Yili Becomes the First Chinese Enterprise to Join the UN Water Action Agenda
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Yili Becomes the First Chinese Enterprise to Join the UN Water Action Agenda

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) recently approved the Low Water Footprint Initiative (LWFi) proposed by Yili Group. The leading dairy producer has also become China’s first company to join the UN Water Action Agenda.

The UN 2023 Water Conference – the highest profile and most influential water-related thematic conference at the UN level in the past 50 years – was convened from March 22 to 24 in New York. The conference is a mid-term event to review the “Water for Sustainable Development 2018–2028” (Water Action Decade), where the Water Action Agenda was adopted. The emphasis of the agenda is on accelerated implementation and improved impact towards achieving SDG 6 and other water-related goals and targets.

Yili proposed the LWFi during the conference to extend the company’s best practices globally. In line with an SDG 6 target (i.e. by 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater), it aims to reduce water footprints through cross-sectoral cooperation and synergies.

Under the guidance of its Environment, Health and Safety (EHA) Committee, Yili has applied an innovative model for sustainable water management. The company’s water resources stewardship is based upon the self-developed digital platform. This platform not only manages the data for all water intake, water consumption and water recycling, but is also able to calculate the water footprint of the product life cycle according to international standards.

In collaboration with independent third-party certification bodies, Yili also leads the industry in carrying out footprint verifications at both the organization and product levels. To date, two of Yili’s plants and one of its products have obtained certificates.

Targeting areas that are facing water shortage risks, Yili launched 322 water-saving projects in 2022 which involved its mineral water, milk powder, liquid milk, yogurt, and ice cream products and all of its factories, resulting in savings of 1.7 million metric tons of water. Among its subsidiaries, 23 have been recognized with the title of a water-saving enterprise.

To acquire greater insight into the water resources of its plants and partners in various locations, Yili has created a water risk map by using Aqueduct, a water risk mapping tool developed by the World Resources Institute, and AWARE, a water use midpoint indicator developed by the WULCA working group under the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. The map can help Yili to set specific water conservation objectives for the Group as well as the value chain and plan targeted activities.

In 2022, Yili established an alliance focused on water conservation with 43 strategic partners across the value chain. The alliance aims to raise the consumption of alternative water over time and offer performance-based incentives for companies to reduce their water footprints, thereby helping to build up value chain synergies and expand the LWFi community.

In the future, Yili will engage with a wider range of food and dairy companies in the LWFi through the Water Action Agenda under the UN Water Action Decade, supporting the Group’s drive to fulfill its dream of “World Integrally Sharing Health”.