Ensuring access to a reliable supply of water is a critical strategic priority for Illovo to meet both its business needs and that of surrounding communities. Risk factors for sustainable procurement of water are exacerbated by issues of scarcity and accessibility across
community and national boundaries, and often involve interdependent factors that vary from country to country and region to region.
We undertake water abstraction operations in compliance with existing water-use licences, which are issued by the relevant authorities within the countries of operation. Illovo’s greatest water use is for cane irrigation in its own agricultural operations outside of South Africa. Our operations in Zambia, Eswatini, Malawi and Mozambique are under full irrigation while in Tanzania, the majority of our land under cane is irrigated with the balance cultivated under rainfed conditions. Water abstraction for irrigation is likely to increase in future years as we expand our irrigation capacity to improve and increase cane supply, and formalise water supply agreements to assist in supplying water to small-scale outgrower developments.
By comparison, process water requirements at our mills and downstream plants are minimal. Water is often recycled extensively through the factory in an “open-loop” system, following which it is discharged to supplement irrigation water. Water discharge volumes and methods vary by site, but are usually monitored and regulated to ensure compliance with relevant national statutes. We continually evaluate and implement new processes to improve efficiencies in an effort to reduce overall water consumption and maximise the recycling of water in its secondary processes.
Water conservation, use and availability have all been identified as material issues to the business. Consequently, Illovo’s Sustainability Policy includes water governance criteria. Two of the key objectives of the Sustainability Policy are to reduce water consumption per unit of production within the organisation and to review waste water management so as to identify opportunities for improvement.
The Illovo agricultural operations currently use an irrigation scheduling tool to manage the effective use of water on the irrigated estates. In addition, Illovo is currently implementing a Water Strategy and Framework in its agricultural operations so as to minimise the use of water and hence energy per unit of production.
Assessing water-related risks is an important component of the overall risk management strategy for our business. Illovo recognises that water is a global resource that requires local management. The risk management strategy identifies that risk factors concerning water are exacerbated by issues of scarcity and accessibility across community and national boundaries and often involve interdependent factors that vary from country to country and region to region. Ultimately, through developing a better understanding of our water-related risks, we hope to be able to provide strategic direction to our operations and an elevated understanding of localised water resource risk factors.
Ensuring access to a reliable supply of water is a critical strategic priority for Illovo to meet both its business needs and those of surrounding communities. The company has undertaken a number of initiatives to improve the management of water, including substituting sprinkler and furrow irrigation with more efficient centre pivot irrigation application systems, the installation of water-efficient linear irrigation systems, the concrete lining of bulk water supply canals to decrease water losses and the undertaking of water mass-balance assessments at all Illovo operations to provide accurate water consumption data. As part of the company’s drive to use resources efficiently, the group is currently working towards promoting waste minimisation and reduction through the reuse of resources where possible, and the recovery of recyclable waste.
Water is a core input and Illovo recognises the need to focus on water efficiency to ensure the sustainability of the business. It already invests in leading-edge water-efficiency technology, and where possible, pursues rainfed-only irrigation practices. Ubombo Sugar in Eswatini has converted its irrigation systems to centre pivots, which significantly reduce the total amount of water required. The ZAR 84 million investment has reduced water use per season by around 23% and energy use by 20%, whilst increasing cane yields by 14 tonnes per hectare.
For more information see Environmental Impact 2012/13 Annual Report. We continue to respond to the Carbon Disclosure Project – Water.