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Peter Brabeck assumed the top spot at Nestlé in 2008, after overseeing its strategic transformation into the world's foremost nutrition company. Since joining Nestlé in 1968, he has been in[…]

After analyzing the most important factors for the sustainability of Nestle, water became a priority for the company.

Question: With CEOs scrutinized over their every move these days, how should they approach the manner in which they publicize personal desires for policy change?

Peter Brabeck: What I would say where a company has an opportunity to do something substantial.  I think we have a moral obligation to work on those subjects.  If Nestle and myself have become very vocal in the area of water, it was not because of any philanthropic idea, it was very simple.  By analyzing what is the single most important factor for the sustainability of Nestle, water came is number one subject.  And out of this became the interest to analyze the situation of water and why it is not sustainable.  And once we found out the truth about this over exploitation of water, we started to create, first awareness, and then secondly started to create a group of people who would have the same interests, brought them in.  They have different NGO's, we brought in the big institutions and today we have I would say, a whole group of institutions, companies which are working activity on the problems and hopefully as I mentioned before, have brought forward solutions, practical solutions in order to overcome such an important issue. 

I think this is part of a company's responsibilities.  Now, if I was in a different industry, I would have a different subject, certainly that I would be focusing on.  But that's the area where at Nestle, we can do most, and that's why we have chosen that at Nestle. 

Question: Should industries have a role in finding solutions to environmental issues that affect their business?

Peter Brabeck: Yes, it is in the interest of our shareholders.  If I want to convince my shareholders that this industry is a long-term sustainable industry, I have to assure that all aspects that are vital for this company are sustainable.  And when I see, like in our case that one of the aspects, which is water, which is being needed in order to produce the raw materials for our company, if this is not sustainable, then my enterprise is not sustainable.  So, therefore, I have to do something about it.  So, shareholder interest and societal interest are common.

Recorded on February 26, 2010