Knorr – one of Unilever’s sustainable living brands – has outlined a number of key steps to help shoppers cut back on ‘invisible’ water waste. The company, which sells stock and flavour pots, is hoping to get consumers to act on water footprints just as it is within its own supply chain.

Food waste as acted as a high-profile example of the need to revamp how consumers and companies interact with produce. Hugh’s war on waste TV series and a number of large company initiatives have developed over recent months to tackle the seven million tonnes of food we throw out per year.

While consumers are now more aware of food waste ramifications, media campaigns and far-reaching initiatives often fail to highlight the forgotten problems and the intricate relationship that water scarcity has with food and crop development.

The ‘Forgotten Problem’

The amount of water waste in food production per year is alarming. While many are aware of direct water use such as leaving taps running, the average adult still uses 140 litres of water per day. However, the amount of water wasted “behind the scenes” in the food they eat is almost 20 times that amount, with the hidden water used to produce food equalling 3,800 litres per day.

According to UN figures, 500 million people are approaching water scarcity globally, with 50% of the world’s population facing water shortages by 2030. As the number of people taken ill from water-based pathogens rises, Knorr claims that addressing water waste is “more important than ever”.

With food production consuming around 90% of the world’s surface water, Knorr has made its own efforts to tackle the issue in partnering with the Water Footprint Network (WFN) to run this campaign.

WFN’s executive director Ruth Mathews said: “Most consumers would be shocked to find out that 92% of their water footprint is a result of the water used to produce the food they eat – and that it might be produced in areas where water is scarce or polluted.

“That’s why efforts by companies to reduce the water footprint of crops and to educate consumers on their food choices are more important than ever. World Water Week provides a great opportunity to consider how we each can contribute to improving the sustainability of water resources through our daily lives.”

Knorr knows best

Through this campaign, Knorr is championing simple changes to consumer buying habits and offers advice to consumers to be more water conscious. As well as offering a list of alternative food items with a lower water footprint, Knorr is also calling on consumers to buy food that is certified with sustainable sourcing logos while also limiting the amount of food that gets thrown away.Knorr has been working closely with farmers in its supply chain to meet sustainable agricultural standards and to implement new techniques for mitigating water waste in its crop production – using methods like drip irrigation. Farmers who have been part of the Knorr sustainable agriculture programme for three years have saved an average of 10.6 kilotons of water.

Unilever procurement operations manager for sustainable sourcing Andrea Granier said: “Knorr’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and sustainable water practices have already made a big difference, with 17.8% of irrigation water saved already.

“Our farmers are continuing to build their expertise in more sustainable techniques, which means they can work with nature to use minimal resources giving crops just the right amount of water to bring out their flavour. Our tomatoes aren’t watered for about a week before they’re picked, and are all the sweeter for it.”

Business Stewardship

Earlier this year, a new action plan promoting water stewardship was outlined by the BITC in a “smartwater report” that detailed a six step plan encouraging businesses to work with suppliers to reduce water usage in their operations.

During World Water Week, food and beverage giants PepsiCo and Coca-Cola released new water and general waste reduction figures, with both companies surpassing previously established targets early.

Alex Baldwin

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