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Photo: Protective vegetation covers are planted along smaller channels like this one to help prevent chemicals from polluting surface waters, Rio Frio-Rio Sevilla, Colombia. © Denis Ünver / WWF Germany.

Rolf Lange

Head of Corporate Communications, EDEKA Headquarters

Food retail is arguably one of the riskiest businesses when it comes to water. German food retailer EDEKA is leading the way in its response to supply chain water risks.

The United Nations predicts that the effects of climate change will be most acutely felt through water. In agriculture, the biggest water-using sector, unsustainable water use poses an existential threat.

As one of the leading food retailers in Germany, EDEKA has a diverse agricultural supply base across the world. Water is so important at every stage of our production, from growing crops, to the processing and preparation of foods and products.

Through our long-term partnership with WWF, water has become a core part of our sustainability strategy. Since 2012, we have worked to increase our transparency, engage with suppliers and collaborate with other water users on shared challenges.

Last year, we rolled out the EDEKA Water Risk Tool (based on the WWF Water Risk Filter) to more than 200 fruit and vegetable suppliers with over 11,000 farms. When a supplier is identified as being in a water risk hot spot, we engage those suppliers in water stewardship.

Stewardship is about taking care of something that you do not own; in this case, water. The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard is the only global standard system that can guide the growth of water stewardship. It is a stakeholder-inclusive process that requires a site (for example, a farm) to work beyond its own fence-line and engage with other major water users in the catchment to take positive action.

We have successfully implemented the AWS Standard with growers in Colombia, Ecuador and Spain and we are expanding further in 2021. In 2018 in Spain our supplier Iberhanse-Naturgreen’s Iberesparragal farm was the first AWS Gold Certification in the agricultural sector in Europe, and in 2020, 11 of our banana suppliers in Colombia became the first in the world to achieve AWS Group Certification, along with two Ecuadorian farms.

We see a lot of advantages to AWS Certification, with its systematic approach to water risk reduction, and we see great potential to use the AWS Standard to work with our producers to mitigate water risks and align our approaches across the retail sector, reducing the burden on farms. Implementation of the Standard doesn’t happen overnight, but it is the right thing to do.

Together with WWF we are campaigning for the inclusion of improved water criteria in various agricultural standards. In this context, we have initiated a cooperation between the AWS Standard and the GLOBAL.G.A.P. agricultural standard. We have developed an AWS ‘filter’ to GLOBALG.A.P, which is being piloted with our banana growers in the Dominican Republic.

We strongly believe that we have reached a tipping point for water stewardship. We are proud to be ‘the first mover’ in this sector and hope it will allow others to more easily follow. But we need a critical mass of stakeholders from the agricultural sector adopting water stewardship to make change.

The more we collaborate, the stronger we will be.  

To find out about water stewardship in agriculture and for details of joining the AWS agricultural working group, visit

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