skip to main content

4 ways Cargill is saving water in our operations, supply chains and communities 

August 29, 2019

We are water. You could even take that phrase literally and you would still be around 60% correct: that's how much of our bodies is composed of water. Almost three quarters of our planet's surface are covered in it. Water is in the air (vapor), in the ground (soil moisture and aquifers). It’s in what we eat and what we breathe. But only 1% of the total volume of water is readily available for people to use.

It’s also crucial to our food system. Of the fresh water used every year around the world, about 70% goes to produce the food we eat. Access to clear water is critical to the development of safe, strong communities.

Yet we haven't always treated it with the respect it deserves. Around 790 million people don't have access to an improved water supply. Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the global population; that number is projected to rise.

What can we do to protect water? At Cargill, we're taking steps to manage our water resources efficiently. Our water resources programs in our operations and supply chains optimize water use in our facilities and in agriculture, and we ensure access to clean water in the communities where we operate.

Here are a few examples of our efforts to improve water conservation, quality and access.

1. In our Operations: Uberlândia, Brazil

In April, Cargill opened a new wastewater treatment plant. With state-of-the-art filter membrane systems that remove organic and inorganic contaminants, Cargill is now reusing over 418 gallons per minute (1500 liters per minute) of re-used water in the cooling towers. 

Thanks to this new treatment plant, the Uberlândia site has not only reduced over 30% of drinking water consumption, but also reduced the emissions to water with 25%. This amount is equivalent to the daily consumption of a city with a population of 17,000.

“By using water in a much more sustainable and conscious way, we also enable the Uberlândia community to have more access to the available water resources in the region,” said Laerte Moraes, Managing Director of Cargill starches, sweeteners and texturizers in South America. 

2. In our Supply Chain: Nebraska, United States

Over half the water used in U. S. beef production is dedicated to irrigating the row crops that become feed for cattle. The Nature Conservancy teamed up with Nestlé Purina and Cargill to dramatically reduce that number.

In May 2018, these organizations launched a three-year water project to improve the sustainability of the beef supply chain. Using cutting-edge smart weather sensors, farmers will conserve up to 2.4 billion gallons (approximately 10 million m3) of irrigation water over the following three years. That's the equivalent to roughly 7,200 U.S. households over the same period.

3. In our Supply Chain: The Midwest, United States

The states of Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska have some of the richest farmland in the world, but to maintain it requires persistent stewardship. Which is why Cargill joined a partnership of leading agricultural and food companies, along with conservation organizations, to support and accelerate conserving efforts of soil and water.

Formally launched in August 2016, the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative aims to:

  • Optimize soil health practices and outcomes
  • Reduce nutrient runoff into the rivers and streams of the Mississippi River Basin
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Maximize water conservation to reduce pressure on the Ogallala Aquifer, which spans across Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska.

Those goals fit with several of Cargill's overarching sustainability focus areas, like water, greenhouse gas reduction and farmer livelihoods.

“There’s a lot that’s already been done by farmers, who are the original stewards of the land,” said Jill Kolling, Global Sustainability Leader at Cargill. “The Collaborative supports, enhances, and accelerates the use of environmentally preferable agricultural practices already underway. We are working to ensure our efforts complement other ongoing conservation efforts.”

4. In our Communities: Indonesia

Cargill’s global partnership with CARE goes back more than 50 years and has focused on tackling long-term approaches to some of the world’s most pressing issues - low agricultural productivity, poor nutritional status, lack of access to formal markets and limited economic opportunities.

In Indonesia, the CARE-Cargill Promoting a Sustainable and Food Secure World (PROSPER) project improves knowledge of proper hygiene, nutrition, and prevents illness among children who lack adequate latrines and access to clean water at school.

The project has helped nearly 13,000 people directly and over 51,000 people indirectly across 20 schools. The success of the program led to local authorities budgeting to expand health and nutrition trainings to 29 schools outside of the project's scope.

One of the reasons why PROSPER has been so prosperous is the little doctors program, which utilizes a child-to-child approach to deliver health and nutrition training.