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Taking water stewardship to the next level: the Courtauld Commitment 2025


2017 saw great progress being made in corporate water stewardship, with a growing number of companies making public commitments to tackle water risk across their supply chains. But what can we hope for in 2018 to speed up progress and see significant action at scale?

Collective action and governance are core to water stewardship, but all too often they are seen as a long term aim rather than an active part of a strategy. I really hope that this year, we’ll see businesses coming together through initiatives like WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment 2025 to implement water stewardship at scale globally, and with the critical mass of businesses involved by taking action collectively, we’ll be able to prove its value in the long term and encourage other sectors to follow suit.  We hope this will be a great example of sector-wide collaboration, moving beyond one or a few companies working together, to tackle water risks through stewardship both in the UK and in global water risk hotspots.

Collection of freshly picked vegetables. South Africa © Martin Harvey / WWFCollection of freshly picked vegetables. South Africa © Martin Harvey / WWF

The story so far

Through our partnership with M&S in late 2016 we were looking to scale up water stewardship across the UK food and drink sector, and at the same time, WRAP, who lead the Courtauld Commitment 2025, were developing the water target for Courtauld signatories. We agreed to come together to develop a target that will see UK food and drink companies collectively taking action on water risk throughout their supply chains in the UK and overseas. There’s also a separate target on increasing water efficiency in operations under Courtauld.

To get started, we needed to identify areas of high water risk that are of collective interest to Courtauld signatories, so we ran a survey to identify potential locations of interest. We helped businesses to use the Water Risk Filter to identify water risk hot spots.

High Resolution Water Risk Filter Map of South Africa. A score of 1 indicates the lowest risk and 5 indicates highest risk.High Resolution Water Risk Filter Map of South Africa, one of the project locations identified through the survey. A score of 1 indicates the lowest risk and 5 indicates highest risk.

We used this information to identify potential project locations. We are planning to run the first set of projects in Kenya, Spain and South Africa, as well as in a number of catchments in the UK.

In spring 2017, the Rivers Trust launched the new Water Stewardship Service to help UK businesses work with their local Catchment Based Approach Groups (CaBAs) to collectively implement water stewardship at a local level in the UK. So, the Rivers Trust will be leading work on the ground in the UK under Courtauld 2025 and at WWF we’ll be supporting work internationally, where we have local offices. You can read more about the water stewardship service in Alex Adam’s blog.

So why is this approach so exciting?

The Courtauld Commitment 2025 is an industry-wide voluntary agreement for the UK’s food and drink sector – and beyond, including all major supermarkets, trade bodies, manufacturers and significant companies within the hospitality and food sector, so it represents a great opportunity to implement water stewardship across a whole sector in the UK.  Courtauld 2025 brings with it a whole host of benefits to business by combining their influence, experience and resources to maximise the positive impacts and reach of the project.

The plan for 2018

We’re kicking off the year by conducting some more detailed scoping in project locations and convening groups of companies with interests in these areas. In the spring, WRAP will officially launch the Courtauld Commitment 2025 water target and by the summer we expect to see several collaborative projects, both in the UK and internationally, up and running. All of the projects will include location specific policy asks for businesses to promote and support, informed by actions on the ground in different catchments.

We know that water stewardship may be new to many Courtauld 2025 signatories, so we’re planning to keep the projects open for new members to join after the work is up and running. We’re also keen for businesses who may not be Courtauld 2025 signatories, including companies based outside the UK, to get involved, so if you source from any of the above locations and would be interested in finding out more, please do get in touch waterstewardship@wwf.org.uk

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