A Drink to Water Conservation

Mar 24, 2016

Ring of water being held by a few handsThe drought in California – home to almost 40 million people and a $54 billion agricultural industry – has helped raise awareness of the value of water. Since the first World Water Day, on March 22, 1993, water has increased in its prominence on the international stage as the recognized lifeblood of society and the environment upon which we depend. Water scarcity and the wise use of this resource are more pertinent than ever.

At Yum! we recognize that water is a nexus, closely tying agriculture and energy with our ability to prosper. Understanding and addressing this connection is critical to the sustainability of our business, the regions from which we source our food and the communities in which our restaurants operate. During the past decade, Yum! has been working to reduce water consumption in company-owned restaurants by 10% and encourage franchisees to do the same. With over 42,000 Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants across the world, this is no small feat.

As a result of this effort, we have saved over 800 million gallons of water across the globe in our corporate restaurants. This is the equivalent of one day’s worth of water needed to supply the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the year that we started working toward our aspirational goal, 2006. The journey included the development and release of global green building development standards with approaches and technologies to reduce water consumption in restaurants. The standards include, among other things, requirements for ice machines, dishwashers, restroom fixtures and irrigation systems. Restaurant teams are working hard to implement these water-saving approaches. We are proud that that we have made a positive impact, but we know we have more work to do to conserve this life-dependent resource.

Taco Bell in the United States is a shining example of what can be achieved. They focused on improving where they use water most, landscape irrigation. Irrigation can account for up to 45% of a restaurant’s water use. With the cost of water increasing, as well as with greater awareness that water is a precious natural resource, Taco Bell took decisive action. After a conservation pilot program in 2012 successfully demonstrated a 40% reduction in irrigation water, Taco Bell overhauled the irrigation systems in over 900 of its company-owned restaurants and updated the specification for new construction to meet the Yum! water-saving standard.

This is just one example of the success of our markets as they make great strides in implementing water use standards around the world as well as exploring solutions that respond to local conditions. In drought-vulnerable Australia, KFC has implemented a range of water-saving measures, such as using local water efficient landscaping and high efficiency water fixtures in restrooms, with expected water savings of up to 35%. In addition, to further respond to local conditions, they have taken the step of including rainwater harvesting tanks in their sustainable building standards to contribute to irrigation landscaping. Not to be outdone, our LEED Gold-certified KFCs in China and India have achieved a water savings of 50% and 42%, respectively. Of course we know that water conservation starts at home. At Yum! corporate headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky we have upgraded our irrigation system to reduce water use by 40%, saving about 1.1 million gallons of water annually, as well as made other improvements in our buildings. Our LEED certified Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, California also takes a restrained approach to water use through low-flow fixtures and the use of reclaimed water for both restrooms and irrigation.

Join us in celebrating water, our most precious resource, in honor of World Water Day this week. We recognize that we have just started on our journey and will continue striving to reduce our footprint on the planet’s water supply in our restaurants and through supplier partnerships to make a difference that we can all drink to. To learn more about Yum! Brands’ Water Conservation efforts visit: www.yumcsr.com/environment.