The issues with water

Water is fundamental to the production of our food and drink, and is becoming an increasingly unpredictable resource. Eight of the top 10 countries that the UK imports food from are drought prone – and the World Economic Forum ranks water crises as the top risk to global growth.

Action to mitigate the risk is critical for the sector to be resilient to future pressures and to be able to continue delivering for its customers. However, water impacts are very challenging for businesses to tackle alone, because available supplies are shared with other users and need collective management.

Businesses and other stakeholders have recognised the power of collaboration to help overcome this challenge. Under Courtauld 2025, a working group, involving industry representatives from across the supply chain and leading water experts, has been developing a practical way of working together and targets to drive increased action.

Identifying areas for action

Initial steps taken within the working group include:

  • Bringing together existing knowledge on options, metrics, approaches and existing initiatives.
  • Understanding how different types of business might be able to act.
  • Agreeing an approach that is pragmatic and can have the best impact.

At an early stage, it was identified that there would be significant value in catalysing greater participation in collective action in a number of key sourcing areas for UK food and drink. To help identify these, WRAP and WWF coordinated a survey of businesses to identify some common locations where multiple businesses have all identified water risks and a need for collaboration.

Next steps

WWF and the Rivers Trust are working on the ground to develop and deliver collective action projects in the common locations identified. Each project will have its own objectives and target outcomes, dependent on the local need and will be governed within the overarching Courtauld 2025 framework. WRAP is working with signatory businesses to shine a light on these opportunities and help ensure a balance of effort across project locations.

Working in partnership, and with the right spread of effort, we collectively can establish a critical mass of action and drive real change in these initial locations. Having proven this can work in practice, we will seek to broaden the ambition and scope of action. Industry recognises that no single company can cover all areas of water risk that they face, but working collectively could leverage individual efforts to safeguard future resources.