Business taskforce calls on UK industry to take urgent action on water

16 January 2015

Business leaders are calling on their peers to tackle water issues in the UK.

With the backing of the Government, Business in the Community (BITC) has brought together water companies, other businesses, and key stakeholders to work collaboratively on the challenges, and encourage other businesses to take action on water to help build a fairer society and more sustainable future.

Today the BITC Water Taskforce, chaired by United Utilities CEO, Steve Mogford, is calling on all UK businesses – large and small, from every sector, be they at the beginning of their journey or further along – to consider their relationship with water and take action to improve their resilience to the risk of periods of too much and too little water.

To mark the start of a three year plan of action, the group has launched a report ‘Securing the Resources for Future Prosperity’, which highlights the water challenges faced in the UK, reasons why businesses should take action and what they need to do. The report uncovers many stories of how businesses are already rising to the challenge.

Gudrun Cartwright, Head of Innovation and Partnerships, Business in the Community said: “Water management should be part of all sustainable business strategies. Rising sea levels and changes in rainfall patterns are just the beginning of an increase in flooding and drought in the UK. There is a clear and urgent need for UK businesses to act now and respond to water challenges.

We are delighted that BITC members are helping to drive change through the Water Taskforce and look forward to seeing how we can deliver real impact over the next three years.”

Northumbrian Water Group’s Water Director, John Devall, who sits on the taskforce, said: “This taskforce has vital work to do and provides the partners with a powerful platform to work with businesses, big and small, to do their bit to help protect what is a very precious resource, reduce energy use and manage the impact that they may have on flooding.

“Sustainability is at the core of all we do as a business, including our water catchment processes, water and wastewater treatment and renewable energy innovation. Education is also at the heart of what we do, for example, our work with schools to educate future generations on the water cycle and the important part that water plays in our everyday lives. The taskforce group has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with businesses.”

Steve Mogford, CEO of United Utilities said: “Businesses, within and outside the water industry, increasingly recognise the importance of using water more efficiently and becoming more resilient to water shortages and flooding. They also recognise the opportunities and business value brought by action. Taking action is essential for our long-term prosperity and the longer businesses wait, the greater the costs of catching up.”

Water Minister Dan Rogerson said: “Across the country, many individual businesses are doing great things to help protect water quality and the environment. We believe businesses working together and sharing best practice is crucial to encourage others to do the same. That is why we are providing the Water Stewardship in Food Supply Chains Project within the Water Taskforce with £150,000 of government funding, to help boost collaboration and share knowledge across industry.”

“It is great news that we are supporting the Business in the Community Water Taskforce. In its first year, this group has already achieved a lot and I am certain that we can achieve even more in the next year thanks to our funding.”

BITC’s Water Taskforce had identified six steps to help organisations take action on water.

1. Understand their relationship with water
2. Create a plan for action
3. Manage direct use of water
4. Manage indirect use of water
5. Build resilience to flooding and water shortages
6. Collaborate on sustainable water quality management

If you′re interested in learning more about the work of the Taskforce visit

Members of the Water Taskforce are: Anglian Water, the Carbon Trust, Costain, United Utilities, Dairy Crest, Defra, Dwr Cymru, EDF Energy, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, Marshalls, the Met Office, MWH, Nestlé, Northumbrian Water, Sainsbury’s and Thames Water.

The Taskforce are committed to working collaboratively on practical projects that contribute to the delivery of resilience, stewardship and innovation around water.

The report and case studies will be available from 15 January

For more information and spokespeople please contact:
Business in the Community, Vicky Gashe, 07714 411539

About Business in the Community

Business in the Community is a business-led charity committed to creating a fairer society and more sustainable future.

We campaign to shape a new contract between business and society. Driven by a unique collaboration of business leaders, we stimulate action by challenging and supporting thousands of businesses - through our local, national and international campaigns.

Business in the Community is one of The Prince’s Charities, a group of not-for-profit organisations of which The Prince of Wales is president.

The need for action

Use of water has exceeded sustainable levels in several areas around the world, resulting in rivers running dry, lake and groundwater levels dropping, and freshwater species becoming endangered. This is set to get worse: in the 20 years leading to 2030, global freshwater demand is expected to rise by 40%.

At the same time, changes in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and increasing urbanisation are leading to an increased incidence of flooding and drought.

In the UK, the perception is that we have plenty of water and enough rainfall to meet our needs, but:

• We are big consumers of water. In the UK every person consumes approximately 150 litres of water per day, or 3,400 litres if you take into account the water needed to produce our food and other goods we consume.

• Water scarcity is an issue. London is actually drier than Istanbul. Several parts of the UK are already water stressed.

• Water quality is an issue. Despite good progress in recent years, more needs to be done to address the impacts that pollution and over abstraction still have.

• Population growth will lead to an increase in demand for water. The UK population is set to grow by around 10 million by 2035.

• Urbanisation is changing the distribution of demand. The UK urban population rose from 77% in 1970 to 90% in 2010, increasing pressures on water resources. The creation of urban areas with hard surfaces such as car parks and footpaths is increasing the risk of flooding and threatens water quality.

• Climate change will be felt throughout the country. Periods of droughts and flooding may become more commonplace.

The report lists 10 reasons why businesses should take action – what they have to gain and what, from a business perspective, is driving the need for change:

1. To reduce costs
2. To develop resilience to water scarcity
3. To develop resilience to flooding
4. To realise market opportunities
5. To respond to investor expectations
6. To comply with government policy and legislation
7. To meet consumer expectations
8. To ensure a licence to operate
9. To reduce carbon emissions
10. To ensure long-term performance through valuing water as a natural capital

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