AB Sugar launches global innovation challenge to address water stewardship

Water scarcity now affects more than 40% of the global population

AB Sugar, which has operations in 10 countries across three continents, launched the Innovate Irrigation Challenge on Monday (29 April), in partnership with WaterAid and the Centre for Industrial Sustainability at the University of Cambridge.

The Challenge calls on innovators to submit ideas to address global water loss in agricultural practices – primarily focused on sugar production. A panel of judges will then select a winning concept, which could be scaled up by AB Sugar and its partners to test its viability.

AB Sugar’s head of advocacy Katharine Teague said: “We are all witnessing the ever-increasing pressure on water resources. Making sugar is water intensive and we are continually taking steps to conserve it by improving our water efficiency per tonne of sugar produced and driving water stewardship by using less drop per crop.

“However, there is always more we can do to further improve this at our plants located in challenging environments and climates. Our ambition with this Challenge is to encourage idea generation that could help solve one of the trickiest issues not only in sugar, but also in global agriculture as a whole.”

Entries to the challenge must be submitted between 19 and 20 June 2019 through a dedicated online portal.

Water works

Around 30% of the population still lack safe drinking water supplies, while more than 60% still go without safe sanitation services. Water scarcity now affects more than 40% of the global population, a figure that is projected to increase as climate change brings about increased cases of drought and desertification.

AB Sugar is directly addressing its relationship with water, after it became the first sugar business to launch group-wide sustainability commitments for 2030. Targets to reduce end-to-end supply chain water and CO2 footprints by 30% by 2030 have both been included in the strategy.

In an exclusive interview with edie, Teague recently outlined how AB Sugar had raised its sustainability ambitions to keep its competitive edge in a challenging economic environment.

Commenting on the new water challenge, WaterAid’s senior policy analyst Virginia Newton-Lewis said: “A staggering 844 million people in the world don’t have access to clean water close to home and there is the real risk that climate change could threaten scarce water resources, so it’s vital that we explore ways to boost the amount of water available for people who need it most. One way of doing this is by finding new techniques to reduce water use and reuse wastewater in agriculture.

AB Sugar at edie Live

AB Sugar’s head of advocacy Katharine Teague is set to appear at edie Live on the circular economy theatre on day one (21 May), to discuss how businesses can make sustainability a competitive edge. The session will explore transformational drives to align resource efficiency with social economic impact.

The session is just one of many taking place across four theatres during the two-day show, which is edie’s biggest of the year and a highlight in the calendar for sustainability, energy and environment professionals. Under the theme of “turning ambition into ACTION”, we will be bringing attendees the inspiration and solutions needed to achieve a low-carbon, resource efficient and profitable future for their organisation.

Register for your free edie Live 2019 pass here.

Matt Mace

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