What is it and why does it matter?
The food system depends on clean, fresh water for irrigation and to raise livestock. This puts pressure on water resources. On the other hand, farming and food manufacturing can contribute to water pollution due to the run-off of fertilisers, slurry, chemicals and pathogens into rivers, streams and bays.
Currently more of a focus for agenda setters, businesses directly linked to water (beverages) and water restricted markets (UAE). Given its high visibility and tangibility, it could potentially be a fast-emerging critical issue. Opportunity to build equity / thought leadership around this issue ahead of increased focused.
Of UAE consumers say responsible water usage and quality management influences their grocery shopping (global average 18%)
Water Stewardship & Neutral Water
Nestlé have partnered with The Alliance for Water Stewardship, to maintain good water stewardship, e.g. optimising water usage in production and providing safe local drinking water
Agenda leads in an Irish context see the deteriorating quality of Irish waterways and the visibility of the issue makes water quality a significant risk to the sector’s green image. It is seen by some to be the next big sustainability topic.
For sustainability leads, concern for this issue was more focused within beverage companies. Therefore, it is important for beverage suppliers to be able to communicate to buyers what they are doing on this issue.
Buyers don't see water as a hugely important topic for their own business, or when choosing suppliers. However, keep in mind for beverage purchasers as it becomes critical.
More focus on the topic for suppliers outside of the EU, like in UAE where water availability is more of a concern. This topic then becomes more influential if talking to buyers in UAE, China and USA.
As we see with buyers, this has yet to register as a mainstream issue when it comes to food and drink sustainability. It is most likely to register in markets outside of Europe such as Asia and the Middle East, as we see with customers (China, UAE, South Korea).
While it is accepted that this is an important facet of sustainable production when prompted, it currently has very limited influence on choice, either for food and drink in general or specific sectors of interest. For this to become a “live” consumer issue it will need significant levels of development and promotion.
Agenda Setters -
Water will be the next big thing. It will be a more unforgiving and possibly a faster conversion than the GHG emissions issue, as water quality is easier to understand
Review the headline insights from the Global Food Sustainability Outlook research.Review the Insights & Implications