Angel Mehta talks to P&G's Frantz Beznik about how the 50L Home Coalition brings together companies, regulators and governments to think big on tackling the urban water crisis
Water plays a significant part in Procter & Gamble’s Ambition 2030 sustainability plan, with targets to deliver a 35% reduction in water consumption per unit of production (compared with 2010) and to source at least five billion litres of water – almost 8% of its consumption – from circular sources by 2030. But by far the biggest contribution to water consumption is the use of its products in the home.
As part of its efforts to address its total water footprint, the company is spearheading a new initiative, the 50L Home Coalition, where it is working with Electrolux, Kohler, Engie, Suez and Arcadis, the World Bank Group, WBCSD, and the World Economic Forum to develop radical solutions to the urban water crisis.
The coalition aims to bring together companies, policymakers and communities to develop and scale innovations across the entire domestic water value chain and prove that it is possible to create homes where people can live comfortably using 50L of water a day. That’s the amount that Cape Town’s residents were restricted to in 2018 when the city faced having the taps run dry, and is the minimum amount of water the World Health Organization (WHO) says is necessary to ensure that a person’s most basic needs are met.
Homes in Europe get through up to 300 litres a day, whilst in the US daily water consumption can be as high as 500 litres.
The area taking most of our brain time is the reuse space – how we make water re-usable from one spot to the other
Frantz Beznik, head of sustainable innovation at P&G, says an ambitious goal such as 50 litres is needed “to create a mindset for very radical innovation”. One of the first tasks, working with Kohler and Electrolux, is to set a budget for each point of water use in the home – from the kitchen tap to the shower.
Water reuse is another big focus for innovation. Instead of sending wastewater from showers and washing machines to municipal treatment plants, Beznik anticipates that systems engineering and clever chemistry will enable some reuse of water, for example in toilets, with digital systems managing the processes and making water consumption visible to residents.
“The [area] that is actually taking most of our brain time is the reuse space – how we actually make water re-usable from one spot to the other and really starting from some pretty interesting questions [like] why we use potable water in toilets,” Beznik says.
Innovation groups within P&G, which are working to cut the company’s water consumption, will explore how any advances could be replicated in the 50l home. Outside the home, the coalition is thinking about how water treatment could be decentralised, so saving energy and creating more resilient systems.
Tackling water consumption will make a big dent in greenhouse gas emissions, since heating water for use and to warm our homes contributes to the bulk of domestic carbon emissions, Beznik points out. “The 50-litre home would really be the enabler to get to zero carbon. It will give people the ammunition to act on climate change.”
The coalition wants to team up with cities to pilot innovations. It’s in discussions in both China and the US, but is also eyeing India, where one of its partners, the 2030 Water Resources Group, has well-developed multi-stakeholder collaborations.
This article is part of our in-depth Water Risk briefing. See also:
Running dry: Competing for water on a thirsty planet
Connecting the drops in the battle against climate change
Finance firms come together in bid to overcome barriers to banking on biodiversity
Mining firms ‘failing to get to grips with worsening water security crisis’
Scorched earth strategies: how Cargill, Unilever and Diageo are cutting their water footprints
Working to protect Earth’s most precious raw material
The Arabian Gulf companies innovating to reduce dependence on desalination
‘It’s time for fashion to turn its focus from the catwalk to cutting water pollution’
50L Home Coalition P&G WHO water consumption SDG6 Electrolux Kohler ENGIE SUEZ Arcadis World Bank Group WBCSD World Economic Forum