Research community ‘vital’ to corporate water efficiency

Scientific information from the research community is essential if large corporations are to manage water consumption and prepare themselves for periods of potential water scarcity, says Joe Franses of Coca Cola Enterprises.

Director of corporate responsibility and sustainability, Franses, stressed that throughout Coca Cola’s sustainability journey and as the company defined its water targets, research has been heavily relied upon to set current goals.

Speaking at the Corporate Water Risk 2012 conference in London today, Franses said: “Certainly, if I think back to all the work we did to understand the water footprint of our products; it wasn’t something we could have done alone by any means.

“Working with the University of Twente, for example, in the Netherlands, we looked specifically at the water footprint of a 500ml bottle of Coca Cola produced from our factory in the Netherlands and it’s only by working in partnership with the university, and others, that we were really able to understand not just the quantity or footprint but critically what that meant in terms of impact to the environment and the company”.

Collaboration was a strong focus amongst most of the conference attendees and delegates agreed that partnering with the research community is key to developing successful water projects.

Franses added: “Our replenish commitment, which means Coca Cola Enterprises ‘replenishes’ and essentially returns the amount of water that is used in our products where its sourced from areas of water stress, and to do that requires some quite complex calculations and actually research partnerships are absolutely critical in helping us understand the benefits of our replenish projects”.

However, senior manager of water risks and partnerships at SABMiller, David Grant, added that the corporate sector could be doing more to feed back to the research community.

“We spend an incredible amount of money researching water scarcity and water risk and I think there is more we could do in feeding back into local universities and institutions in those water stressed areas about what we are doing in our operations to become more water efficient”, said Grant.

Tackling the water crisis has become a higher priority for those in the corporate sector. According to a recently published study from edie and Temple Group, ‘Why are business leaders prioritising sustainability?‘, almost half (49%) of the survey respondents will be carrying out more detailed water footprint analysis by 2014.

Leigh Stringer

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