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With over 600 supermarkets and 800 convenience stores, retailer Sainsbury’s understands that water is key to all businesses. Although their own operations represent a fraction of their total business water footprint, they are still exposed to water risks. To address these in their own operations, Sainsbury’s have a target to reach water neutrality by 2040.

This is why in 2023 Sainsbury’s began working with The Rivers Trust to pilot the Volumetric Water Benefit Accounting (VWBA – Replenish) methodology to support their goal of water neutrality. Sainsbury’s have purchased the Replenish volumes associated with The Rivers Trust’s groundbreaking Wyre Catchment Natural Flood Management Project. This project will annually replenish the volumes of water that Sainsbury’s use in this catchment area, and from as early as 2024, four Sainsbury’s stores in this catchment will be water neutral.

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Natural Flood Management in the Wyre Catchment

The Wyre Natural Flood Management project (Wyre NFM project) uses nature-based solutions to reduce flood risk in the Wyre River Catchment, using a blend of public and private finance.

The project is led by The River Trust, Triodos Bank UK, Environment Agency, United Utilities, Flood Re, Co-Op Insurance and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Dan Turner, Technical Lead for the project at The Rivers Trust, said: "We know that hard-engineered solutions alone will not address our future flood risk challenges and must be supplemented by natural solutions, but a lack of mechanisms to finance these solutions, at scale, remains a significant barrier to uptake."

This project is the first of its kind in the UK to use private finance for natural flood management measures, including the use of private investment.

The team is now applying the learnings from this model to develop projects in other locations. However, it is important to note that every catchment is different and will have it's own requirements in implementing and financing natural flood management interventions.