Careful use and management of water is essential to preserve soil and production capacity for agriculture in arid regions. When companies operate in drought-sensitive areas and require large quantities of water for their production processes, they need to have sound water management. Find out what sound water management according to Triodos means.

One of the key objectives of the International Year of Soils is to make decision makers aware of the need for robust investment in sustainable soil management activities, aimed at healthy soils for different land users and population groups. Healthy soil management includes managing water content of the soil, either from rain or irrigation. But sources of water are at risk due to climate change and human activity. Agriculture (70%) and industry (20%) account by far for the largest part of global fresh water use, the remainder being domestic use. Therefore agricultural and industrial companies have a very strong reason to manage their water well.

Keeping check on water management

Last year, Triodos Research introduced water scarcity as a minimum standard for companies that operate in industries with above-average water usage. Food & Beverage companies are major users of water, both in their own production processes as in the production process of their (agricultural) base materials. There are several ways for companies to implement a viable water management practice, for example via commitment and endorsement of industry initiatives, through self-assessment, by setting usage targets, or developing a water stewardship policy.

Industry initiatives

The Sustainable Agriculture Initiative and the United Nations Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate are two industry initiatives that encourage water management. Dutch beer brewer Heineken has signed up to both. The company uses water as an ingredient in 95% of its drinks. It also requires water for growing crops (making up 90% of its total water usage), and during the production processing and cleaning phases. Heineken has committed to reducing water usage at its breweries, minimising usage in crop growing, and redressing the balance of water used. It has also developed a water stewardship strategy that identifies sites in water-stressed areas and protects them and aims to influence water usage in its agricultural supply chain.

Water footprints

Water footprint assessments help companies measure the amount of water they use to produce their products and services. US coffee roaster Keurig Green Mountain recently conducted a water footprint of its entire value chain. The company came to the conclusion that the largest proportion of its water footprint is the rainwater consumed by growing coffee cherries. Keurig Green Mountain is one of a few companies that provides financial incentives to growers to improve their water management, and targets to engage one million people in its supply chain to improve their livelihoods, including water security and climate resilience. The company is also developing projects in North America to restore the balance between water use for nature purposes and water use for community use.

Water stewardship

Water stewardship is a corporate strategy addressing an efficient use of water and minimising the impact thereof. The Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company’s water stewardship strategy includes policies and targets on water use in its own operations and in its supply chain, on water recycling, awareness of water issues, and protection of watersheds. Its water engagement activities include preservation measures for effective water use, prevention of polluting activities, protection of marine life, and clean-up activities and recycling projects.

Triodos encourages companies to manage their water use and minimise the impact of their water use through water management strategies and programs. We engage with companies to encourage them to understand their water footprint and stimulate good water stewardship.

Note: The issues explored in this article are relevant for sustainable investments on the stock market. Triodos Bank believes that our socially responsible investments are a powerful means of promoting our values and working for greater sustainability, while enabling us to offer a complete range of attractive investment options to customers who choose to invest on the stock market.