Lobby groups in the UK have called for the introduction of water impact labels on food and drink products.
In recent policy commitments the UK, the EU and the UN have all highlighted the importance of stepping up water monitoring programmes and managing water more sustainably, and according to the Food Ethics Council ‘across the globe, water scarcity is shaping up to be one of the most pressing environmental, social and economic challenges of coming decades.’
It is against this backdrop that the Food Ethics Council with Sustain, has produced ‘Water labels on food: Issues and recommendations,’ a report which details the benefits and practical issues of making consumers aware of the hidden volumes of water used in producing the food and drink they buy. This is emphasised in a statement by the Food Ethics Council, which says; 'It takes 140 litres of water to make a cup of coffee, and 8,000 litres to produce 500g of beef'.
The UK is rarely exposed to the direct effects of severe water shortage, and public awareness of water scarcity remains low, however according to the WWF, 62% of the UK’s ‘water footprint’ (WF) comes from other countries, with products such as tomatoes, sugar and cotton having a very high water impact on water-scarce areas.
Discussions are ongoing as to the most effective and efficient way to calculate water footprints, and which products this measure is suitable for. The report says that:
“Some businesses are taking the lead in measuring their WF, considering how to reduce it, and working with NGOs to understand the consequences of water use in their supply chains.”
Water Stewardship schemes currently seem to be the favoured solution. They involve high volume water users taking responsibility and receiving due credit for improving water management practices, right across their water usage cycle. This demonstrates social responsibility and provides opportunities to gain competitive advantage.
Posted under General Interest on 13 August 2009