The WWF-Mondi Water Stewardship Partnership: A partnership that began 30 years ago

Case study
13 December, 2023
3 minute read
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WWF Mondi South Africa partnership

The journey of the WWF-Mondi Water Stewardship Partnership (WWF-MWSP) started over 30 years ago, when the establishment of plantations in South Africa caused conflicts between the forestry sector and environmental communities due to the impacts on water resources.

At Mondi South Africa, we strive for open dialogue and collaboration, and we set out to find a solution.  WWF South Africa were committed to working on this with us, and soon a partnership was born. 

In the years that followed, we collaborated with scientists, NGO’s and government, and contributed to changing South Africa’s approach to managing wetlands. We became our country’s first large landowner to work on rehabilitating wetlands, and now manage around more than 15,000 hectares of wetlands on our South African landholdings. Through the partnership, we were able to bring together key stakeholders who have a shared interest in maintaining freshwater ecosystems and services at the landscape level – including farmers, local government and corporate land users (forestry and agriculture). 

As water risks due to climate change became more evident, the partnership developed the idea of taking lessons learnt from the existing work and spreading that good practice throughout our manufacturing operations and beyond, launching the global WWF-Mondi Water Stewardship Partnership in 2014.  

During the years when South Africa faced extreme drought conditions (2014 to 2016) Mondi South Africa drastically reduced the water footprints of its mills by 19%, and with the support of our partnership catalysed a drought resilience strategy in preparation for future droughts. 

In 2016, we celebrated 25 years of the WWF-Mondi Wetlands Programme with a publication.

Our partnership achievements

Together with WWF South Africa, Mondi has…  

  • provided a practical example on how government agencies, communities, industry and NGOs can work together and make a difference together.  
  • catalysed the inclusion of water stewardship requirements into national legislation and certification schemes.  
  • shared learnings on our water stewardship journey to support WWF to include some of South Africa’s biggest corporates in the journey.  
  • established a reputation as a company willing to put up our hand, to engage, to find solutions, to move beyond legal compliance, to be transparent and constructive in our engagements.  

For me personally, our partnership with the WWF is a great story about dedication and leadership, the power of people, and the enormous impact we have when we put aside our differences and focus our resources, and energy on the common good.

-Vivien McMenamin, CEO Mondi South Africa   

Long lasting and meaningful partnerships need to be backed by insightful leadership, strong scientific input, consistent corporate funding to develop and maintain a core team of experts, and most importantly - passion. 

Our recent work includes development of a near real-time water flow monitoring tool to aid strategic decision-making in the catchment area. Learn more about our water flow tracking case study.

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