PepsiCo Partners to Deliver Safe Water: The Columbia Water Center

Jan 29, 2015 10:45 AM ET

As a global food and beverage company, we understand that access to safe water is fundamental to our business and the communities where we operate. It impacts both our internal company operations and our supply chain, much of which is dependent on water-intense agricultural activities. For us, the necessity of water stewardship is immediate: there is no business without water. 

Shortly after the United Nations established its 2015 Millennium Development Goals in 2000, Dr. Upmanu Lall and his colleagues at Columbia University began work researching solutions to the central issue of water insecurity and access to safe water.

“At that time,” said Lall, “there were quite a few people in academia who were writing about the impending global water crises.” An expert in hydrology, systems, resource management, climate and risk assessment, Lall recognized the need for a holistic, systems-based approach to solving the water crisis.

While academic discourse is important to the global body of knowledge, finding solutions to the water crisis demands grounding in the field. “To go out and see where there was manifest water scarcity, what could be done about it, what is the technology piece, what is the policy piece, and how we could change things was critical,” said Lall.  With intellectual command and an innovative approach, Lall was the kind of change-maker PepsiCo was looking for in a water partner. In 2008, the PepsiCo Foundation awarded a $6 million grant to the Earth Institute at Columbia University, establishing the Columbia Water Center, with Dr. Lall as its director.

With the support of the PepsiCo Foundation, Dr. Lall and his team moved their research “on the ground” to innovate the holistic approach Lall felt was lacking. By looking at the big picture, the Columbia Water Center designed integrated strategies on a wider scale for connecting people with water. “What we were able to do,” explained Lall, “was to look at the policy angle on things, look at the operational logic structure and look at the instrumentation in the field needed to address the problem from all angles.”

Read the full story on PepsiCo Live.

Learn more about PepsiCo's work with water partners to help meet the global challenge of access to safe water and sanitation.