Case Studies Freshwater pilot, Sector: Consumer Foods

Suntory: Corporate insights from piloting freshwater SBTs



The SBTN freshwater hub coordinated science-based targets for nature pilots with General Mills, Procter & Gamble and Suntory between April 2021-June 2022 throughout various parts of their value chains.

What has your freshwater target-setting journey been like to date?

The Suntory Group is a global leader in both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages industry, and we established the “Environmental Vision toward 2050” and “Environmental Targets toward 2030” to provide clear direction to our environmental management around the pillars of water sustainability and climate change, in accordance with our mission “to create harmony with people and nature.”  Specifically, we aim to:

  • Reduce the water intensity of production at our owned plants by 50% globally;
  • Replenish more than 100% of water used at all of our owned plants globally through conservation of the surrounding ecosystem;
  • Achieve sustainable water use for all key ingredients; and
  • Share the Sustainable Water Philosophy to the communities where our business operates.

To achieve our “Environmental Vision toward 2050” above, we have set specific environmental targets (Environmental Targets toward 2030, water targets were revised in December 2021) as a more concrete milestone.

What motivated Suntory to undertake SBTN’s pilot on setting freshwater science-based targets? 

As we have been implementing the “Natural Water Sanctuary Initiative” for 20 years, we recognized the Suntory Group’s participation in the Freshwater pilot study as an opportunity to strengthen our scientific approach to water target-setting by combining it with the SBT freshwater methods.

By participating in the SBT Freshwater pilot study, we reaffirmed the importance of taking the entire value chain into consideration. By adopting the SBT freshwater methods, we hope to accelerate our efforts to achieve our water targets by 2030, especially in the upstream part of our value chain.

What insights emerged from the pilot? 

In order to undertake SBTN’s target-setting journey, it is necessary to have some understanding of the sites, both in direct operations and in the value chain. In this pilot, we thoroughly understood how significant it is to identify water issues, then to share them with stakeholders in a catchment and work toward positive outcomes for nature within each water basin.  We referred to SBTN’s approach in our research process of water risk assessment at our production sites located in highly water stressed areas.

In addition, we recognized that it is important to understand the location of the sites in the value chain related to the company’s business activities and the status of water use at those sites, especially in the manufacturing of upstream ingredients. 

What benefits setting freshwater targets through the pilot brought to the company?

The prioritization step (Step 2) proved to be an important process for our company.

Based on this, The Suntory Group revised its “Environmental Targets toward 2030” (December 2021) in order to clarify the prioritzation process of water-saving activities and water withdrawal in our direct operations. Focusing on our value chain, we identified our key ingredients based on the evaluation of water stress and included them in one of these updated targets.

This revision has encouraged the whole Suntory Group to accelerate water-related initiatives. As a case example of this pilot in a highly water stressed area, we are using a simulation model to conduct an initial study of the impact on water quantity and quality in the Guajaraz reservoir that is the water source of our Toledo plant in Spain. Based on the result of this pilot, Suntory has begun to work with local university experts to obtain necessary observation data in order to set a local target. 

What advice would you give to companies who are considering preparing to set science-based targets for nature? 

The difficulty of water initiatives lies in the fact that water is a local resource and the status and challenges of the water cycle vary greatly from basin to basin. It is therefore important for companies to explore what approaches to adopt and what resources to invest in, and consideration of the freshwater SBTs methodology should be part of this process.

In order to maintain water sustainability at each site, especially in prioritised areas, it is recommended and worth investing in evaluating water issues and collaborating with local experts for this purpose.


Ahead of the first release of science-based targets for nature v1 in early 2023, Science Based Targets Network is seeking public comment – until October 15 – on its technical guidance for companies to set science-based targets for nature, with a focus on helping companies assess and prioritize their environmental impacts to then set targets, beginning with freshwater. More information.