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World Wildlife Fund On Balance

Sharing Data for a Water-Secure Future

  • Date: 29 July 2014
  • Author: Karin Krchnak, WWF
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Today, as part of the White House’s Climate Data Initiative, the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Initiative released the “Investor Guidance Document: Water Risks in Agricultural Supply Chains” to educate and engage potentially at-risk companies on the impacts water scarcity could have on their supply chains. With over 1260 signatories, the PRI initiative represents over $45 trillion USD in management assets, including water intensive commodities like cotton, sugar and corn.

This initiative promotes private sector water stewardship in an effort to combat the effects of climate change on agriculture. Intensified weather patterns compounded by inefficient freshwater management limits agricultural production, impacting the food, beverage and consumer goods companies that depend on it.

Agriculture accounts for 70% of global freshwater use–more than twice as much as all other sectors combined. Because of this, global investors are acutely aware of climate-related business losses. In fact, some companies have reported annual losses of hundreds of millions of dollars due to extreme weather events. Pension funds, endowments and other institutional investors who own these companies through public shares stand to suffer financial losses from unanticipated water events.

Fortunately, businesses now have the opportunity to lead us into a water secure future. Water stewardship throughout the supply chain translates directly into increased water security, and consequently, food security for all users. This also serves as a source of competitive advantage—and a demand placed on companies from their investors.

That’s where data comes in. The PRI created a committee to address water risk in agricultural supply chains. WWF supported the initiative by providing detailed agricultural data to help PRI identify which supply chains face the greatest water risks. WWF’s water data, derived from the Water Risk Filter and Supply Risk Analysis tools, comprises the world’s largest database of water stewardship case studies and mitigation recommendations. It is currently used by more than 2,000 companies to map over 50,000 vendor sites in specific supply chains. By merging detailed agricultural crop-geography combinations with robust economic data, we helped the PRI develop a picture of exactly which company supply chains face the highest levels of water risk.

WWF supports the PRI in this commitment, but additional work is needed to build a future of water and food security. We also commit to partnering with technology companies to expand, update and better package data that could help a variety of users--beyond the private sector--address water and climate issues. Together, we can share knowledge and shift markets to create a future with water and food for all.

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