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This week is world water week and in Stockholm, water’s ‘great and the good’ are meeting to discuss its many challenges. From global heat records to crippling snow, historic rains to jaw-dropping tornadoes, 2014 has so far had some weird weather. The abnormal has become the normal. Yet we are still a long way from addressing and managing water and land-use on a catchment-scale to adapt to this new reality. 
Water scarcity and sustainable water resource management is quickly rising to the top of the agenda for many businesses, including Marks & Spencer. Water crises and extreme weather events have been identified by the World Economic Forum community as two of the top 10 global risks in 2014. 
Marks & Spencer’s and WWF have been working together for the last 7 years on developing our approach to water. Our supply chain is a significant proportion of our businesses water footprint so as part of Plan A, we are committed to working with our suppliers to improve their water efficiency and encourage good Water Stewardship through both our Sustainable Factory and Farming for the Future programmes. Initially we focussed on Water Footprinting 200 suppliers in 5 countries to understand and share water management good practice. This highlighted how localised water quality and scarcity issues can be and how no matter how good one business is in a water catchment area its dependant on the other water users using water sustainably. As a result we started to focus on water stewardship initially piloting in Spain and Kenya, working closely to support the development of the international standard for water stewardship with the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS).

Water Stewardship

In 2012, we started to look at future ‘water risk hot spots’ in our supply chain using the WWF Water Risk Filter. It identified the Western Cape, where we source nectarines, peaches, apricots and cherries during the UK winter as a key risk hotspot where water scarcity and water quality could impact on future production from this region. Working with Woolworths, WWF and AWS we have been working with our western cape farmers to implement the international standard. Every farm has developed their own tailored water stewardship plans, based on their assessment outcome, their farm size and their financial capacities.