Sainsbury’s seeks customer views on future water scarcity

Sainsbury's is canvassing opinion among its customers on how to tackle the growing issue of water scarcity as it prepares to debate the problem with key stakeholders in a closed meeting next week.

Next Monday (February 20) the retailer’s chief executive Justin King will host a special dinner with some of the company’s major suppliers to discuss the topic of global water sourcing. The dinner is one of five such events it holds each year, themed around corporate responsibility values.

To help feed into this debate, Mary Salmon, who works on Sainsbury’s water stewardship strategy, posted a blog on the company’s website to ask customers what action the supermarket should take to help mitigate water vulnerability.

One customer, Pete Bradbury, told Sainsbury’s that it should sell products “that do not use large amounts of water in their production, such as local vegetables, rather than irrigated imports”. He added that the retailer should also make customers more aware of water used in the growing or manufacture of items.

Another customer, Samantha Go, felt the company’s focus should be on sourcing more sustainably right down the supply chain while taking customers on that journey. She said: “The biggest impact can lie in sourcing and consumerism, so the beginning and the end of the value chain.”

Meanwhile customer Richard Wharton urged Sainsbury’s to “be bold and lead change”. He said that as a consumer, he didn’t drink bottled water and only used the washing machine and dishwasher on full loads.

Under its 20 by 20 sustainability plan, launched last October, Sainsbury’s has pledged to map water usage for its top 30 commodities and introduce supply risk management where necessary. It will also develop plans in collaboration with its stakeholders to monitor water use in the most sensitive sourcing zones across the globe.

Water shortage has been identified as potentially a greater global risk than soaring food prices and energy security according to a Goldman Sachs ‘Top Five Risks’ conference held back in 2008.

In addition, a recent study by the 2030 Water Resources Group found that there could be a potential shortfall of 40% in water resources available across the world by 2030.

Maxine Perella

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