Farming is the world’s biggest water user and, in some regions, the supply is drying up. Water scarcity will be one of the sharpest environmental, social and economic challenges of coming decades, and the food sector will feel this keenly.

How businesses deal with water risks is fast evolving. As well as independent initiatives by businesses and NGOs, there has been a relatively concerted approach to the issue internationally. Efforts are under way to co-ordinate approaches to water footprinting and, more recently, to measure the impacts of water use, which vary from place to place. Businesses involved in these efforts have now set their sights on ‘water stewardship’, recognising that some of biggest challenges arise not in measuring water risks, but in the practicalities of working with your neighbours to manage them.

The July 2010 meeting of the Business Forum, discussed these developments. We are very grateful to our speakers: Robin Farrington, Water Policy Adviser at WWF-UK; and Louise Nicholls, Head of Responsible Sourcing for Marks and Spencer (M&S). The chair was David Croft, Director of Conformance and Sustainability at Cadbury and a member of the FEC.

Download a report of the meeting.