Carbon Trust urges business to wake up to water waste

The Carbon Trust is today launching the world's first international award for water reduction to catalyse business action on measuring, managing and reducing water use. This will fundamentally change businesses' sustainability benchmarks and the way they are viewed by investors, stakeholders and customers.

Carbon reduction is no longer enough. According to the Carbon Trust and a number of leading business pioneers in water management, water is the new frontier in the battle against climate change and the devastating impact of depleting resources. The Carbon Trust is using this platform to urge businesses to reduce their water consumption as a matter of urgency.

In developing the methodology for this new award the Carbon Trust has worked closely with Sainsbury's, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Sunlight and Branston, four early adopters of the Carbon Trust Water Standard.

According to the Carbon Trust, businesses around the world are not acting fast enough, despite the fact that global water use is predicted to increase dramatically by 2030[1] to a level far exceeding current freshwater availability. Failure to act is exposing businesses to water scarcity issues down the line, which in some cases could lead to dramatically increased costs, or could grind operations to a standstill.

Interviews with 475 senior executives of large companies in the UK, USA, China, South Korea and Brazil found that only one in seven of those businesses has set a target on water reduction, or publicly reported on water performance.[2] Of those businesses that do see water as a priority risk, two-thirds listed water availability as an issue, although this figure was significantly higher in countries such as China (78%), Brazil (74%) and South Korea (75%). 86% were concerned that legislation is hovering on the horizon, as governments around the world assess the vulnerability of water resources, and review their policy on water scarcity.[3]

By 2030 it is estimated that global freshwater demand will be 40% above the current supply.[4] Climate change[5] and pollution[6] are already having a growing impact on the useable supply. This was recognised at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio last year, with UN-Water issuing a statement that the "success of green economy depends on sustainable, integrated and resource-efficient management of water resources."[7]

Addressing water use within a business has, until now, not been high on the agenda for many businesses. However, the harsh realities of future water scarcity mean this needs to change and fast. We've launched the Water Standard to help companies to monitor and manage their water usage and build resource efficiency into future business plans. We know from our extensive experience helping companies to manage carbon reduction that a stringent approach to use of resources can lead to new commercial opportunities and thriving businesses, particularly for those who take the lead here and set the benchmark for others to follow.

Tom Delay, Chief Executive of the Carbon Trust

Water is fundamental to our business and our communities. To be a sustainability leader, we recognize that we must fully understand our impact beyond carbon. By measuring and managing our water impact within our operations as well as across our value chain, we can address longer-term water scarcity issues. This certification recognizes the progress we have made towards becoming a water-sustainable operation.

John Brock, Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises

We are delighted to be one of the first companies to be recognised by the Carbon Trust Water Standard for reducing our water consumption, particularly at this crucial time of increasing natural resource scarcity. We will achieve our target of a 50 per cent relative reduction in water use by the end of next month which is a saving equivalent to 393 Olympic sized swimming pools each year. We have achieved this through a number of water saving measures that form part of our 20x20 Sustainability Plan. This includes eradicating underground leaks, saving individual stores hundreds of thousands of pounds each year. We have also fitted things like pre-rinse spray taps and low-flush toilets in all our stores and invested in rainwater harvesting for all new stores as standard as well as retrofitting these units in existing stores.

Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, Engineering, Energy and Environment at Sainsbury's

At Sunlight, we've reduced water usage through redesigning our wash processes and through investing over £2m in equipment and systems to clean and then re-use water. We've made good progress and in the last five years we've reduced our water usage by a massive one billion litres per year. In achieving this we have also saved hundreds of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, because less water has to be pumped and treated. We're proud to be among the first companies to be awarded the Carbon Trust Water Standard and we're looking forward to working with the Carbon Trust to make further reductions in the coming years.

Julian Carr, Director of Sunlight Services Group

Over the past few years we've invested in some major initiatives to conserve our resources, and in 2008 we were first in the food and agriculture sector to be awarded the Carbon Trust Standard. We appreciate the independent endorsement of the Carbon Trust and we are delighted to be one of the first companies to be awarded the Carbon Trust Water Standard in recognition of the ongoing and industry-leading work we are undertaking to conserve our water supply.

Graeme Beattie, Managing Director of Branston

Notes to Editors

Carbon Trust Water Standard Methodology

To achieve the Carbon Trust Water Standard organisations must:

  • Measure water input from mains supply, surface water abstraction, groundwater abstraction and rainwater collection.
  • Measure water output as trade effluent.
  • Demonstrate reduction in water use over time to both water inputs and trade effluent. This can be done either in absolute terms, or in water intensity reduction in relation to turnover or product.
  • Achieve a passing score of 60% on a qualitative assessment of water governance, measurement and management. This assessment includes a site visit.

Sainsbury's Reducing Water Use

Water stewardship is one of Sainsbury's key environmental targets and it forms part of its industry-leading 20x20 Sustainability Plan, which is the cornerstone of the company's business strategy.  The retailer has been working closely with the leading water management specialists, Waterscan, and is on track to achieve its target of a 50 per cent relative reduction in its water use by the end of March 2013, which is a saving of 393 Olympic sized swimming pools each year. 

Over the past year Sainsbury's has focused on identifying and eradicating underground water leaks by installing automatic meter loggers on incoming water metres.  For example, it identified a leak at its supermarket in Wigan saving 21 Olympic sized swimming pools worth of water each year (53,710m3 or over £130,000 per annum).  It has also been carrying out comprehensive audits to improve water efficiencies throughout its estate and fitting low flush toilets and pre-rinse spray taps in all its stores.

Rainwater harvesting is being installed in all new stores as standard and it is currently looking at retrofitting rainwater harvesting units in existing stores.  For example, a unit retrofitted at Sainsbury's Swansea now supplies water for toilet flushing in the store and has achieved an annual mains water consumption saving of 1,300m3.  Sainsbury's has also invested in car wash water reclaim units at 66 of its stores saving nine Olympic sized swimming pools worth of water each year (22,674m3). 

Coca-Cola Enterprises Reducing Water Use

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) is using less water by becoming more water-efficient through a range of efficiency programs, new technologies and the commitment of its employees. CCE's factories in France and Great Britain are the most water-efficient Coca-Cola production plants in the world.

The company has made major changes to specific elements of its manufacturing process, including using dry and semi-dry lubricants to move cans and PET bottles along production lines, employing air (rather than water) rinsers to rinse bottles and cans before they are filled, using recycle and reclaim loops that recover any water used for further cleaning processes and harvesting rainwater which is then used for washing vehicles and for flushing staff toilets.

CCE ensures that 100% of its wastewater is treated and returned to the environment at standards supporting aquatic life, and of its 17 manufacturing sites have environmental management systems, certified to ISO 14001, which help the company to manage its wastewater.

CCE is looking at its water impact upstream and downstream of its value chain. The company is committed to protecting its water sources and in 2012 has developed and/or updated source water protection plans at each of its 17 manufacturing sites- based on initial source water vulnerability assessments.

The company is also working on replenishing the water it uses in its beverages. In 2012, it started working in partnership with WWF UK, the Coca-Cola Company, the North West Kent Countryside Partnership and the Norfolk Rivers Trust to improve the local river habitat of the River Nar (Norfolk), and is working with local farmers to enhance local land management practices.

Sunlight Reducing Water Use

Sunlight, the UK's largest textile rental and laundry organisation, has reduced its water usage by over 12% between 2009 and 2011 and has achieved a reduction of over 50% since 2005. In figures, the reduction since 2007 is over one billion litres per annum. Water supply is primarily from mains water, supplemented by abstraction from licensed boreholes at some locations.

The company has focused both on using less water per wash cycle and on recycling and reusing water, with up to 75% of water now reclaimed and reused. This has required investment of over £2m in new equipment and processes. Reverse osmosis systems have also been introduced, to ensure that boilers are supplied with very clean water to reduce inefficiencies and leakage. Throughout Sunlight's estate of over 40 processing sites, water usage is monitored for every machine during every shift to ensure that performance is maintained and to identify areas for further improvement.

Branston Reducing Water Use

Branston uses large volumes of water to wash the thousands of tonnes of potatoes that it packs each year, so water is a high priority for the business. Working closely with the local Environment Agency, the team undertook extensive investigation, including a water balance to account for every cubic metre in and out of the site and drawing up a water map, before investing in a state-of-the-art membrane bioreactor water recycling plant for their Lincoln site. The plant has enabled them to reduce mains water consumption by around 60% as well as reducing the quantity and improving the quality of the effluent leaving the site.

Branston was so impressed by the savings that it invested in a similar MBR plant at the South West site in Somerset. With additional storage capacity and 24/7 operating capability it means that the site runs predominantly on borehole water, with mains supply only used for topping up. Mains water consumption has been reduced by over 60% and the company is not contributing to water stress in the area. It all fits with their commitment to long-term sustainability, not just for the business, but the wider environment.

About the Carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust is an independent company with a mission to accelerate the move to a sustainable, low carbon economy. The Carbon Trust:

  • advises businesses, governments and the public sector on opportunities in a sustainable, low carbon world.
  • measures and certifies the environmental footprint of organisations, products and services.
  • helps develop and deploy low carbon technologies and solutions, from energy efficiency to renewable power.

For further information on the Carbon Trust Water Standard, please contact the Carbon Trust press office on 020 7170 7050 or



[2] Carbon Trust survey by telephone with 475 C-level executives from a variety of functions within a wide-ranging number of industries. Interviews were conducted by Vanson Bourne during October 2012.