The water use is growing, driven by a rising population, expanding industrialization, and greater agricultural needs. Globally, we are witnessing an increase in both the number and frequency of droughts and floods, directly attributable to climate change. As well as impacting natural and economic resources, these events also have a profound impact on people all over the world.
For that reason, water is identified as one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG6), aiming to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
For Lamb Weston / Meijer, the greatest water risk to our own assets is posed by flooding. However, both heavy rain fall or flooding, as well as droughts, impact our supply chain
While there are solutions to overcome drought conditions, for example through (drip) irrigation, potatoes begin to rot if they are submerged for longer than 72 hours. And for our production facilities, the risk from flooding is actual and real, and can even be caused by very heavy rainfall.
In water scarce areas, water for irrigation and drinking compete, forcing governments to amend water pricing policies and restrict allowances. We believe the cost of water in many parts of the world does not reflect the true value of water.
WEE (Water, Energy and Environmental) Teams on each of our 6 plants
For a number of years, we have operated an energy team on each plant, which focused on improving the company’s energy performance and supporting our sustainability goals. We now fully integrated water and environment goals into these teams, creating Water, Energy, and Environmental (WEE) teams.
Every plant has its own WEE team and these teams share best practices and benchmark plant performances. The WEE team is composed of multiple stakeholders, including plant manager, operational managers, and environmental specialists. They meet regularly to discuss progress from projects already underway, share best practices, and look for opportunities to implement energy and water saving measures across the company. Recurring agenda points include local environmental issues, future projects to capture management attention at an early stage, and building in effective solutions in the design phase.
We introduced water in the WEE teams, with the goal of cutting water usage in our plants. Since this integration, they have proven to be highly effective. Water topics can now be discussed directly, with short communication lines. This means progress can be made quickly. The team also acts as an open forum, where challenges can be shared and solved together.
The WEE teams have taken a number of relevant steps to improve our water usage.
- The teams introduced a water road map, starting with the development of a water (mass) balance. This helps us to identify and chart areas where we could increase the efficiency of our water usage for processing.
- We began making the roof condensers for the freezing system chemical free. We are rolling this out across all our plants. This system reduced our water use to flush condensers.
- The teams focus on our objectives to reduce our water intensity per tonne finished product.
Sustainable Agriculture Plan to grow more with less, in a sustainable way
Together with our growers, we feel the pressure in our sourcing areas to produce more on the same land, with less inputs. It is crucial to keep the ecosystem in balance, not just for today, but also for the generations to come.
To guarantee the long-term supply of good quality potatoes, we need to further step up our actions, co-develop more sustainable farming systems and techniques, and support our growers to implement these changes. This is directly connected to our ambition to be acknowledged as the industry leader in sustainable development, which requires us to address the impact we have on the agriculture system.
This is why in 2017 we developed a Sustainable Agriculture Plan. We started collaborating more intensely with our growers to produce a larger potato crop with a lower environmental impact per tonne of finished product and rolled it out in the UK.
We are monitoring water use by tracking growers’ potato irrigation. Healthy soils support the natural water holding capacity, providing the plant with better water access, leading to greater crop yields and a more consistent quality. Using more water-efficient irrigation systems, such as drip irrigation, directly impacts this KPI, as they enable farmers to grow more crop per drop.