While consumers have become more aware of food waste issues thanks to media campaigns and numerous initiatives led by startups and large companies alike, such efforts tend to overlook the intricate relationship between food production and water scarcity. With this in mind, food producer Knorr, one of Unilever’s sustainable living brands, has launched a new behavior change campaign to raise awareness of the “hidden” water waste impacts in food production and encourage consumers to reduce their water footprint, just as the brand has within its own supply chain.
Many are sensitive to their direct water use and pay attention to avoid leaving taps running, take shorter showers and the like, but the average adult still uses between 80-100 gallons of water every day. Alarmingly, the amount of water wasted “behind the scenes” in the food they eat is nearly 20 times that amount – the water used to produce their food is roughly 1,000 gallons per day. Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of all water withdrawn by the agricultural, municipal and industrial (including energy) sectors. At the same time, 500 million people are approaching water scarcity globally and half of the world’s population will be facing water shortages by 2030, according to United Nations figures.
Knorr claims that addressing water waste is therefore “more important than ever,” and launched its new campaign during World Water Week in partnership with the Water Footprint Network (WFN). The brand is encouraging consumers to make simple changes to their buying habits and offers advice to help them be more water conscious. Knorr is offering a list of alternative food items with a lower water footprint, as well as asking consumers to buy food that is certified as sustainably sourced and limiting their food waste.
Image credit: Mekonnen and Hoekstra (2010) via Water Footprint Network“Most consumers would be shocked to find out that 92% of their water footprint is a result of the water used to produce the food they eat - and that it might be produced in areas where water is scarce or polluted,” said WFN’s executive director Ruth Mathews.
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“That’s why efforts by companies to reduce the water footprint of crops and to educate consumers on their food choices are more important than ever. World Water Week provides a great opportunity to consider how we each can contribute to improving the sustainability of water resources through our daily lives.”
For its part, Knorr has been working closely with farmers in its supply chain to meet sustainable agricultural standards and to implement new techniques for mitigating water waste in its crop production, such as drip irrigation. Farmers who have been participating in Knorr’s program for three years have saved an average of 10.6 kilotons of water.
“Knorr’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and sustainable water practices have already made a big difference, with 17.8 percent of irrigation water saved already,” said Andrea Granier, Unilever’s procurement operations manager for sustainable sourcing. “Our farmers are continuing to build their expertise in more sustainable techniques, which means they can work with nature to use minimal resources giving crops just the right amount of water to bring out their flavour. Our tomatoes aren’t watered for about a week before they’re picked, and are all the sweeter for it.”
Knorr’s efforts are part of Unilever’s wider sustainability program, for which the flagship campaign was recently rebranded. Originally under the banner ‘Project Sunlight,’ Unilever’s brightFuture campaign aims to demonstrate how its brands help make the world “a better place.” Among the company’s brands that have integrated sustainability into their purpose and products, Unilever’s five biggest brands – including Knorr – grew 30 percent faster than the rest of its business in 2015.
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo also released updates on their water stewardship performance in celebration of World Water Week.