WWF UK Blog  

Can YOU whistle a symphony?


Companies’ resources, interest, engagement and action are in high demand. With so many environmental and social causes out there they have to compete for budget, engagement and related action. At WWF, we champion lots of environmental and social causes, and support our corporate partners to do the same, but naturally, we all have our favourites. Mine is water, and as yesterday was World Water Day I’ll tell you why I think water should be yours too. In fact, I won’t just tell you why, I’ll also introduce you to our way of maximising your positive impact in water through water stewardship, recognising that you need time to support other people’s favourites too.

Water: Why should it matter to you?

I won’t delve into the detail of water risk (it’s already covered elsewhere, including in my colleague Conor’s blog) but it’s safe to say that water certainly is a risky business. In the UK, a huge amount of our food, water, clothing and technology is made using water (directly and indirectly) from around the world, often in places that are experiencing water stress and possibly struggling to provide sufficient water to support their own populations. With the onset of climate change and a growing population, the complicated systems that support our consumption are under strain.

Nancy Rono, Farmer, works on her farm. Bomet County, Mara River Upper Catchment, Kenya © Jonathan Caramanus / Green Renaissance / WWF-UKNancy Rono, Farmer, works on her farm. Bomet County, Mara River Upper Catchment, Kenya © Jonathan Caramanus / Green Renaissance / WWF-UK.

Water underpins so many of the other environmental and social causes. Good water management can support healthy soils, something we all rely on to produce our food. We know that women are disproportionately impacted by water issues, so if we want to tackle gender inequality and poverty, water is a great place to start.

But if that isn’t enough to convince you to join me as a water geek, maybe this will…

Consumer Awareness: A growing pressure

We recently commissioned a YouGov survey to get a feeling for the public’s view on companies’ responsibilities around water. We found that 31% of consumers are concerned about water used in food production (10% very concerned and 21% fairly concerned) and 30% are concerned about water used in drinks production*. Obviously, I’d like to see that percentage be much higher, but that is already a staggering number of people across Great Britain who are switched on to the water impacts of our consumption and concerned about it.

As a business, can you afford to ignore that concern?

We also asked about general purchasing habits in relation to environmental issues. 26% of consumers said that they trust brands and companies that they regularly buy from to only sell goods and services that are made in an environmentally friendly way*.

That’s around a quarter of your customers trusting you to do the right thing by the environment.

Sewage pipe spewing pollution from a factory directly into a river near Mumbai (Bombay), India © WWF-Canon / Mauri RAUTKARI.

Collective Action: The way to whistle that symphony

Those are just some of the statistics that are driving us forward, but for companies, we know that implementing water stewardship everywhere that experiences water risk in your supply chains could be a daunting task. Luckily, we’ve got a water stewardship team at WWF who love working on water challenges, so we’re happy to help you understand your water risks (perhaps mapping them with our support using our Water Risk Filter) and take action in areas deemed to be high risk.

It was Halford E Luccock (an American Minister) who said “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” Solving our global water challenges is like a symphony. No single business can do it alone, so that’s why we’re encouraging businesses to work together on water stewardship.

We’ve launched a survey to find out from businesses where their biggest water risks are located. Once we’ve got a list to work from, we’ll be working with WRAP under the Courtauld 2025 Commitment to support groups of businesses to come together to take action on water stewardship. The benefits of taking part include the opportunity to have a high impact as part of a collective group taking action, leveraging multiple companies’ influence, resources and engagement opportunities.

We’re very happy to support companies in understanding and mapping water risks, so if you’d like our help, or to find out more about how we might be able to help you, please get in touch with us at WaterStewardship@wwf.org.uk.

*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2088 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24th and 27th February 2017.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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