When you consume a hamburger in New York, e.g. from McDonalds, you are most likely contributing to depletion of water sources in water scarce areas, e.g. the Colorado River Basin.
The exact problem is, however, not known as, currently, due to the lack of oversight and non-integrated information about the water footprint in the entire supply chain, companies are unable to engage in sustainable supply chains and determine their exact water footprint. Consequently, these companies are unaware of the harm of the current business practice to the local population of water scarce areas and their bottom-line profitability.
In order to address this problem which affects both businesses as well as other stakeholders, we introduce a, publicly available, corporate water footprint ranking system for the beef industry and information and decision-making support in order to further enhance the sustainability of their business practices with the goal of decreasing the depletion of water sources in water scarce areas.
The global challenge our team is addressing is the depletion of scarce water resources in beef producer supply chains. Here, our focus is beef supply chains that source from the Colorado River basin.
Beef supply chains need a simple integrated way to understand their water footprint because they are inadvertently contributing to water scarcity. Beef businesses are unaware of their supply chain’s water footprint due to a lack of oversight of their virtual water footprint and non-integration of information, which in the long-term, threatens their own financial viability.
The Colorado River basin has experienced unprecedented drought over the past decade. Yet while facing water shortage risk to over $5.5 trillion in economic activity and 40 million people, financial markets have not responded. Cattle-feed contributes to over 25% of water depletion in the basin, and seasonal reductions in production are expected to have minimal impacts on national or international food security.
In order to solve the problem, we introduce a corporate water footprint ranking system which will be publicly available in order to create awareness among businesses as well as other stakeholders. This ranking system will enable users of it to make a simple comparison between businesses that operate in the same industry and their water footprint and contribution to depletion of resources in water scarce areas respectively.
In addition to the corporate ranking system, we also introduce a (similar, easy to understand) ranking system for other major players in the beef supply chain, such as the beef suppliers. This in order to enable businesses to select suppliers in a way that it contributes to the decrease of the water footprint in their entire supply chain
Our solution is unique as there has been no attempt earlier to capture the water footprint of the entire supply chain. The existing solutions or reportings on companies’ water footprint is fragmented and not consolidated and, therefore, not a true representation of the “real” water footprint for each product that is being sold at the end of the value chain.
Nonetheless, we note that there are existing parties, such as SustainAnalytics (NL-based company) that have a similar focus on sustainability, the reporting thereof and the accountability for the business practices in companies’ supply chain. An example hereof is the trend we have witnessed with respect to the awareness around the carbon footprint. In addition, we note that there have been scientific research (e.g. by A. Hoekstra) introducing the virtual water footprint, however, this has not been scaled to an actual solution for businesses (in the beef industry).
We assume that there has not been enough attention yet for water footprint as opposed to e.g. the carbon footprint and, therefore, has not been attempted earlier in a holistic way.
The 40 million people in the Colorado River basin will have sustained access to water.
Nearly $5.3 trillion of economic activity will be protected.
Protection of 60 fish species that face imperilment or extinction.
We will measure the impact by the number of stakeholders (i.e. farmers, beef retailers, and investors) that make public commitments to modify sourcing practices. We will also measure and analyze the volume of water conserved in beef supply chains, economic growth, and improvements in biodiversity
Phase 1: Partnerships & Research
-Create Partnership with Academic Institutions
This will help lay the groundwork for the research required
-Use Academics to research public literature
This is the required research that will drive the public awareness campaign
-Partnership with Water NGOs
This partnership will use the information to create marketing for public awareness.
Phase 2: Drive Public Awareness
Release the data comparing public info in a rating system
This will be the content for marketing for public awareness.
Utilize the Water NGO to market info to the public and leverage public commitment for a more sustainable water footprint from beef suppliers.
This will create awareness for the supply chain implications in water scarce regions
Drive funding through affected businesses
There is potential support from business associations in the region affected
Phase 3: Research, Partnership, Rating
Specific research suppliers
This will be attained by using shared data from the beef suppliers
Make a data rating system based on the water footprint of the beef supplier
This adds value to beef suppliers who are on the top of the list
Sell specific data to corporates and restaurants
This will revenue will fund primarily just getting a rating list
Once a preliminary list is created this revenue will fund a more constant feedback system
In order to begin this solution after UNLEASH, three things must happen. The first is that we need to receive feedback from supply chain experts within the beef industry to help contextualize our incentives and find out how practical they are. The second is that we must bolster our team to include experts which will help to narrow and “sell” our research concept to Academics and Think Tanks in order to gain their partnership. The third is that some very basic research to show the type of information that we are searching for would help both the Academics and the supply chain experts who would consult with us.