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Water Footprint: Assessment & Labelling

Award category
Shaping a circular industrial ecosystem and supporting life-cycle thinking
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NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS RISING STARS: concepts or ideas submitted by young talents (aged 30 or less)
Project title
Water Footprint: Assessment & Labelling
Full concept/idea title
Water Footprint Assessment of Industrial Processes and their Supply Chain associated with a WF label

How about visiting a store and watching in every shelf how much water is consumed for the manufacturing of the products you buy? A products’ Water Footprint is a quantitative indicator representing water use and wastewater production from its manufacturing and supply chain. Through our project, industries could assess effectively their WF and identify strategic actions for its reduction. Also, a WF label will be placed on consumer products to enable consumers make more sustainable choices.

What is the geographical scope of your concept/idea?
Does your concept/idea address mainly urban or rural issues?
It addresses urban-rural linkages
Does your concept/idea refer to a physical transformation of the built environment or other types of transformations?
It refers to other types of transformations ('soft investment')
Has your concept/idea benefited from EU programmes and/or funds?
Has your concept/idea won an EU prize?
How did you hear about the New European Bauhaus Prizes ?
Social media
On whose behalf are you submitting the application?
As an individual
Please provide a summary of your concept/ idea

Water is an essential resource to sustain life and development, being a key element of ecosystems and influencing regional microclimate. Industrial production and many services depend on continuous availability of freshwater however, despite its readily acknowledged importance, water resources management is often insufficient leading to numerous environmental challenges.

Our initiative is based on two axes i.e., the development of a computational framework for the quantification of the Water Footprint (WF) i.e., multidimensional indicator of volumetric water use and pollution of two manufacturing industries in food and beverage and cosmetics and their supply chain and as a result the conceptualization and development of a WF label on consumer products.

A fully fledged WFA framework will be developed, quantifying rainwater consumption, freshwater consumption and wastewater generation and pollution of 2 companies of different industrial branches. The framework provides a quantitative and systematic approach to measure and better manage water and wastewater key issues of industrial processes as well as customized solutions for reducing WF resulting to the calculation of a single WF indicator.

For water resources adaptation, it is also crucial to encourage changes in consumer’s behavior regarding sustainable consumption of water-intensive goods, so following the assessment of the WF, the goal of the project is the development of a WF label. A WF label measures the liters of water consumed (L H2O) consumed per product mass (e.g. 100 g product), which will be placed on products' packaging and could be an effective solution for promoting sustainability. The WF label will enable people to have immediate access to understandable information concerning products’ water sustainability, choose between the most sustainable product, “reward” environmentally friendly companies by choosing their products and protect the environment with their purchasing choices.

Please indicate the main themes of your concept/idea with 5 key words
Water Footprint Assessment
Industrial sustainable water management
Wastewater reclamation and reuse
Products' Water Footprint Labelling
Consumers engagement
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of environmental sustainability (including circularity) and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

The core of our initiative is the environmental sustainability in industry focusing on water management which could become beneficial for consumers and influence their purchasing choices and consumption habits.

In the Mediterranean region, the available quantities of water are reduced and their quality is degraded so industrial sustainable water management is crucial. Our project is focusing on the development of an innovative computational framework for WF assessment which can be an important tool for manufacturing industries to better understand the management and distribution of water in all their processes in order to make timely decisions regarding water management in each unit, cooperate with suppliers and interact effectively with the local communities. Also, increased water consumption spots and water recycling potential can be identified, resulting to process or management alternatives, with significant economic and environmental impacts on the production. Reclaimed water could be distributed to local communities for agricultural or open spaces irrigation or groundwater recharge in areas with severe water shortage. So, circular economy is highly addressed in the proposed project as wastewater reclamation and reuse is mapped, evaluated and implemented in the associated industrial branches with great environmental and socioeconomic benefits.

The developed approach could also support effectively sustainability branding and labelling especially in consumer products. WF labelling aims to provide consumers understandable information on the water-related environmental impact of the product they choose. Consumers react positively to the inclusion of footprint labels on consumer products, as 72% of European citizens support their introduction. The WF label could increase environmental awareness to consumers and influence their purchasing choices so as to select more sustainable manufactured products.

Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

The sustainability values of a product are not communicated only through eco-friendly materials and explicit organic claims on the packaging but also through aesthetics. Our concept, in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience, is focused on the design of the Water Footprint Label and its position on the products’ packaging. We proposed a quantified WF label, clearly placed on the front of the products' packaging, so that it could get consumers’ attention when they choose a product. The label will include the calculated WF indicator and the relevant unit (e.g., L of water / L product) in a “white” water drop sign so that consumers can easily understand from the design and graphics that our label is related to water practices on products’ manufacturing. “White” (or otherwise called negative or blank) space represents one of the most significant design elements of minimalism, which enhances perceived trustworthiness and quality of the brand and liberates the stimulus from too much information and excessiveness. Simple aesthetics as a white water drop label for WF representation, promote products’ sustainable values and constitute a significant environmental dimension of design practices that highlight the products’ naturalness of ingredients and sustainable practices of industrial process. The aesthetic design of the WF label creates initial impressions and perceptions about the products’ sustainability that might lead to stimulation and purchase. Additionally, it is important to communicate consistency in the information included in the label and product values to achieve a suitable aesthetic and visual level. The specific design and function of the WF label might attract attention, communicate values of the product, communicate messages with respect to the quality and function of the product, generate positive attitudes, lead to evaluation of products and enhanced purchase intentions.

Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of inclusion (equal opportunities, public participation, citizen engagement, co-design, universal design, accessibility, affordability, etc.) and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

The conceptual of the project on WF assessment and labelling is inspired and co-designed with relevant stakeholders and consumers. The WF accounting and assessment initiative is derived from companies that need to measure effectively water consumption, water losses, pollution from wastewater discharge and evaluate the benefits of water recycling and reuse within the boundaries of an industrial unit. So, WF could enable them to measure the water stress of their activities and prioritize strategic actions to minimize water consumption and reduce pollution by wastewater disposal through wastewater treatment and reuse.

Consumers are the main users of our project, so we strongly believe that public participation and engagement in the introduction of a WF label on products is crucial for the project success. Therefore to design our project we conducted a consumers’ preferences survey examining the factors that influence the adoption of a WF label in Greece. The survey was based on statements concerning consumers’ environmental awareness, knowledge and preferences on water policies and labelling and willingness to pay for sustainable products.

The results showcased that consumers are aware of the importance of sustainable water use in industry and try to save water in their everyday life. Also, irrespectively of their education level, they prefer a quantified water label than stating the company’s water policy so the project is highly inclusive and makes information of water sustainability accessible to all consumers. Also, the job stability does not affect the purchase of sustainable products, as the majority of consumers are willing to pay an extra price so the project addresses consumers' needs. Therefore, the introduction of a WF label on products’ packaging could enable consumers irrespective of their educational level, job stability and income to be informed about the water sustainability of a product and base their purchasing choices on products’ WF.

Please explain how these three dimensions would be combined in your concept/idea.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary

The project of Water Footprint Assessment and Labelling is designed on the principles of environmental sustainability, aesthetics and public participation. The overall goal of the project is industrial environmental sustainability concerning water consumption and pollution which will be achieved through the assessment of the Water Footprint (WF) of each process or unit. WF assessment will be lead to the identification of water intensive spots and the prioritization of actions for water savings and wastewater reclamation and reuse within the industry. Output of this framework is a quantified WF label on the product representing the water stress (i.e., water use and wastewater production) for its manufacturing, placed on the front of the packaging next to the brand.

The WF label is highly inclusive as people with different scientific backgrounds, many of them elder who cannot search additional information on the internet about products’ sustainability, could see in every shelf of markets and shops, a quantified WF label on the product and become aware of how much they contribute to the water consumption, water pollution and water scarcity in different places based on their purchasing choices. Also, aesthetics is taken into account in the design and development of the WF label.

A minimal design, representing water, with plenty of white space will be adopted so as to enhance perceived trustworthiness and quality of the brand and liberate the stimulus from too much information and excessiveness. The white water drop design of the label communicate consistency in the information included in the label and product values achieved high aesthetic and visual level.

Please highlight the innovative character of the concept/idea as compared to mainstream practices in the field of the concept/idea.

Large manufacturing industries apply sustainable water management practices in their plants so as to acquire different stewardships and certifications, such as European Water Stewardship, Alliance for Water Stewardship and TRUE Certification. All these certifications and stewardships evaluate only water consumption data provided by the companies while confidential data and wastewater production data are not accounted for in the stewardship and do not include supply chain water consumption data in their evaluations. Therefore, a unified indicator and framework could not be adopted for each industrial branch as companies measure different consumption and pollution data and do not calculate a single water stress indicator of their supply chain and manufacturing practices.

The innovation of the project is the development of a computation framework assessing water consumption and wastewater generation for missing data and calculating a single water stress indicator, involving also water data of the supply chain which has not been considered yet in water consumption analyses usually performed at the industrial scale.

While sustainable water management in an industry is vital, it is also crucial to encourage changes in consumer’s behavior. Certifications and stewardships are also labelled on products, however they are not an adequate marketing driver since they don’t enhance consumers’ understanding of how much they contribute to the water consumption, water pollution and water scarcity in different places, neither support them to compare similar products and make conscious choices. A WF label give consumers a quantified measurement of water consumption during processing and supply chain. It is based on the Footprint concept (e.g., Carbon Footprint label), which have gained wide public acceptance, and could enable companies in advertising their sustainable practices effectively and consumers in choosing between products based on their water sustainable manufacturing.

Please detail the general plans that you have for the further development, promotion and/or implementation of your concept/idea.

The further development of the proposed initiative is oriented in expanding both the WF assessment in industry and the introduction of the WF label on products. To this end, the development of a digital platform / application is foreseen to estimate the WF in real – time using the correlations and models developed in this innovation, so the company is aware of the WF in every step of the manufacturing process so it can better manage water consumption and water losses and the WF label appears automatically at the packaging phase. Also, the expansion of the WF assessment to various water intense industrial braches (e.g., dairy products) is expected so as to develop as common framework for WF accounting, assessment and labelling of each branch. The further implementation of the project involves the pilot inclusion of a WF label on the products of the cooperating company from the food & beverage industry which will be associated with an extensive training program of consumers so as to extend their knowledge on WF and engage them on sustainability purchasing followed with semi-structured interview to receive their feedback. Tests on the application of a WF label in the products and mapping of consumers’ reactions will be achieved.

The promotion of the project will be achieved through networking and engagement with EU institutions and NGOs for innovation in manufacturing e.g., EU Innovation Platform, EIT Manufacturing as the project team will participate in seminars, awards and networking activities. Our team will also communicate the project in academia through seminars to university students. Large part of the project involves stakeholders’ participation and engagement so capacity building workshops and info days will be organized to focus groups (i.e., students, farmers and consumers). Also, the project team will participate in international fairs presenting the project implementation and potential and engage more stakeholders and industrial partners.

Imagine that your idea/concept is awarded in the New European Bauhaus Prizes 2022. What kind of initiatives would you take throughout the following year (June 2022- June 2023)

If our project is awarded in the New European Bauhaus Prizes 2022, our first goal is the development of the digital platform / application, which was analysed in the section of the further development of the project, for real time estimation of the WF in our partner –companies from food and beverage and cosmetics industries. Also, we look forward to engage and support more companies and industrial branches (e.g., dairy products, textiles) in assessing their WF so as to better manage water consumption and wastewater reuse and propose them the inclusion of a WF label in their products.

In our next year plans is also the expansion of the WF indicator in many types of raw materials and supply chain, which is not considered yet in industrial sustainability assessments and evaluation of ecological practices. The introduction of the supply chain WF in the WF assessment will enable companies to evaluate the sustainability of their suppliers, preserve water resources used in agriculture and consumers to choose agricultural products based on their water sustainability profile and irrigation practices (e.g., rainwater storage and reuse, reuse of treated wastewater, smart irrigation).

The success of our project lies in the engagement of consumers’ so that WF assessment and labelling becomes a necessity and a critical factor for consumers’ choices. The results of our consumers’ preferences survey on WF in Greece showcased that consumers need to become more familiar with the WF concept, so extended training material for schools, local farmers and consumers will be developed throughout the following year coupled with the organization of capacity building workshops and info days.

Our asset is our people, so we want to enhance our project team with young professionals with engineering, IT and geological background, eager to work in the field of industrial sustainability.

By ticking this box, you declare that you are not in in one or more of the exclusion situations foreseen under Article 136 of the Financial Regulation.
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that you assume sole liability in the event of a claim relating to the activities carried out in the framework of the contest, that the proposed concept/idea has not been proposed for the New European Bauhaus Prizes 2022 in any other category or strand and that it has not been subject to any type of investigation, which could lead to a financial correction because of irregularities or fraud.
By submitting your application, you guarantee that you are the author or have the rights to proceed with the application and to authorise the use of the project, concept, idea, and that you have obtained any necessary consents, licenses or assignments from third parties and included copyright notices when necessary.
By submitting your application, you understand that all the applications that meet the eligibility requirements will be shared for the purposes of the selection processes, and notably published on the secured platform and for the purposes of the promotion of these on the New European Bauhaus website and/or other European Commission communication channels. In this sense, the applications would be widely available. Applicants should ensure that they present their ideas, concepts, projects, in such a way that they could be shared without giving rise to intellectual property related concerns. If your submission is selected as one of the finalists, it will additionally be shared for the purpose of the public vote that will take place. The European Union is granted a licence to use and share your application with the general public and the official external experts for the purposes of the selection process, including the voting. The European Union has the right to use the images and visual materials and the description provided in the application for communication purposes related to the contest and beyond. Rights granted comprise the right to store, reproduce, display, publish and communicate or distribute copies in electronic or digital format, including, but not only, through the internet. Unless you have disclosed your name, the European Commission has no obligation to share your name when using or disseminating your contribution to the public. The European Union cannot be held responsible in case any submitted idea, project, concept is found to infringe third parties rights. The European Union shall be neither responsible for the use that third parties may do of the applications or related content.


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