WRAP’s water ambition will see UK businesses pledge to monitoring water use and delivering water reductions in their own operations.

Courtauld Commitment 2025 signatories including the Co-op, Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Nestlé have also pledged to support collective water stress-related projects in critical sourcing locations for UK food and drink supply.

These projects will be led by groups such as WWF and the Rivers Trust and will aim to cover around half of the production area of fresh produce supply from water stressed locations.

With the UN predicted that global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030 due to climate change, human action and population growth, WRAP director Peter Maddox said that water stewardship is an area that “none of us can afford to take for granted.”

“The Courtauld Commitment 2025 water ambition is a practical response to the growing problem of water stress,” he said.

“With WWF, the Rivers Trust and other leading water experts we’ve created a collaborative programme that works on a localised level, dealing directly at source with issues specific within each catchment area. Under the umbrella of the water ambition, we can assess how individual projects are making a collective difference, and help scale these up.” 

Water stewardship

The initial focus will be on six UK catchment-based project areas in East Anglia, Cumbria, Wales, the South East and the South West.

The scope of the water ambition will reach beyond the UK, with WWF helping to expand the scale of the work to water stressed regions in Kenya, South Africa and southern Spain. It is estimated that eight of the top ten countries the UK imports food from are drought-prone.

WRAP is keen to see the whole food and drink sector get involved in the Ambition. Water efficiency is critical for all of the food and drink signatories, including Coca-Cola, which has stressed that “no business can take this crucial resource for granted”.

Coca-Cola has achieved a 10.3% reduction in water usage  since 2010, and works with NGOs like WWF to replenish 100% of the water used in water-stressed areas.

Coca-Cola Great Britain’s sustainability manager Liz Lowe said: “The water ambition under the Courtauld Commitment 2025 is especially promising because it has the potential to take water stewardship to scale, maximising our collective positive impact.”

Fellow signatory Co-op’s food sustainability manager Sarah Wakefield echoed this point :”We are very proud to have co-chaired the WRAP Water Group and support the Courtauld 2025 water ambition. This is a great example of the UK food and drink industry coming together pre-competitively to collaborate to tackle one of the big issues in building a sustainable food system.”

World Water Day

The new ambition coincides with World Water Day, which aims to highlight the importance of freshwater and is used to advocate for the sustainable management of water resources.

To mark the occasion, many in the corporate sphere have made new commitments and highlighted existing efforts to improve water quality and efficiency. The US’s second-largest discount store retailer Target has announced a new freshwater stewardship approach focused on raw materials, manufacturing, direct emissions and is impact on communities.

Target aims to improve water efficiency in textile dyeing and finishing factories located in priority watersheds by 15%, and also to slash absolute water use by 15% for stores, distribution centres and headquarters locations, with both pledges set for 2025 against a 2010 baseline.

“With operations in nearly 50 countries, Target shares the responsibility of tackling environmental issues in the communities where we do business,” said John Mulligan, executive vice president of Target. “Our freshwater approach is one way we’re putting the needs of people, communities and the planet at the heart of how we work today, to help build a better tomorrow.”

Also on World Water Day, top wines and spirits firm Pernod Ricard has revealed it has reduced water consumption by 17% per litre of alcohol produced between 2010 and 2017. Elsewhere, filtration and purification developer LifeStraw announced it has just achieved a milestone of one million Kenyan and Indian schoolchildren reached with safe drinking water.

George Ogleby

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