UK food and drink manufacturers reduce water use by 11.9%

Nearly a quarter of the UK's food and drink manufacturers have helped reduce water use in the sector by 11.9%, more than halfway towards a 2020 water reduction target of 20%, according to the latest report by the Federation House Commitment (FHC).

The FHC, which published its third annual report today (October 3), is a voluntary agreement set up in 2008 to help food and drink manufacturers improve their water efficiency, and is managed by WRAP and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

In the report it was revealed that signatories of the commitment, which include major brands such as Coca Cola, Nestle, Dairy Crest, Pepsi, Mars and Kraft Foods, reduced their water use by 1.3m cu m each year, compared with 2007, resulting in a reduction of 5.3%, while water use per tonne of product decreased by 11.9%.

The FHC figures show that in 2010 FHC signatories used 22.9m cu m water in the manufacture of food and drink, compared to 24.2m cu m in 2007.

WRAP chief executive Dr Liz Goodwin, who also spoke an event in London last week to address the impact of voluntary agreements in the retail and construction industries, said: “These figures are a clear sign that the food and drink industry is making good steps towards achieving the ambitious target of a 20% water saving by 2020.

“It’s also encouraging to see the strong increase in signatories signing up to the agreement. The benefits of the voluntary approach are that the organisations involved, secure corporate commitment to specific targets that are integrated into business strategies. Signatories also benefit from access to technical expertise and through peer working groups.”

The agreement gained a further 16 signatories between April 2010 and March 2011, including major brands such as Heinz, Thorntons and HP Foods, and now has 54 active signatories – 21% of the UK’s drink and food manufacturers – across 245 sites engaged in making improvements to reduce water use.

As part of the agreement, FHC signatories pledge to review their onsite water use and develop specific action plans within six months of signing up to the commitment.

In return, the FHC has launched a new service which includes benefits such as an opportunity to participate in peer working, access to online water management tools and technical support to help companies more accurately assess and manage water use.

However, Kraft Foods president and chair of the FDF sustainability steering group Nick Bunker said, while the results are positive, more manufacturers need to take action in order to safeguard the UK’s water supplies.

He said: “I am delighted that strong progress to reduce our sector’s water use continues, three years since the launch of the FHC. However, we cannot rest on our laurels.

“Water scarcity is a growing risk that impacts upon everyone so I urge all food and drink manufacturers to sign up to this commitment to improve water use efficiency and reduce the pressure on the UK’s water supplies.”

To meet its target of a 20% reduction in water use by 2020, the FHC has set a goal of recruiting 30% of the UK’s drink and manufacturing sector by March 2012.

The full report can be found here.

Carys Matthews

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