Taking action on supply chain water risks: market research among European consumers and procurement officers

62 per cent of the UK’s water footprint is sourced overseas through embedded virtual water: the water footprint of our food, clothes, and other consumables. Where production takes place in water scarce regions with weak regulatory systems governing water use, developed world consumption can have severe negative impacts on people in developing countries and the environment through imposing pollution, unsustainable use and water conflict.

In order to drive responsible water use in supply chains and avoid these problems, ensuring that global consumption is based on genuinely sustainable water use, Water Witness International has been working with its partners since 2009 to develop an International Water Stewardship Standard which guides and rewards producers who use water responsibly. The standard was launched in Peru in April 2014 and this project plays an important role in driving its uptake by better understanding awareness about water risks and appetite for change within supply chains.

This work will inform strategy for Water Witness International and its partners in the promotion and roll out of the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s Water Stewardship Standard. The work engages consumers in the UK and in Germany and procurement/sustainability officers at Institutes of Higher Education. Data is being collected on the level of awareness and concern about water risks and impacts; willingness to take action and change behaviours against a range of options; willingness to pay, invest in or subsidise more sustainable water use; barriers to change and how they can be overcome.

The work is a major contribution to the roll out of the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s international standard for responsible water use and will inform and initiate a consumer awareness campaign across the UK and Europe.