The water used in the manufacturing process is a relatively small part of total water use in the food chain. But increasing concern over the future balance of supply and demand here in the UK means that all our water resources need to be used as efficiently and sustainably as possible.

Our ambition to reduce water use in food and drink manufacturing operations is delivered through the Federation House Commitment (FHC). The FHC is a voluntary partnership between FDF and WRAP, set up in 2008 open to all companies in the sector. Between January 2012 and June 2013 an additional nine companies signed up, bringing the total number to 71 across 294 sites.

Signatories agree to achieve significant reductions in water use to help reduce stress on water supplies and contribute to an industry-wide absolute target to reduce water use by 20% by 2020 compared to 2007.

Between 2007 and 2012 signatories collectively made a 16.1% reduction in their water use (excluding that in product). This is equivalent to 7.4 million m3 water or 2,965 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Between 2011 and 2012 signatories reported a 1.5 million m3 reduction in water use.

The significant progress made under the FHC is even more impressive given that production has increased by 6.1% over the same period. Per tonne of product water use has declined 0.52 m3/tonne, which equates to a reduction in water intensity of 20.9% compared to 2007.

businessGreen leaders awards 2013 winnerBeyond the FHC, FDF's Every Last Drop campaign to raise awareness of effective water management along the food supply chain has continued to gain momentum. New videos targeting boardroom level decision makers were launched in 2013 featuring interviews with Defra Minister Richard Benyon and Chairman of William Jackson Food Group, Nicholas Oughtred. The campaign won 'Water Management Project of the Year' at the BusinessGreen Leaders Awards 2013.

FDF and its members have continued to input through BSI into development of the draft ISO standard on water footprinting. Following the 2011 Water White Paper FDF has also been engaging with both Defra and the Environment Agency on the development of policy options for making the water abstraction licensing system more sustainable.

Case studies: Water


NestleNestlé has established Climate Adaptation Plans to ensure it uses water wisely, mitigating the business impact and food security consequences of likely future water shortages.

Through its 'Creating Shared Value' programme Nestlé is developing comprehensive Climate Change Adaptation Plans for all its UK sites by 2014. Harnessing the knowledge and expertise of cross-functional teams through interactive workshops, the company analyses key climate vulnerabilities in depth.

Using its own business tools alongside those of the Environment Agency and UK Climate Impacts Programme, Nestlé has adopted a thorough, systematic adaptation approach, measuring how past climatic events have affected its sites and assessing future risk.

A diverse range of actions have been identified from its adaptation plans across all the climatic drivers: heat stress, cold stress, flooding, drought, storms. Example actions include comprehensive investigation of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems functionality at its Fawdon and Tutbury sites.

In the longer term, Nestlé's ambition is to extend this programme across its whole supply chain and engage local communities to build awareness of environmental issues.

Young's Seafood Ltd

Youngs Seafood LtdIn 2012 Young's Seafood Limited adapted its award-winning Fish for Life programme on responsible seafood sourcing, transforming this into a whole-business philosophy on responsible management.

The company's Macrae Edinburgh site set a target of reducing water use by 5% year on year, identifying areas where it was possible to make savings in water use and implementing various on-site projects to do this.

Analysis identified that water used by the hygiene team accounted for 50% of the factory's overall water usage. The site reduced the water pressure used from 20bar to 16bar, which considerably reduced water volume, saving 2000 m3 of water annually without affecting its high hygiene standards. By adapting some of its machinery and hand wash sink pressures, the site has made significant additional reductions.

Through such projects, the Macrae Edinburgh site has met its target of reducing overall water use by 5% year on year. The combined efforts of these projects have saved the site an estimated 6500 m3 of water per year.


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Last reviewed: 16 Dec 2013