John Lewis applies for water self-supply licence in first for UK retail

John Lewis & Partners has become the first UK retailer to apply for a water self-supply licence, in a bid to reduce water use and deliver savings.

Five other businesses have been granted water self-supply licences this year, but John Lewis & Partners would be the first retailer. Image: WaterScan

Five other businesses have been granted water self-supply licences this year, but John Lewis & Partners would be the first retailer. Image: WaterScan

Water services firm Waterscan announced on Monday (2 September) that it has successfully partnered with the department store in facilitating the application process to Ofwat.

If this application is successful, John Lewis & Partners will pay wholesale water prices, skipping the retail margin. It will also become a member of the Self-Supply User Forum – a business-led collaboration where firms collectively advance best practice in water efficiency.

John Lewis’s application would cover all of its sites in England, including all Waitrose & Partners sites as part of an associated company clause.

Waterscan’s managing director Neil Pendle said the move by the retailer shows that it is “taking a leadership position to drive sustainable water procurement to the next level”.

Pendle added: “Having analysed the options for John Lewis, we are extremely confident that self-supply will influence its ability to meet its targets and give it an all-important customer voice in the water marketplace – a first for the retail sector. We look forward to helping John Lewis set a new benchmark when it comes to water efficiency in retailing.”

John Lewis has not yet set a time-bound, numerical target for water efficiency. However, it committed to reaching net-zero by 2050 ahead of the UK Government’s national legislation and has aligned its CSR strategy with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 6, Clean Water & Sanitation and SDG 14, Life Below Water. Moreover, its existing array of low-carbon activities have seen the retailer reduce its operational carbon footprint by 70% against a 2010 baseline.

Business benefits

John Lewis is among several companies switching to self-supply to better manage their water use, since the water retail market opened in April 2017.

Ofwat has granted licences to Greene King, Whitbread, Marston’s, Kellogg’s, Coca Cola European Partners, BT and Heineken amongst others.

Greene King revealed last year that the switch to self-supply had enabled the company to reduce its water footprint by more than 140,000m3 since April 2017. Daily, Greene King has realised 384.32m3 in consumption savings - the equivalent of 676,313 pints. Four hospitality giants (Greene King, Whitbread, Marston’s and Stonegate Pub Company) have together saved 392,315m3 since they switched to self-supply - the equivalent of more than 690 million pints.

Indeed, Ofwat claims that most large companies to have selected self-supply have “particularly demonstrated the scope for business customers to achieve water savings… continuing to report advantages of this type of business model, including price savings, better control of their data and the ability to achieve water efficiency savings".

Away from the corporate sphere, Ofwat recently granted its first water self-supply licence to a local authority – Nottingham City Council. The council estimates that switching to self-supply will cut £64,000 off its annual utility bills while boosting resource efficiency.

Sarah George



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