Corporate giants team up to champion UK water stewardship

Marks & Spencer (M&S), Asda and Coca-Cola are among the 60 businesses and NGOs that have committed to a new initiative which aims to tackle water scarcity and stress in the UK through collaborative catchment management.

The Catchment Management Declaration, published on Tuesday (May 29) by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, aims to help businesses align their sustainability strategies with the water targets detailed in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

Signatories including Nestle, Sainsbury’s and the National Trust have pledged to take responsibility to progress sustainable water management in all the areas they operate, and to support the improvement of existing water governance frameworks.

They have additionally committed to informing citizens about their role in water stewardship and encouraging positive behaviour change among employees, customers and suppliers in a bid to cut water wastage, reduce pollution from waste water and reduce abstraction from rivers and groundwater in water-scarce areas.

“Water stress such as flooding or drought can impact business continuity and add costs, whether this is directly within operations or further up the value chain,” the declaration states. “However, resolving the issues and pressures facing water is beyond the reach of any single sector or organisation and, as emphasised in the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan, a broader catchment-based approach is needed.

“The sustainable use of the water cycle is not just an environmental goal, but a sound business decision,” it continues. “The demands of growth and a changing climate make it imperative to work together to reduce the pressures being placed on freshwater supplies and natural capital and improve resilience across all our sectors.”

The signatories will reconvene annually to share their progress and best practice across catchments, with other companies and NGOs being encouraged to join before the first meeting in 12 months’ time.

Water stewardship

While the declaration focuses on UK catchment-based project areas, its scope will reach beyond Britain, with signatories pledging to tackle water scarcity and water stress in all areas of operation.

Several of the signatories, including Coca-Cola and Sainsbury’s, have already pledged to monitor water use and deliver water reductions in their own operations as part of WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment 2025.

The commitments come shortly after the number of corporates investing in water security was found to have reached “record levels” by CDP, which discovered that more than $23bn was invested in projects like desalination plants, irrigation systems and drought resistance last year.

Despite mounting business investments, this figure still falls well short of the $6.4trn that the UN estimates is required to combat water scarcity by 2030.

Sarah George

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