WWF UK Blog  

New insights into the Food-Energy-Water nexus


Whether you’re a farmer in Tanzania, a government minister in Uttar Pradesh or a captain of industry in the UK, good stewardship of water, food and energy resources underpins development. Today, as the assembled leaders of governments, NGOs and business in Davos focus on the future of the global economy, we provide new insights that can help them to plan for development which is resilient to the great global changes of the 21st Century.

Our report, ‘The Water-Food-Energy Nexus: Insights into resilient development’ (PDF 2MB) , shows how decision-making by governments and businesses can help economies to deliver rapid reduction in poverty, enable sustainable business growth and secure the natural systems that underpin social and economic progress.

The research on which the report is based has concluded that the most resilient economic systems combine robust infrastructure, flexible institutions and functioning natural capital.

Fresh water flowing

For a company like SABMiller, the nexus between water, food and energy security is a huge priority because it is about the viability of our business. High quality water and agricultural products are vital for a brewing company whilst – of course – being essential for the societies within which we operate. The risk of not properly managing the interconnections between these resources is a risk we share with other businesses and with the rest of society. The only way of tackling that shared risk is through partnership. But well-managed resources also present an opportunity for businesses to become more efficient and cost effective.

For WWF, securing a future in which people and nature thrive demands a better balance between short term resource use and a longer term sustainable approach, that safeguards the foundations of continued development. The idea of shared risk – which includes the risk to ecosystems and resources such as water – leads us naturally to a focus on resilient development.

We’re fully aware that one-size-fits-all policy prescriptions aren’t helpful – we’ve been talking for many years about the importance of context-sensitive solutions to resources challenges. But in thinking about development choices we believe that there are certain things that policy makers should consistently seek to ensure:

  • That decisions around food, water and energy policy are not made in isolation
  • That institutions are designed for resilience, flexibility and to facilitate co-operation
  • That economic and regulatory instruments help to strengthen incentives for building resilience into food, water and energy systems
  • That trade, regional integration and foreign policy support the management of nexus trade-offs and contribute to resilience at the local, national and global levels.

Livewell Food Dishes

Our research concludes that strategies to meet a country’s development and sustainability goals are most resilient when they build on a clear analysis of the particular nexus resource challenges faced in that country’s context. Moreover, decisions made in early stages of development have implications for ensuring resilience later on. This is especially true for the design of infrastructure and institutions which govern the use of food, water and energy resources.

The Nexus report contains case studies from 16 locations around the world, looking at a mix of developed and developing economies. The case studies have shown us that our world is more tightly woven than we think – but by recognising this and working together, we can deliver a stronger future.

This blog was co-written with Andy Wales, SVP for sustainable development at SABMiller.

What are your thoughts on the Nexus report? Leave a comment on this blog post.

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