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Companies and EU Institutions Show Their Support for Water Stewardship leading to a “Circular Economy”

Jul 2nd, 2015 |

On 1 July 2015 representatives of globally active companies in the food, chemical, transportation, agricultural and manufacturing sectors came together with EU and national policymakers at an event organised by the European Water Partnership to share their experiences on water stewardship. Building Resilient Systems: Water Stewardship as a Basis for Smart Investment demonstrated how water stewardship can drive sustainable development to ensure water security, and showcased some examples of its implementation.

“Global risks are rapidly becoming increasingly environmental, rather than economic, with water crises being at the top,” said Friedrich Barth, Chairman of the European Water Partnership. Since 2006 the EWP has united people and stakeholders around a common water vision for Europe, developing policies, standards and sharing best practice to effectively address Europe’s water challenges by 2030. It is unique in driving concerted action on water security and resource management in Europe.

In its Global Risks 2015 report the World Economic Forum identified water crises as the societal risk of greatest concern. According to the European Union, 20% of surface water is at serious risk from pollution, 60% of European cities over-exploit their groundwater resources, and 50% of wetlands are endangered. “Until now the main focus of policy to address the effects of climate change has been renewable energy. Water management must be addressed with similar vigour and this can only be achieved through collaborative efforts and partnerships involving government, financial institutions, industry, agriculture and civil society,” said Barth.

Agriculture & Industry

The event turned its attention to water stewardship in agriculture, “agriculture accounts for more than a third of European water consumption so farmers have a particularly strong interest in addressing current and future water risks in order to assure the integrity and sustainability of their businesses,” said Barth. Special guest Tony Allan of King’s College London, along with representative Gerard Rass from APAD (Association pour la Promotion d’une Agriculture Durable – The French Conservation Farming association) reinforced an important message about the essential role of farmer services in stewarding ecosystems as well as in producing food.

EWP has made significant progress through the certification of leading, internationally active industrial concerns to its European Water Stewardship standard. Leading industrial companies have already taken action: applying the European Water Stewardship Standard (EWS) to improve operations at their sites. “As a global chemical company celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, water has always been at the heart of our operations. EWS is the adequate response to water risks within the BASF Group”, said Dr. Andrea Stoegbauer, Global Water Expert at BASF.

As water moves to the top of the environmental agenda, industrial concerns will have a strong incentive to be seen to be taking action on stewardship. This implies broad action across a company’s entire operations, rather than one-off initiatives. Panellists from ABP Food Group, the Antwerp Port Authority, the European Crop Protection Association, Heidelberg Cement and Kemira Water Solutions discussed how the acquisition of water stewardship certification can add to an organisation’s brand equity.

Policy & Finance

“Europe cannot be satisfied with the status quo, with almost half of its water bodies not reaching good status today” said Pavel Misiga, head of the Water Unit, DG Environment. ” By not investing enough in measures to address the environmental pressures on European waters we are increasing debt to future generations that is not on the balance sheet today.”

How are we to match our words with actions?

Heidi Jern from the European Commission for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness highlighted the role of existing financing instruments to support member states in achieving environmental objectives and expanding their resource efficiency with the ultimate objective of a circular economy.

INNEON consultant Ramón Vallés presented the INNEON network for eco-innovation investment, which aims to extend public and private funding sources available for eco-innovation and social innovation in Europe, and provide a unique forum dedicated to the interaction between a select cohort of innovators and relevant investors.

Read the full press release here.

Learn more about the event agenda and speakers here.

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