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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Towards Healthy Watersheds: combining internal and external efforts to support global water security especially in water-stressed countries

Heineken International (
Private sector

    Watershed protection in water-stressed areas is essential for all users, from industries that require water for operations to the local communities that rely on water as a source of livelihood. As part of our Brew a Better World sustainability ambition, HEINEKEN's water strategy focuses on delivering healthier watersheds and creating a water-positive impact in water-stressed areas with a focus on three key areas- water efficiency, water circularity and water balancing. Heineken's commitment to healthier watersheds looks beyond traditional water usage to prioritise the health of local watersheds, especially in water-stressed areas. Our first priority is to ensure that our operations are in order, for example, recording water efficiency improvement by 33% since 2008 and ensuring all our wastewater is treated before discharge. In water-stressed areas, we focus on efforts beyond our brewery walls at the watersheds through multiyear water balancing programmes ranging from infrastructure improvements to nature-based solutions. Collective action is a key priority as the watershed is a shared risk with other users.

    Mechanism to identify sites located in water-stressed areas

    We have a 3 step approach to water risk assessment:

    Step 1: Our production units must complete a 'Water Security Self Assessment' as part of our company-wide risk assessment every year.

    Step 2: We also conduct a Global Water Risk Screening for all our operations at least once every five years or earlier in case of acquiring a new brewery or setting up a greenfield brewery. For this screening, we combine the Water Risk Aqueduct tool from WRI and work with geospatial services provider 52Impact, to conclude a first high-level assessment of breweries that are potentially located in water-stressed areas.

    Step 3: If a brewery is identified as 'potentially water-stressed', it must conduct a local, in-depth Source Vulnerability Assessment (SVA). This SVA aims to identify and assess potential risks that may jeopardise sufficient water quantity, quality and accessibility. These risks are evaluated from various angles, such as physical, environmental, social, political, economic, and regulatory perceptions. The report contains several sections which cover extreme events (drought, flood, earthquakes), present and future water conditions (physical, but also legislative) and expected effects of climate change.

    If the outcome of the SVA confirms that a brewery is indeed located in a water-stressed area, then this brewery must become part of our water balancing programme under of 2030 water strategy 'Towards Healthy Watersheds'.

    • Part of the activities for a brewery in a water-stressed area is to develop a Source Water Protection Plan that safeguards water sources for the short, medium and long term.
    • The brewery in scope must also develop a roadmap covering all three elements of the 2030 Towards Healthy Watersheds "Water Triangle" consisting of 1. Water Balancing, 2. Water Circularity, and 3. Water Efficiency. The three parts of the Water Triangle should all reduce the pressure on local watersheds in a way that responds to the local context.

    Expected Impact

    Clean water is a basic human need that should be accessible to all. There is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this. Our ambitions and targets for our water strategy on Healthier Watersheds align with the benchmarks set by the UN Global Compact, and we are determined to contribute to the UN SDGs on water. Water quantity and quality are essential for brewing, also growing our crops. In addition, accessibility to water is critical to the most vulnerable communities where we operate. Therefore, our Water Policy and related strategy for 2030, Towards Healthy Watersheds, aligns with SDG6 and addresses company-wide and basin-level measures and standards, both inside the operations and beyond the fence, especially in those situated in water-stressed watersheds.

    There are eight targets within SDG6: clean and affordable drinking water for all; at which our efforts worldwide primarily contribute towards the following four targets:

    6.1 Safe and affordable drinking water - through the implementation of WASH and water balancing activities such as improving the reliability of drinking water networks as in Egypt with Beheira Water and Drainage Company and Ethiopia’s collaboration with World Vision, we want to be able to improve access to safe and affordable access to drinking water for people and communities.

    6.3 Improve water quality, wastewater treatment and safe reuse: to help achieve this and contribute to this goal, we have built three new wastewater plants in Haiti, Serbia and Nigeria, bringing us closer to our 2023 goal to treat 100% of our wastewater. For on-site circularity, we have built six water reclamation plants which treat and reuse wastewater for general cleaning to reduce reliance on fresh water. For off-site circularity, we are progressing while exploring ways to address local challenges such as limited infrastructure, perceptions and regulations.

    6.4 Increase water-use efficiency and ensure freshwater supplies: Our breweries in water-stressed areas have developed roadmaps that set out actions to support a healthy watershed by 2030. However, each watershed is unique, shaped by the ecosystem and biodiversity it supports and local governments and stakeholders, among other things. As a result, our sites must take a contextual approach, and progress may be faster and more straightforward for some than others. In Heineken, we have recorded a 33% improvement in water efficiency since we started measuring in 2008.

    6.6 Protect and restore water-related ecosystems: we contribute to this target through the implementation of water-balancing activities at the watershed, such as large-scale reforestation in Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Indonesia, wetland protection and floodplain rehabilitation in multiple locations of Spain to improve freshwater ecosystems and prevent degradation of water-related areas of the environment.


    Global Partners: UNGC’s CEO Water Mandate, UNGC’s Water Resilience Coalition, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER), WaterAid, World Vision

    Local Partners: Egypt - Agriculture Research Centre (ARC) & Beheira Water and Drainage Company, Mexico - Monterrey Metropolitan water and Air Fund (FAAMM), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and NGO ReStores El Colorado AC, Brazil - Fundación Avina, SOS Mata Atlantica, Malaysia - Global Environment Centre (GEC), Tunisia -Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), Indonesia - Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara and Yayasan Aliansi Wali Sumber Daya Air, Vietnam - WWF, Spain - Commonland Foundation, Ethiopia - World Vision

    Goal 6

    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

    Goal 6


    By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all


    Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services


    By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations


    Proportion of population using (a) safely managed sanitation services and (b) a hand-washing facility with soap and water


    By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally


    Proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flows safely treated


    Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality


    By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

    Change in water-use efficiency over time


    Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources


    By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate


    Degree of integrated water resources management 


    Proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation


    By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

    Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time


    By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies

    Amount of water- and sanitation-related official development assistance that is part of a government-coordinated spending plan


    Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management


    Proportion of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management

    Name Description
    Fully balance water used in our products in water stressed areas
    Maximise reuse and recycling in water-stressed areas
    Reduce average water usage to 2.6 hl/hl in water-stressed areas and 2.9 hl/hl globally
    Treat 100% of wastewater of all breweries
    Staff / Technical expertise
    Our Supply Chain team works hand in hand with suppliers to find solutions and ensure there is a learning platform for replication across our 167 sites. For external water management efforts, our Corporate Affairs colleagues works closely with non-governme
    No progress reports have been submitted. Please sign in and click here to submit one.
    Action Network
    water logo
    01 January 2019 (start date)
    31 December 2030 (date of completion)
    Heineken International
    1. Africa
    2. Europe
    3. Asia and Pacific
    4. North America
    5. Latin America and the Caribbean
    Other beneficiaries

    Our watershed protection programmes in water-stressed areas are aimed to benefit the local stakeholders around the watershed area which ranges from local communities to farmers with close collaborations with local government agencies and non-governmental organisations all working together to support local water security.

    Example of beneficiaries from our current projects across the world as below:

    • Ethiopia: Integrated Water Balancing and Livelihood Improvement Project with World Vision impacting 42,560 local farmers and the community of Harar City
    • Nigeria: Borehole installation and renovation in the Ogun-Osun basin for Imagbon, Imaka, Majawe and Lapite communities providing access to local communities
    • Spain: Partnering with Commonland Foundation, four wetlands in Doñana near Seville were restored to improve the hydrologic function and enhance biodiversity impacting local farmers and landowners at Dehesa de Abajo Lagoon, San Lázaro Lagoon, Pardilla Lagoon and Arrayán Lagoon
    • Egypt: Supporting the local community of Siwa Oasis by providing access to clean, safe water and collaboration with Beheira Water and Drainage Company to improve the drinking water network reliability for the Beheira community. Working with local farmers and Agriculture Research Centre (ARC) on knowledge transfer on sustainable barley cultivation which improved water supply and increased crop yield for local farmers in El Dabaa, Baharia Oasis, Toshka and Sharq El Owinat
    • Malaysia: The Sungei Way River Rehabilitation in collaboration with Global Environment Centre (GEC), impacting 16012 Malaysians and 143 stakeholder groups, water thimbles project impacted 1660 people from local households in the Sungei Penchala watershed and the rainwater harvesting system, with beneficiaries 6750 within Petaling Jaya City.
    • Mexico: Collaboration with International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) to implement agriculture best sustainable management practices in barley cultivation impacting local farmers in Lerma-Chapala and the Panuco watersheds and collaboratin with Restauremos El Colorado AC to restore instream flows, recharge the aquifer, and benefit native wetlands of the Colorado River impacting local farmers and inhabitants within Valley of Mexicali.

    South Africa
    South Africa
    Contact Information

    Sonia , Senior Director, Global Sustainability