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Why water is the next net-zero environmental target


The lakebed at Lake Oroville was cracked and dried during the drought that hit Oroville (California, USA) on Monday Oct. 11, 2021.

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The discussion surrounding companies and governments moving towards net-zero has largely focused on greenhouse gas emission goals. Also called carbon neutrality or carbon removal, this requires organizations to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that they are releasing into the atmosphere through actions like forest restoration, carbon capture technologies, and buying carbon offsets.

The UN Climate Change Conference (also known as COP26) begins today. how world leaders plan to reduce emissions and meet the goalsThe 2015 Paris Agreement will set the goal of net-zero emission by 2050.

There is an additional environmental promise that many businesses are making, and it’s focused on water.

It is often called “water-positive” and it focuses on improving water efficiency and returning more water to the area in which a company has operations. This becomes more important as droughts and water shortages across the globe are becoming increasingly severe. across the western United StatesThe UN currently predicts a 40% shortfall in freshwater resources by 2030. According to the UN, there will be a shortage of freshwater resources in excess 40% by 2030.

This has enabled companies to grow from BP to Facebook to Gap to all make pledgesTo replenish more water than used in their direct operations in the coming years. Water conservation is also a focus for a new color-dyeing process created by Ralph Lauren and Dow for a fabric-dyeing industry that uses trillions of gallons of water a year.

PepsiCo announced a plan in August that includes replenishing more than 100% of water used at all high-water-risk sites by 2030, while also reducing water use by 50%.

“The goal is really twofold,” Jim Andrew, PepsiCo chief sustainability officer, said at CNBC’s ESG Impact summit on Thursday. “We’re looking at the entire value chain. It’s really about how do we reduce across the whole system, the absolute amount of water that’s used. Everywhere in that chain. And then second, how do we replenish more than we end up using?”

Pepsi’s plan would cover more than 1,000 company-owned and third-party facilities globally, and Andrew said its partners “understand the business case and the imperative.”

For example, Pepsi’s Mexican brand Sabrita worked with a franchise bottlerTo take processing water used in ingredient processing and treat it so it became drinkable and then used it in a different food plant to wash potatoes. Andrew stated that this was possible to decrease freshwater consumption by half.

“This is a great example of how we can all work together as a team; we are able to collaborate, and we want it to be replicated in as many other places as possible.”

Reduce water consumption from the production line to the customers

One company is trying to increase water use by getting customers involved.

Verginie Helias, Procter & Gamble chief sustainability officer, said that while the company has committed to having net-zero emissions by 2040, it is also working on “a reduction through our downstream usage ­ — that’s basically our customers.”

“We touch five million people around the world every day through our brands, and 80% of P&G’s total footprint is basically in the use case,” she said. “That means basically when people use heated water to shave, to do their laundry, wash their hair, do their dishes and clean the floor — we can enable them to reduce their own emission through innovation.”

Helias pointed out the 50L home platform. It is a group of companies that has been coordinated by the World Economic Forum as well as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. This platform aims to promote water efficiency and reduce energy consumption in homes. She explained that the coalition’s name refers to reducing water consumption per day to 50 liters. In Europe, this average is around 150 liters. Other countries are significantly higher.

Ikea joined the platform this August. The company noted that in order for it to be water positive by 2030, it must work closely with its customers. It stated in a statement that 15% of its total water footprint stems from the water running through the faucets and showers it sells annually.

That will require Ikea to work with other companies involved in the 50L Home Coalition such as P&G and Kohler to work together to find water-saving solutions. The company is working on a water-positive offer for homes, that would include taps, dishwashers, and showers with high water efficiency.

“Sustainability should be integrated in the business because this is where the issue and dilemmas have to be solved,” said Juvencio Maeztu, group CFO & deputy CEO of Ikea parent company Ingka.