Guest Blog: Call for Big Ideas to Reduce Water Loss

GUEST BLOG: Have you got the next big idea to help reduce water loss?

Would you like to play a key role in helping solve one of the world’s major environmental challenges? In this SustMeme Guest Post, Katharine Teague, Head of Advocacy at AB Sugar, one of the world’s leading sugar businesses, outlines why the company has partnered with WaterAid and the Centre for Industrial Sustainability at the University of Cambridge to launch an ambitious worldwide challenge to provide new ideas on how to address water loss in irrigation. The invitation to innovate is open to anyone – from students to start-ups. So, if you have an interest in water and irrigation, read on…

KT: Global challenges call for global solutions and one of the biggest challenges the agricultural sector faces is that of water withdrawal. In fact, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO), agriculture accounts for 69% of the world’s water abstraction.

To help meet the challenge of water loss in irrigation specifically, we have teamed up with WaterAid and the Centre for Industrial Sustainability at the University of Cambridge to launch The Innovate Irrigation Challenge – and we want you to take part! It’s a global initiative that invites anyone with a new idea to help tackle water losses from irrigation in sugar, and beyond.

Get involved in The Innovate Irrigation Challenge

The winning idea will receive a £10,000 prize and recognition from an esteemed panel of judges, as well as the unique opportunity to work with some of the organisations behind the Challenge to test the viability of the idea. There is the potential for your idea to impact the future of sustainable agriculture on a worldwide scale and make a real difference.

Would you like to be part of this? Head over to for all details, including an introduction to the judging panel. Make sure you register now to take part! All entries are to be submitted in a 48-hour period during the 19 and 20 June 2019.

Also, why not join our Facebook Group and get involved in the conversation or on social media using #InnovateIrrigation.

Commitment to growing a sustainable future

At AB Sugar, we have a sense of responsibility to continuously improve the socio-economic and environmental impacts of our operations. With operations across 24 plants in 10 countries and employing more than 30,000 people and producing around 4.5 million tonnes of sugar annually, we continue to ensure that we lead the way in our industry by investing and continuously driving change to have a real impact.

The threat of climate change is growing and with this increases the pressure on our water resources, even though we are already doing everything we can to reduce, reuse, recycle and efficiently store the volumes of water used across our operations. That’s why as part of our ‘Global Mind, Local Champions’ sustainability framework, which is centred around three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental, we have already signalled our ambitious global commitments, which have been designed to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes reducing our end-to-end supply chain water and CO2 footprints by 30% by 2030.

We are, and continue to, use everything we have learnt over many decades as a sugar producer across three continents to empower our businesses to deliver positive change in their local market. Our commitments demonstrate this by:

  • Building vibrant, diverse value chains that increase the prosperity of our communities
  • Build thriving and healthy communities. To do this, we are committed to providing 25 million people worldwide with science-based information on sugar, the diet and health
  • Reducing our end-to-end supply chain water and CO₂ use by 30% by 2030 and ensuring all our plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable, biodegradable or compostable

Achieving our 2030 vision will require collaboration across our entire supply chain and working in partnership with other like-minded organisations and businesses. One such example of this is The Innovate Irrigation Challenge’, by opening the door to new ideas and ways of thinking from people around the world to help reduce water losses further in irrigation. I am excited to see Challenge entries and it is a perfect opportunity to tackle one of the key issues of our time.

Good luck on entering!


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Resource as a human right: ‘Future of Water’ in The Times

New writing… Pleased to say I have had another article published in The Times newspaper, as part of a special Raconteur report on the Future of Water.

For many, water scarcity is a problem in the post. By 2025, one in every two people on the planet will live with water stress. For one in nine, the problem is already here. The World Health Organization estimates 844 million people lack basic drinking water; some two billion use a source contaminated with faeces. In response, the United Nations made water and sanitation a matter of human rights, declared and defined, in 2010. My piece assesses progress against the aspirations of the SDGs and discusses the risks impacting the sustainability of our most precious resource, from climate to conflict, from Ethiopia to Ukraine:

‘Supporting the human right to water’.

The full 16-page Future of Water report is available to view/download here.

Radical change: ‘Industry 4.0’ & ‘Future of Energy’ in The Times

New writing… Pleased to say I have had another couple of pieces published in The Times newspaper this week, as part of special Raconteur reports on Industry 4.0 (Wednesday 7th March) and the Future of Water (Thursday 8th).

In Industry 4.0, my article on sustainability questions whether incrementalism is no longer enough to deliver the ambitious global change required for alignment with the SDGs. It discusses how the technological advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution might be successfully embraced to achieve transformational shift:

‘It’s time for sustainability to get radical’.

My second piece provides the overview intro to the Future of Energy report and looks at the Water-Energy-Food nexus. It explores how, in the tangled relationship with water resources and food production, energy efficiency is saving livelihoods and lives, in communities from Africa to Afghanistan:

‘Life-and-death struggle for energy efficiency’.

The full 16-page Industry 4.0 report is available to view/download here.

The full 16-page Future of Energy report is available to view/download here.

Cars, Jeans & Beer, to Muck: ‘Future of Water’ in The Times

New writing… Pleased to say I have had another couple of pieces published in The Times newspaper today, as part of a special Raconteur report on the Future of Water.

The Overview article which opens the report discusses how 21st-century businesses and brand are tackling the challenges of water stewardship with success, but also with focus, vigour and rigour, plus investment of time and money. The discussion includes insights and info from global names such as Levi’s, Ford and M&S:

‘Taking steps to cut global water consumption’.

My second piece on Page 10 argues for rethinkng wastewater as resource, embracing the innovation of the circular economy and saving liquid assets and money literally going down the drain:

‘Why the value of wastewater is vital for a sustainable future’.

The full 16-page Future of Water report is available to view/download here.

India: The Power of Rain

New writing My latest piece for Eniday is now live, looking at the relationship between drought and energy outages in India, as extreme weather events take their toll. Last year, no fewer than 18 thermal power plants experienced shutdown as a direct result of water shortages. For a deeper exploration of the water-energy nexus, follow the link to read the story in full: ‘The Power of Rain’.

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