WRAP press release - Businesses commit to Water Ambition to cut environmental cost of food & drink

26 March 2018

WRAP press release - Businesses commit to Water Ambition to cut environmental cost of food & drink

The impact on the environment of producing food and drink, both in the UK and overseas, will be reduced under a new Water Ambition launched today by sustainability experts WRAP, in partnership with WWF and the Rivers Trust, as part of Courtauld Commitment 2025. 

Announced on World Water Day, the Ambition has the backing of signatories to WRAP’s ten-year Courtauld Commitment 2025 voluntary agreement, including major UK retailers, food and drink manufacturers & brands, businesses from within the hospitality & food service sector and trade bodies. These include ABP Food Group, Bidfood, Coca-Cola GB, the Co-op, M&S, Nestlé, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.  

The Courtauld Commitment 2025 Water Ambition will see UK businesses act within their own operations, and collectively in food sourcing areas, to tackle water stress and improve water efficiency. Courtauld Commitment 2025 signatories have agreed to the following. By 2025: 

Business signatories are monitoring water use in their own operations and have improved efficiency. Aiming for 100% of signatory businesses monitoring water use and having delivered water reductions in operations under their direct influence.  

Business signatories are participating in collective action to improve the quality and availability of water in key sourcing areas. Aiming for 100% of signatory businesses supporting collective action projects in critical sourcing locations for UK food & drink supply. Over the lifetime of Courtauld 2025, these projects aim to cover around half of the production area of fresh produce supply from water stressed locations, as well as key water stressed areas for arables and livestock. Each project will aim to deliver reductions in water stress, measured against the most important water stress impacts & metrics in that location (e.g. reduction in consumptive use, improved water quality status, nitrate/phosphate/sediment levels in local watercourses).   

Initial focus will be on six UK catchment based project areas identified by the Rivers Trust as critical areas for sourcing key foods such as fresh produce, dairy and crops. All currently suffer water stress in terms of quantity and availability; or the quality of current supplies. The six areas are: 

  • Cam & Ely Ouse and Broadlands (East Anglia), 
  • Medway (South East), 
  • Tamar (South West), 
  • Eden (Cumbria), and
  • Wye & Usk (South West / Wales).

The scope of the Water Ambition will reach far beyond just the UK, with WWF helping to expand the scale of this work into international regions that have water risks. These include the Western Cape in South Africa; southern Spain; and the Kenyan regions of Naivasha, Nanyuki, Thika and Nairobi. 

Work is already underway in the UK locations, with established projects active on the ground through the Rivers Trust and other partners including BITC. The Water Ambition will act as a catalyst to help develop these projects by increasing industry participation, and generating new partnerships more widely. The projects aim to improve water quality and availability for local communities, for the wider environment and for greater resilience within supply chains.

WRAP, which oversees business engagement in the projects, is keen to see the whole food and drink sector, and other interested parties, get involved and share in the Ambition. Peter Maddox, Director at WRAP explains; “Water stewardship is an area that none of us can afford to take for granted. The United Nations predict that global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030 due to climate change, human action and population growth*. And in the UK, the supply chains that deliver more than half of our food are prone to disruptions like water scarcity. Eight of the top ten countries we import our food from are drought-prone, in fact. 

“The Courtauld Commitment 2025 Water Ambition is a practical response to the growing problem of water stress. 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.” 

Arlin Rickard, Chief Executive of The Rivers Trust strongly endorsed WRAP’s partnership approach and praised the signatories saying; “This commitment to the Water Ambition really takes Water Stewardship and the catchment based approach to the next level. We are all facing growing challenges that seriously impact on the quality and availability of water and contribute to the degradation of our soils, there has never been a more important time for collaborative action.  By working together, The Rivers Trust, and our partners, will be able to deliver practical changes that will benefit business, communities and the environment.”

Dr Conor Linstead, Freshwater Specialist at WWF says “We believe that the Courtauld Commitment 2025 is an exciting and significant development for water stewardship. There are very few examples of whole sectors coming together to work collectively on water challenges in shared sourcing areas. Our experience of working with businesses on water has shown that this level of scale-up – to whole sectors – is essential if we are to successfully protect our freshwater resources and ecosystems into the future, because no one business can tackle the issue alone.”

The Courtauld Commitment 2025 Water Ambition has the support of some of the most influential businesses in the UK and WRAP is keen to hear from businesses who wish to get involved. 

Additional Business Quotes

  • Dean Holroyd, Group Technical & Sustainability Director ABP “ABP Food Group fully support the approach to increase focus on this most valuable of natural resources through the C2025 Water Ambition. Since 2008, ABP Food Group has nearly halved our water use per Kg of output, a performance that has been recognised by both the Carbon Trust and European Water Stewardship. But we recognise there is still more to do as water scarcity is likely to become increasingly common, and hence why we welcome and support this initiative.”
  • Shirley Duncalf, Head of Sustainability, Bidfood "WRAP and Courtauld 2025 has been an inspiration to Bidfood on the challenge of addressing water shortages that impact so many communities across the globe, and have provided some really worthwhile tools, resources and collective action projects on plate2planet - the foodservice industry’s on-line resource for sharing best practice in CSR and sustainability. That's why we fully support the new Courtauld 2025 Water Ambition. We hope that many other foodservice organisations follow their lead and get involved too."
  • Liz Lowe, Sustainability Manager Coca-Cola Great Britain "Water is the number one ingredient in all our drinks but we believe no business can take this crucial resource for granted. Our water stewardship strategy sees us protecting the water sources we use, continually optimising the amount of water we use in our production processes and ensuring we return any waste water back to the environment. Through our partnership with WWF-UK, we’re working directly with farmers on water sensitive and sustainable farming practices across areas where sugar beet, an ingredient in some of our drinks, is grown. We’re also supporting them to improve land management, by protecting soils and reducing pollution from agricultural production: benefiting farmers and improving river health. 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."
  • Sarah Wakefield, Food Sustainability Manager, The Co-op. Co-Chair WRAP Water Working Group “At the Co-op we know that without clean water, there isn’t life. As the climate changes, water security is becoming a key concern for many of our producers and suppliers and, in order to protect food supply chains for the future, we need to take action on reducing water use and improving water quality. 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. We are delighted to start work in the Wye and Usk alongside the Rivers Trust and in South Africa with WWF to make a difference where it is needed.” 
  • Amanda Curtis, Senior Environment Manager, M&S “We’re really proud at M&S to be part of the Courtauld Commitment 2025 Water Ambition, aiming to implement water stewardship in high risk regions, collectively, and at scale, to really make a meaningful difference to the environment from where we source our products.  At M&S, we have a long history of collaboration on water stewardship projects in Spain, South Africa and Kenya which has contributed to valuable efficiencies on farm and better governance in place to manage water in the long term. We look forward to building on our experience through our C2025 partnership alongside WWF, Rivers Trust and WRAP.”
  • Andrew Griffiths, Head of Environmental Sustainability, Nestlé UK Ltd “Water is a shared and precious resource which is critical to our very existence. As part of our water stewardship programme, we have reduced our water consumption per tonne of product produced, by over 60% across our own operations in the UK and Ireland, in the last 10 years. We are also working with our dairy farmers, delivery partners and other key stakeholders to incentivise and test opportunities on farms to enhance water quality in conjunction with soil quality, biodiversity, animal health and productivity. The challenges associated with water, however, can only be addressed, sustainably and at scale, through genuine pre-competitive collaboration. The Courtauld 2025 Water Ambition, of which we’re proud to play an active role, provides a great platform to drive collaboration leveraging the shared ambition and expertise of key industry players, Rivers Trust, WWF and WRAP.”
  • Beth Hart, Head of Agriculture, Sainsbury’s “Sainsbury’s is proud to support the new C2025 Water Ambition as part of our global efforts to reach our sustainability plan targets. Our commitment is to work collaboratively with water companies, NGOs, local authorities and our neighbours to protect river basins and promote integrated water management. WRAP’s ability to bring together all of the key stakeholders to promote water stewardship allows us to work together to find solutions to complex issues. The UK projects we will be supporting in the first instance in CamEO & Broadlands and Medway are key areas for British sourcing. We will work collaboratively with our farmers and growers to safeguard the quality and availability of their produce for the future and we recognise that good water stewardship is of utmost importance to achieving this.”
  • Laurence Webb, Responsible Sourcing Manager, Tesco “We’re really pleased to support the Courtauld Commitment 2025 Water Ambition, especially its focus on collective action in the supply chain, which accounts for the vast majority of our water footprint. As part of our Little Helps plan, we’ve set out a clear commitment to help improve water and biodiversity impacts in key agricultural regions, and over the last two years we have supported water stewardship projects in East Anglia and Doñana. We’re looking forward to working with our peers across the UK food and drink sector to scale up the lessons from this initial work in a range of other important sourcing locations. The Courtauld Commitment 2025 Water Ambition provides a framework to address complex water sustainability challenges through a combination of improved farming practices, new innovation and advocacy at catchment level”.



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