Water scarcity is starting to rival climate change as an issue of global concern. The concept of a product's water footprint was originally developed for agriculture, to examine how much water is consumed during all stages of the production of foodstuffs. Consumers are also getting interested in the water footprints of packaging materials.
"We want to be proactive on this emerging concept, and examine how water footprints are measured," says Skoghall's environmental affairs manager Ola Svending. "We realised the best way to do this would be to calculate the water footprint of our own liquid packaging board using methodology devised by the Water Footprint Network."
In collaboration with the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment, the Confederation of European Paper Industries and the WWF, Svending has prepared a detailed water footprint study, published in September 2011.
Green, blue and grey water
Water footprint studies look at three kinds of water consumption, involving "green, blue and grey" water. The green water footprint of Skoghall's products relates to the water evaporated by the growing trees eventually used at the mill as board ingredients or biofuel.
Grey water footprints measure the amount of water polluted by production processes and energy use all the way along a product chain. Svending explains that the grey water footprint of production at Skoghall Mill itself was taken as zero, since the mill effluent meets all permit requirements for releases into Lake Vänern.