Is The Water Running? Corporate Water Footprints

water-foot-888.jpgby Karen Losee
Next time you visit your local Starbuck’s coffee house make sure the water isn’t running. Starbuck’s recently suffered a major public relations nightmare when it was revealed that the coffee giant’s policy of leaving the water running in the dipper sinks added up to over 6 million gallons of freshwater per day going down the drain.
Starbuck’s claimed the water was left running in the interest of hygiene, but a report by the U.K. newspaper The Sun estimated the amount of water Starbuck’s wasted was “enough daily water for the 2 million strong population of drought-hit Namibia in Africa”. Ouch. Contrast images of Starbuck’s sinks running day and night with people struggling to survive without access to water. Media attention coupled with public outcry caused the chain to quickly adjust their policies.
This case brings to light the issue of a company’s corporate water footprint. What is a corporate water footprint and how much responsibility must a company assume for the water use associated with their products?
Those are a few of the questions I will consider while I attend the upcoming Corporate Water Footprinting conference in San Francisco on December 2nd and 3rd. Hosted by GreenPower Conferences, the event will focus on practical advice for mapping and reducing corporate water consumption.

The agenda includes topics such as: Implementing a Corporate Water Strategy, Assessing Water-Related Risks, Working with Stakeholders to find Watershed Solutions, Achieving Water Efficiencies, and Cutting Carbon through Water Efficiency. Speakers from PepsiCo, Coca Cola, GE Water & Process Technologies, Adobe, Cisco, Intel, Miller Coors and Steelcase will share case studies, new technology and advice for reducing water consumption.
It is a lofty agenda, yet as concerns over water resources increase, smart corporations are beginning to examine the risks and opportunities associated with their corporate water footprints. I will report my findings following the conference next week. Feel free to pass on any questions or comments as I explore the issue of corporate water footprinting.
For more information visit Mention Triple Pundit discount code “tpeb20” to receive a 20% discount off the conference registration fees.
In case you can’t wait until next week, a corporate water footprint is the amount of water used to produce a company’s goods or services. In the case of Starbuck’s it is one thing to account for the water used to make all of the beverages they serve, but a more accurate picture would include the water used throughout Starbuck’s entire supply chain. Imagine the water required to grow and process the coffee, produce the packaging, produce the myriad of gift items, brew all of the beverages, and produce the food and other packaged beverages sold in each Starbuck’s location. Now include the water used for the restrooms and the cleaning of not only the corporate headquarters, but the over 10,000 locations worldwide. Oh yeah, don’t forget to include the water you use at home to brew Starbuck’s brand coffee in your own coffeemaker.
You’re beginning to get the picture.
Karen Losee is a Board Member of The Bay Institute of San Francisco, a sales and marketing professional, and an MBA Student at Presidio School of Management. As a native Californian familiar with water supply issues, Ms. Losee is working to combine her professional experience with her business education towards a career in sustainable water management. She is currently developing a strategic plan for a greenhouse gas management organization and is interested in the concept of “water footprinting”.

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