to women, the labor of water collection is reduced. The safety-related dangers are reduced. For 101 reasons, involving women and girls in decisions and in management are absolutely critical. The only way this product works is with sufficient attention to the social norms, to the relationships between people, to the power structures. Private sector support has been important. It's particularly important, and will get more and more important over time. To use an analogy it's the ripple effect, isn't it? It's a drop of something you're trying to change and then well beyond that drop so many changes that can happen," adds CARE International Senior Advisor, Helen Pankhurt. 

Building a more inclusive and sustainable world

In its 10-year Society 2030: Spirit of Progress action plan for building a more inclusive and sustainable world, Diageo is committed to pioneering grain-to-glass sustainability, and its goal to preserve water for life is a vital part of this.

Diageo has a strong track record as good stewards and managing its impact on water, and the company continues to do more. Diageo's strategy builds on the holistic, context-based approach of the past decade – recognizing the interdependencies between the company's use of water and the impact on communities, supply chains and the environment.

Diageo's grain-to-glass approach supports farmers (especially smallholders), improves water use in its operations, replenishes water in water stressed catchments, provides clean water to communities, and strongly advocates for more collective action for a better water world for everyone.

Watch further Diageo videos here that highlight the company's sustainability focus.

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