Mondi: Promoting water stewardship in South Africa

Mondi is an international packaging and paper Group with revenues of EUR € 7.5 billion in 2018, employing around 26,000 people in over 30 countries. The company manages 2.4 million hectares of forests in Russia and South Africa.

It is a key responsibility of business to help deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mondi's reporting focuses on SDGs 7, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 15, where the company has the greatest impact and the greatest opportunity to make a real and lasting difference. 


South Africa is a water-stressed country and freshwater ecosystems are vital to people, wildlife and Mondi’s business. Since 2014, the WWF-Mondi Water Stewardship Partnership (evolved from the WWF-Mondi Wetlands Program) has been promoting the landscape approach to water stewardship by catalyzing individual and collective action across entire water catchments.

What started out as wetlands management in Mondi’s forestry plantations has now been extended to include the agricultural sector and other plantation forestry growers. The Partnership brings together key stakeholders who have a shared interest in maintaining freshwater ecosystems and services at the water catchment level, including farmers, local government, value chain businesses and industry bodies in the forest, dairy, sugar and citrus sectors.

By employing an innovative social learning approach, the partnership demonstrates that isolated good practices by individual actors cannot address the complex challenges related to water resource management across catchments. It exemplifies that collaboration and knowledge exchange are essential to co-construct successful solutions. 


Mondi South Africa and WWF-South Africa recognize that for water resource management to be effective (i.e. water security for all); action is needed by multiple stakeholders at a catchment scale.

Mondi recognized that its own operations were at risk from climate change influences on rainfall, and from poor water resource management at a landscape level ( including bulk water management, wastewater management; or ineffective water resource management within industry, agriculture, forestry, and government).

Mondi South Africa and WWF-South Africa also recognized that an agent and a mechanism was needed to bring different stakeholders together within priority catchments towards this common water stewardship goal.  As such, uMhlathuze catchment was identified as the priority catchment for this landscape level initiative.  WWF-South Africa, as a credible, independent NGO, was best placed to play the critical convening role in collaboration with the National Business Initiative, to co-manage the uMhlathuze Water Stewardship Partnership. 


The purpose of the WWF-Mondi Water Stewardship Partnership is to implement more effective water stewardship at the landscape scale (catchments) by engaging with multiple key stakeholders (industry, agriculture, forestry, government). The priority catchment is the uMhlathuze catchment located in the eastern South Africa, where some of Mondi South Africa’s main assets are located. 

Mondi's theory of change to addressing key barriers is two-fold:

  • we can only ensure water security for all, if we catalyze individual and collective water stewardship action across entire catchments; and
  • we can only achieve this water stewardship goal by developing human agency (i.e. the ability and power people have to think, reflect and act) through convening ambitious learning partnerships.

To achieve this theory of change, the WWF-Mondi Water Stewardship Partnership implement an innovative approach to: 

  • catalyze learning and knowledge sharing networks;
  • institutionalize water stewardship practices in industry, forestry and agriculture;
  • strengthen mandated water governance institutions; and 
  • catalyze partnerships that strengthen collective action with a ‘beyond the fence’ approach to water stewardship.

Key outcomes & lessons learned

The WWF-Mondi Water Stewardship Partnership catalyzed establishment of the uMhlathuze Water Stewardship Partnership in collaboration with the National Business Initiative, as the coordination hub for individual and collective action on water resource management across multiple stakeholders. 

It also initiated water stewardship projects with these stakeholders, including agriculture (sugar, citrus), industry, forestry, and government. The projects include water efficient irrigation, better water use monitoring and bulk-water infrastructure management, and coordination of invasive alien plant management.

The Partnership also launched a process catalyzing a Single Water Users Association (i.e. all irrigation farmers), representing a national test case on improved water governance, including water use billing.

Next steps

The next key items featuring the WWF-Mondi Water Stewardship Partnership's agenda include to: 

  • Consolidate the work initiated in the uMhlathuze catchment and focus on tangible results to improve the governance and use of water resources.
  • Extract the key lessons through the monitoring, evaluation and learning approach, on whether the Partnership's Theory of Change is successful in addressing barriers and realizing opportunities for effective water resource management.
  • Expand the scope of the initiative to other key catchments in eastern South Africa (e.g. Mkhomazi catchment), leveraging the lessons learned in the uMhlathuze catchment. 

More information

To learn more about the WWF-Mondi Water Stewardship Partnership and Mondi's initiatives, please consult: 

Key SDGs impacted

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