Amid pandemic disruptions, San Miguel Corporation is accelerating efforts to reduce its group-wide water consumption by 50% by 2025 even as it reported saving a total of 27.4 billion liters of water to date since its water stewardship initiative “Water For All” was launched in 2017.
“Water is a valuable resource not just for San Miguel, but for all of us. We have not stopped working on improving water use efficiency across all our businesses as we all continue to face water scarcity challenges,” SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang said.
Ang added that the 2021 reduction of 4.54 billion liters represented an 18.40% cut in the company’s water use against 2016 baseline, slightly better than the 18.09% it recorded in 2019, and significantly higher than the 13% reduction it registered in 2020.
Savings, however, dropped in 2020 due largely to the shutdown of most of the company’s facilities amid the pandemic. Plant shutdowns and intermittent production are inefficient, resulting in more frequent startups and draining of water tanks in between, so more water is used as opposed to having the facilities continuously running.
However, 2021 saw a return to pre-pandemic water savings with a slight improvement, as there were lesser lockdowns and facilities were able to run more efficiently.
“From a water savings perspective, we seem to have recovered from the pandemic, but we’re still challenged by low production volumes and continuing inefficiencies. The good thing is the majority of our businesses still showed improvement in 2021, particularly Northern Cement, San Miguel Foods, SMC Infrastructure and SMC Global Power. Ginebra San Miguel also improved slightly. Petron also improved, it still has the highest accumulated water savings, about 15.29 million cubic meters. But this is not yet their former peak performance,” Ang said.
To reduce drawing from scare water sources, SMC utilizes several methods, including the use of sea water, water recycling, and rainwater harvesting, for cooling machines, cleaning, and other utility, non-product water usage.
SMC has mandated that all its newly-built facilities be fitted with rainwater collection systems. A number of older facilities are also being retro-fitted to increase rainwater harvesting and to replace leaking underground pipes with above-ground, easy to monitor installations.
Given the disruptions and changes brought on by the pandemic these last two years, Ang said the company is continuously evaluating how it can best reach its 2025 goal.
Apart from reducing its own use of water, the company has also become a champion for cleaning up major rivers and coastal areas and ridding them of solid waste pollution.
Its P3-billion cleanup of the Tullahan-Tinajeros River system and the Pasig River, are unprecedented. Since June 2020, SMC has removed a total of 986, 641 metric tons of silt and solid wastes from both rivers, or 740,841 tons from the Tullahan River since June 2020, and 227,800 tons from the Pasig River since July 2021.
The clean-up is seen as critical to alleviating flooding all over Metro Manila and paving the way towards improving water quality and biodiversity of both rivers, considered as the top plastic-emitting rivers responsible for the world’s ocean plastics.