EXCLUSIVE: Tackling water scarcity ‘critical’ to success of the beverage industry

Businesses in the beverage industry have effectively recognised the need to improve water efficiency within their operations but progress must continue to secure the sectors future, says Coca Cola Enterprises' (CCE) Joe Franses.

As a water intensive sector, the beverage industry has acknowledged the issues around water security by making considerable reductions in the last two years.

Recognising that water is one of, if not the main, ingredient of their products, many of the major companies within the industry have invested in and implemented stringent water efficiency measures to ensure the costs accrued through waste water are kept to a minimum.

Speaking to edie, director of corporate responsibility and sustainability at Coca Cola Entreprises, Joe Franses said that no business within the beverage industry would exist without water, which is why the recent uptake in water efficiency has been so dramatic.

He added that the beverage industry is not just looking at water efficiency but at the “whole efficiency effectiveness agenda”, including energy, carbon and waste.

“The industry is taking efficiency across all areas seriously but water efficiency just makes good sense. If you are using less water, you’re wasting less and therefore it is going to save you money in the long-term,” he added.

In 2012, a report by the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER), Water Use Benchmarking, showed that out of 725 carbonated soft drink bottling sites, 74% showed an improvement in water use ratio from 2009 to 2011.

By improving water use efficiency, the industry avoided the use of approximately 35 billion litres of water in 2011 – enough water to fill London’s 02 Arena more than 16 times.

“There is now recognition that water is critical to business. There is an understanding at a global level that water stress and water scarcity are acute problems. So it makes sense for those businesses in the beverage industry to be focused on water and understand their use of water,” said Franses.

In the last five years, CCE has reduced its water usage by 5% despite increasing production by around 12%.

In February, CCE was one of four organisations to achieve the world’s first international award for water reduction, along with Sainsbury’s, Sunlight and Branston, who worked in tandem with the Carbon Trust to develop the standard methodology.

Other major companies in the beverage industry have followed CCE’s lead, with alcohol beverage producers Diageo and Bacardi recording significant water reduction in 2012.

Bacardi improved its water efficiency per unit of product by 11% in 2012 compared to 2011, due to increased production volumes and water efficiency measures.

In September last year, Guinness and Smirnoff producer, Diageo, said it was on track to reach its water efficiency improvement target of 30% by 2015 after reducing consumption by 7.2% in 2011.

Leigh Stringer

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