Practically every business depends on water, however, we manage this essential limited resource isn’t as sustainable as it needs to be.
Despite the fact that business, communities and farmers are often reliant on the same water resources they don`t often talk to each other or consider the impact of their water use across the catchment as a whole.
In the UK our freshwater environment is already under threat. Only 14% of our water bodies in good ecological status, 25% of our groundwater bodies have unsustainable levels of abstraction and an 81% decline in freshwater species since 1970. Soil is being lost 10 times faster than it is being created and flooding is now considered to be the most likely peril that will cause damage and disruption to business property. These challenges that will only get worse with the impact of climate change and population growth
But by working together, at a catchment level and by being good water stewards we can meet these challenges ensure a sustainable supply of water, a healthy environment and resilient supply chains.
Many businesses already recognise the importance of water as evidenced by their support for global initiatives such as the CEO Water Mandate, and the Alliance for Water Stewardship .
Whilst investors are increasingly requiring businesses to report their water-related risks recognising the reputational, regulatory and physical risk to business and through the likes of CDP are increasing require them to report and disclose what actions they are taking on water.
Until recently businesses have been focusing their water stewardship efforts in developing countries where water scarcity and poor governance can have a more acute impact on communities and the environment.
But there is a growing recognition that the water stewardship approach, particularly the need for collective action is equally relevant in the UK. This is evidenced by the growing number of initiatives including the Cambridge institute of sustainable leadership Catchment declaration, Business in the Communities water programme and the Courtauld 2025 water ambition which has seen a number of major retailers and brands, with the support of our own CaBA water stewardship service, commit to working together to reduce water stress in some key sourcing areas in the UK.
We are very fortunate in this country that we have an established, albeit developing, network of catchment partnerships who are really well placed to help businesses become water stewards. Get involved with your local partnership or contact them to find out how your business can help.