The Worshipful Company of Water Conservators has the promotion of sustainability at the heart of its thinking and activities, well captured in its Mission of ‘Promoting a Diverse and Sustainable Environment’. The Company has already played a leading role amongst Livery Companies in responding to the challenges of climate change, and in September 2021 was the first to develop, adopt and share a Climate Action Plan. A large number of volunteers were involved in this initiative, which has been followed by an Implementation Plan, and subsequent tracking of progress.

The challenge now in 2024 is to extend the Climate Action Plan into a wider Sustainability Policy that addresses more of the environmental challenges faced by society in the UK and overseas, and into which further plans on specific themes can be nested. The Policy sets out the general direction, intentions and values of sustainability, including some social, ethical and economic commitments, whereas more detailed Plans will establish specific initiatives and targets.


The Sustainability Policy

The Worshipful Company of Water Conservators fully subscribes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, and is keen to do its part in encouraging progress towards their achievement. In its own activities, in its charitable work and through the efforts of its Liverymen at home and in their professional lives, it will strive to minimise environmental damage. It will promote the idea of living within planetary boundaries by fostering a more responsible and sustainable approach to the use of scarce resources, and by encouraging its direct and indirect contacts to do the same. The Company will always comply with relevant legislation and the guidance provided by the City for all Livery Companies, and will continuously try to improve its environmental and sustainability performance. Collaboration with other organisations and key stakeholders is an important element of this approach.

Whilst all seventeen of the UN Sustainable Development Goals are relevant and important, the Company has particular expertise and potential leverage in a smaller number, on which its activity will focus.

Goal 4: Quality Education

Good quality education, from primary and secondary school through to Higher Education and professional education and training, necessarily includes understanding of the principles of sustainable development, and the Company has a strong commitment particularly to the education of younger people, those in inner city schools experiencing social deprivation, and those at the start of environmental careers. As part of the Company’s existing engagement and charitable activities with schools, universities, colleges and other stakeholders, knowledge about sustainability, climate change and environmental management, will continue to be promoted through the activities of the Water Conservation Trust.

The Trust will continue to fund study and innovative research in universities and colleges, notably by supporting postgraduate students undertaking projects on environmental and sustainability themes in the UK and overseas, and by promoting sustainability through other campus-based activities.

The Company will continue to organise and promote free and publicly-accessible briefings and talks on water and environmental management themes, in which sustainable development is an overarching principle. Through these events and others, it shares knowledge contributing towards sustainable development. The Company will continue to organise and support workshops and exhibitions on environmental themes, such as improving the management of water resources and minimising the disposal of environmentally-damaging materials such as plastics.

Goal 6: Safe Water and Sanitation

The Company is very aware that access to safe water and sanitation is a fundamental human right, and that in many parts of the world, this is not yet achieved. Elements of the Company’s origins in the fifteenth century lie with a Fraternity – the Fellowship of the Brotherhood of St Christopher of the Water-Bearers of the City of London, who were early actors in this sphere. Many members of the Company today work, or have worked professionally, in this arena. They will use their best endeavours to promote access to wholesome water for drinking and other activities around the world, and to secure safe sanitation in accordance with local conditions.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

The Company has amongst its Liverymen those with extensive experience in building and managing resilient water and other environmentally-related infrastructure, including waste management facilities. Members of the Company will be open to innovation that will promote the development of genuinely-sustainable infrastructure addressing the full range of environmental sustainability goals strategically, rather than focussing on solutions that merely delay or deflect damage. Insofar as the skills of its Liverymen permit, it will work across all areas of the environment, including water, air quality, soil health and biodiversity, collaborating with other Companies as appropriate.

The Company is committed to engaging in consultation processes with the relevant government departments and regulators to ensure they are well informed about water and environmental management.

Beyond that, the Company and its charitable arm, the Water Conservation Trust, will periodically review their investment portfolio, considering environmental, social and governance (ESG) good practice, and alignment with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement.

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

The Company will contribute to debate and action to render cities and communities more sustainable, both through the professional work of its members, and in terms of advising significant decisionmakers on good environmental principles and practice. In particular, where it has appropriate expertise, it will respond to Governmental consultations in a manner that does not conflict with the objectives of the Livery and will publish well-researched thought-pieces that promote informed debate.

It terms of its own events, the Company recognises the potential adverse impact of travel on local communities, and when selecting locations it will take account of and encourage the use of public and low emission transport. It will avoid unnecessary travel by encouraging virtual meetings whenever appropriate.

Goal 12: Responsible Production and Consumption

The Company will manage its purchasing to identify opportunities for consuming fewer, more sustainable and less carbon-intensive products and services. It will draw on the concept of a circular economy where products and materials are re-used and recycled, rather than being sent to landfill.

When making catering arrangements for meetings, events and dinners, the Company will particularly take account of the sustainability and carbon content of the food provided and the other products used, including both embedded resources such as water, and transport methods and distances. In collaboration with other Livery Companies, it will work with key catering suppliers to establish low carbon menu options using seasonal and local food, and minimising the amount of food wasted. Specifically, the Company will always require that tap water is provided in preference to bottled water. The Company will provide guidance for other livery companies and businesses on reducing overall per capita water consumption and wastewater discharges, and will provide links to experts, if asked.

The Company will also review the social and employment policies and practices of its caterers and other suppliers to ensure that they meet high standards in relation to, for example, equality and diversity, the Living Wage, and modern slavery.

Goal 13: Climate Action

The Company recognises the potential damage to natural, social and economic environment of the planet, and will continue its efforts to minimise its direct and indirect emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, in line with its Climate Action Plan and Climate Implementation Plan, and with best international practice and Agreements. Alongside periodic review of its own Plan, it will continue to provide professional guidance to the City and the Livery on all matters relating to emissions reduction.

Goal 14: Life Below Water

Water is one of the planet’s most precious resources, and without water there is no life. Moreover, many millions of people globally depend upon water for their livelihoods. Both good quality oceanic and fresh waters are crucial to maintain biodiversity, climate balance and human health.

Basing decisions on good scientific information, the Company will minimise any actions that have damaging impacts on marine and river ecosystems, for example by supporting sustainable fishing and eschewing destructive fishing practices when choosing menus for events. Through their professional activities, and at home, members of the Company will strive to reduce and prevent land-based activities that result in river and marine pollution, including marine debris and nutrient pollution. The Company will continue to provide professional guidance to the City and the Livery on effective water management.

Goal 15: Life on Land

Life on land, including human life, is threatened by the unsustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems such as forests and wetlands, by desertification, and by land degradation including damage to aquifers. Biodiversity is decreasing at an alarming rate, with a rising rate of species extinctions. The Company will use its expertise to press for conservation of freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, to integrate protection of valuable and protected ecosystems into planning and development policies, and to counter alien and invasive species in terrestrial and freshwater habitats.

The Company will continue to press for action at UK governmental and local level to reduce per capita water consumption and harmful wastewater discharges.

Recognising the damaging impact of inappropriate waste disposal on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, the Company will review its waste disposal policies and practices so as to increase re-use and recycling, with the aim of achieving zero waste to landfill whilst not increasing carbon emissions. The Company’s suppliers will be pressed to review their own waste management practices in accordance with the principles of the waste hierarchy, starting with waste prevention.


The Court

April 2024