Getting a grip on sustainable water use

Lake Hawera

As New Zealanders are only too aware aware, concerns about sustainable water use and working with local communities to ensure waterways are clean and swimmable was one of the biggest issues of the 2017 election campaigns and remains a hot topic. A new framework is now available in New Zealand to help meat companies get to grips with sustainable water use and there’s a one-day training programme early next week in Hamilton.

The internationally developed new Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) certification for sustainable water use is one tool that can be used by meat processing companies to keep a close eye on the water they  are using and to understand their sustainable water use in the catchment.

New Zealander Kevin O’Grady, an Australia-based sustainability consultant with experience in the New Zealand meat industry, has been involved with AWS since its concept stages and says the emerging significance of the standard is hard to overstate.

“Sustainable water use is one of the biggest concerns globally in corporate social responsibility today.  AWS is increasingly being used by companies as a framework and certification standard to address issues like regulatory compliance risks, stakeholder outrage, reputational risk and the resulting risk to business continuity.”

He says there has been plenty of interest in the standard overseas.

“The seven companies who are already certified are doing this for a variety of reasons. Nestlé is doing it globally throughout 20 plants, starting with controversial areas like bottled water. But, many are just using the framework. For example, Waitaki Irrigators is a dairy irrigation project in the Lower Waitaki River Catchment using the AWS framework to address regulatory challenges.”

Kevin O'Grady
Kevin O’Grady.

O’Grady sees the red meat industry applying it for similar reasons and says it was significant that the first plant to become certified in New Zealand – Ingham’s Te Aroha poultry processing plant – was a meat plant.

Not only was the plant the first New Zealand site to achieve AWS certification last August, it was only the sixth site in the world to be certified, achieving recognition for the management of its water life cycle from collection at source to treatment of wastewater.

Ingham’s NZ managing director Adrian Revell said at the time that the company had implemented best practice management of its water life cycle for the previous 10 years, which includes its impact on the local catchment area and how wastewater is treated. The company used the AWS stringent standards as the framework to engage and work with the wider community to look after the local catchment area.

“We are very proud to have achieved this recognition from AWS and thank our local community for engaging with us and for the constructive feedback they have provided us along our journey,” said Revell, adding the plant’s certification was the second for Ingham’s with its Somerville processing plant in Australia first certified in 2015 and achieving gold certification in 2016.

While O’Grady doesn’t see AWS being a customer requirement in the near future, they are aware of it, “I know Marks & Spencer have it as part of their Plan A as I have done work for them in Kenya on cut flowers, so they are watching this space,” he says.

O’Grady’s company Pinnacle Quality represents EXova BMTRADA, a UK-based certification agency offering AWS certification, and demand for training is growing, he says. He has recently returned from conducting training sessions in India and will soon be off to Australia, Indonesia and the UK before returning to India.

But first, he will running a one-day AWS-approved training programme for sustainability and water management professionals and specialist service providers in Hamilton on 12 and 13 April.

Read more about it here, or contact, or call +61 0428570762.



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