Is water neutrality the new industry green goal?

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Water

Water is the new carbon and companies are starting to engage in water strategy planning, measuring and managing of its use for greater efficiency, according to a new report.

The State of Green Business 2009​ report from GreenBiz.com maintains than the looming water crisis will ensure that manufacturers, particularly beverage and food companies that are highly dependent on the commodity, will set goals to become ‘water neutral’.

According to the publication, Anheuser Busch’s water usage is currently at 5.5 hectolitres of water per each hectolitre of beer packaged but the brewer aims to cut this to 4 hectolitres by 2010. The company said its brewery in Georgia reduced its water use ratio to 4.3 hectolitres last year, and it plans to transfer the conservation efforts there to other sites.

Coca Cola’s goal, states the report into industry sustainability, is to return all water used in its operations back to nature, in its objective of water neutrality. The global drinks giant’s water strategy is focused on plant performance in terms of water use efficiency, water quality, and wastewater treatment.

And Cadbury, it is claimed, plans to put in place water reduction plans at all of its global sites deemed ‘water scarce.’ By 2020, the company hopes to reduce its water use by 20 per cent through such actions as treating and capturing waste water.

Embedded water

The authors of the report claim that measuring the amount of water used in the production and distribution of food and consumer goods can enable companies to better understand, manage and reduce water usage.

“A cup of coffee, for instance, has 140 litres of embedded water, when you consider the amount used to grow, produce, package, and ship the beans. A hamburger contains 2,400 litres,”​ states the publication.

Labelling scheme

Meanwhile, a labelling system that is designed to track the ‘water footprint’ of packaged foods and to tackle food waste through greater consumer awareness of the scarcity of water and the costs involved in production will be discussed at the Corporate Water Footprint Summit in the US later this month.

The system was developed by Professor Arjen Hoekstra at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education.

The water label would operate in a similar way to carbon footprint labelling, but it would measure the amount of fresh water, instead of carbon, used in order to communicate to consumers a company’s efficiency in regards to this commodity.

Jonathan Kaledin, from​the Nature Conservancy, will be leading a workshop, prior to the water footprint conference in Miami, on establishing global water stewardship standards.

He claims the absence of an effective, internationally-recognized programme that oversees the implementation and verification of such standards, currently hinders companies from being able to set internal targets and benchmark themselves externally when its comes to water stewardship.

The GreenBiz.com State of Green Business 2009​ report can be downloaded here​.

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