WWF and leading companies discuss strategies to protect freshwater resources

Posted on 10 July 2012  | 
Bucharest, Romania - The role of the private sector in managing water resources and reducing the negative impact on wetlands was at the centre of a debate during the “Business, Water and Wetlands” forum, organized in parallel to the Ramsar Conference of the Parties in Bucharest.

Companies increasingly find that there is a crisis over water resources, both in quality and quantity, something that directly affects their operations. Consequently, companies from various sectors - from retail to clothing and from food to the extractive industries - are beginning to take steps to protect water. Demand for information about the risks of water shortages is growing also by investors, banks and insurance companies.

"When the crisis of water resources is no longer a distant reality, but rather a phenomenon increasingly close to us, it takes involvement from everyone - from individuals to the authorities, NGOs and corporations to identify ways of developing medium and long term measures”, said Magor Csibi, Director of WWF Romania. “It would be wrong to only look at companies as part of the problem, rather we must help them become part of the solution. This forum is a step in the right direction", Csibi said.

Participants in the event, organized by WWF, The Ramsar Convention and The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, heard from company representative of Lafarge, The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, Procter & Gamble and General Electric - companies that are considered to have “best practices” in terms of water consumption and have been noted for having developed sustainable business solutions.

Among the topics on the agenda were current and future water resources in Europe and the Danube River basin in particular, implications for the private sector in terms of risks, costs, legislation and reputation and, last but not least, identifying partners to continue efforts to conserve wetlands.

What is at stake for companies

"Some of the critical factors for the supply chain of Coca-Cola are the physical availability of water, droughts, increased demand for soft drinks, climate change, the limits imposed by legislation and social acceptance”, said Ulrike Sapiro, Corporate Responsibility Director, Environment, Coca-Cola Europe. “The strategy developed by Coca-Cola to address these issues includes measures related to ingredients, packaging, manufacturing, distribution, refrigeration and recycling", Sapiro said.

"The Lafarge policy before extending an existing quarry or building a new quarry is to conduct a very rigorous assessment of the impact on the environment and the local community, including hydrological and geological assessments", said Jim Rushworth, VP Environment & Public Affairs, Quarries, Aggregates & Concrete, Lafarge.

"Companies have very different levels of involvement and action, but more and more funds are allocated for water management projects”, said Stuart Orr, Head of Water Stewardship, WWF International. “The main work areas are the supply chain, related studies on water footprint, optimizing water use, and reducing pollution."
Stuart Orr, Head of Water Stewardship, WWF-International at the
Stuart Orr, Head of Water Stewardship, WWF-International at the "Business, Water and Wetlands" event in Bucharest, Romania.
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