Businesses must collaborate with supply chain to improve water efficiency

Businesses can improve water efficiency across their operations and in their products by taking a collaborative approach with their supply chain partners, according to three major brands.

Kicking off a seminar on water efficiency strategies at SustainabilityLive! in the NEC, Birmingham, Diageo global technical director Gerry O’Hagan outlined how its water footprinting strategy had enabled it to achieve a 16% improvement in water efficiency in 2012, against a 2007 baseline.

Identifying agriculture as the largest user of water in its supply chain, Mr O’Hagan explained that Diageo then took steps to collaborate with its farming suppliers worldwide to encourage and help them develop more water efficient growing processes.

He said: “We are absolutely focused on improving out water efficiency as it is core to our business.”

In addition, Diageo is investing in new technologies and aiming to source materials locally in a bid to further improve the efficiency of its supply chain and reduce its water footprint.

According to Mr O’Hagan, “collaboration is essential” and added that “businesses need to assess the whole impact across their supply chain, test new technology and identify new partners.”

B&Q environment manager Ben Earl echoed this view and emphasised the importance of supply chain transparency for consumers, stakeholders and potential investors.

He explained that as a multi-product supplier B&Q faces the challenge of determining how to measure and publish the footprint of its products. To assess this he said B&Q had taken a different approach and introduced a model of ‘hot-spotting’, which looks at the water footprint locked in a product.

He said: “We are actively trying to benchmark water use by taking a hotspot approach. Moving forwards we are looking to develop policy into how to get our supply chain to improve water efficiency.”

Taking a different approach again is Nestle, which revealed it is taking a joined up approach with businesses, suppliers, NGOs and Government to reduce its water footprint.

As a result, it is working with the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), in partnership with other major brands, such as Unilever, Coca-Cola and Kellogg’s to develop ways to save water along the food supply chain.

Nestle head of safety, health and environment sustainability Inder Poonaji said that the initiative aims to “put a value on water” and to make water efficiency and reduction a boardroom priority.

He said: “We need to get water on the agenda like carbon”. However, he added that businesses must get engagement with their suppliers and employees or else water efficiency strategies won’t work.

Carys Matthews

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