A number of companies and other organisations around the world, including CocaCola and Sainsbury’s, have announced that they are striving to achieve “water neutrality”. But how can a company like Coca-Cola, whose business is selling water, be water neutral?

The term “water neutral” seems to suggest that the company is seeking to have zero net water usage. However, the term, which was deined by a group of universities, NGOs and companies in 2007, actually means that the organisation will:

  • Define, measure and report its water footprint;
  • Take all action that is “reasonably possible” to reduce that water footprint; and
  • Offset the residual water footprint by investing in establishing or supporting projects that focus on the sustainable and equitable use of water.

In the case of Sainsbury’s, the company is aiming to reduce water consumption in its supermarkets by 70% and to offset the remainng 30%. For example, in its Weynmouth store, which is the pilot for the project, it has installed water meters in neighbouring schools to log water flows and identify leakages.

Coca-Cola is offsetting some of its water consumption by providing “Ekocenter” water pruificaion systems to developing countries. The facility is a shipping container equipped with a Slingshot water purification device to produce clean drinking water. The Slingshot, which was invented by Dean Kamen (who also invented the Segway), was originally designed to be powered by cow dung but can use almost any power source. The initial Ekocenters are solar powered.