The UK’s fossil fuel flirtation, the biomass debate and why companies’ sustainability strategies must include water

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote an editorial this week outlining how Western economies have become Independent of Russian energy supply Given President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The article reiterated the need for a green energy transition but also touted nuclear energy development and the UK’s “hydrocarbons” – a term the Prime Minister seems to prefer to its less erudite synonym – fossil fuels. In his policymaking, Johnson has so far largely resisted his own party’s net-zero skeptics – some of whom have been arguing for a Brexit-style referendum on Britain’s climate goals.

However, his work marked an openness to North Sea oil and gas exploration, which would be Contrary to the UK’s net zero commitment, It is also largely unpopular with the public, according to several previous opinion polls. That’s a stark contrast to the IEA’s message on Friday, which called on governments to reduce oil and gas consumption by lowering speed limits on motorways and encouraging less flying, less driving and working from home.

Mark as March 22 world water day, For the climate talks, I spoke with Kirsten James, senior program director for water at nonprofit Ceres, about a renewed focus on water to advance the company’s sustainability benchmarks and actions.

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climate talks

As companies focus on sustainability actions, they need to think about more than reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Understanding the water they need and the impact on their operations is key to ensuring they and the planet can continue to prosper. Through her work at Ceres, a nonprofit that works with investors and shareholders on sustainability challenges, Kirsten James has focused on risks to freshwater and agricultural systems.

Can you talk about some of the changes you’ve seen in companies’ attitudes toward water risk over the past two years?

We have seen some good progress and there is an upward trend. Of the companies we benchmarked, 71% now see water risk as part of their primary business planning activities, up from 58% two years ago. That said, there is still a long way to go. In particular, the report found that in agricultural supply chains, we’re just not seeing enough attention and progress. That’s where we really see the biggest water footprint.

Which companies are most exposed to water risk, does it depend more on industry, geography or a combination of factors?

Both are important factors to consider. Water risk affects a company’s bottom line, so we do a lot of work with institutional investors, partnering with companies and pointing them in the right direction to better manage water resources. Companies should conduct an assessment to understand the local water situation before making capital expenditures or as they seek to prioritize their water management activities. It is important to understand the local water supply and identify the location of these high-risk areas.

Some of the wording on water commitments can be confusing. For example, what does a clean water positive mean?

There are many different definitions out there.Some companies are committing to replenish the amount of water they are using, but we also need a better understanding of how well that particular water basin is doing, where the pressure companies are creating, and [whether] They do offset their impact within a specific watershed. As companies say things like “net positives,” they need to back this up with evidence-based, ambitious business-as-usual changes, so they’re on the fence about the actions they’re going to take in their operations, and more importantly, they Our supply chain is transparent. It is important that these commitments also cover the entire supply chain. What these companies promise, and how they are backed by actual actions, requires a level of disclosure and transparency. We analyzed a large number of public disclosures by companies, and there is often no information in the public domain about what actions have actually been taken to support these commitments. More monitoring of water resources is needed and more data collected and disclosed in the public domain so we can assess the impact.

How similar are the processes for assessing climate risks and water impacts?

There are similarities and there are differences. [Companies need to] Track their impact on water and the impact of a lack of clean water on your business, looking at both sides of the equation. Water is local and you need to consider local conditions – are you in a high risk basin? You need to look at your entire supply chain and where the commodities come from – for example, do these commodities contribute to water pollution? Climate change is a threat multiplier that brings physical risks that manifest in water, so there must be a link. It is important to understand the entire supply chain and local conditions.

What are the best practices?

We can draw some best practices from the work of the top-scoring companies on Ceres’ Feeding Ourselves Thirsty benchmark. In one company, for example, the public policy and sustainability committee of its board of directors is responsible for water-related issues within the company—a leading best practice. One company committed to sourcing 50% of its key ingredients through regenerative farming methods. Instead, a third company stands out for some of its commitment to regenerative agriculture for priority crops in high-risk watersheds.

Any cautionary tales?

There are definitely signs everywhere.some thought [relate to] Water issues affecting local communities. Companies wishing to put money into areas of high water stress need to understand that there is a social license to operate. The same goes for various regulatory issues. As regulations change, companies need to change their practices and eliminate pollution and other impacts. We also published some research in December that took a closer look at the meat and apparel industries and how company valuations have changed due to the impact on water and action costs. It shows investors that if these issues are not addressed, there will indeed be an impact on profits.

Dr. Kirsten James’ answer has been condensed and edited for brevity and clarity.

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