Coca-Cola Enterprises, Sunlight, Branston and Sainsbury's are the first four organisations to achieve a new international award for water reduction in a pilot scheme.
Launched by the Carbon Trust, the world's first international award for water reduction hopes to encourage business to take action on measuring, managing and reducing water use.
The award will change businesses' sustainability benchmarks and the way they are viewed by investors, stakeholders and customers.
According to the Carbon Trust, businesses around the world are not acting fast enough, despite the fact that global water use is predicted to increase dramatically by 2030 to a level far exceeding current freshwater availability. Failure to act is exposing businesses to water scarcity issues down the line, which in some cases could lead to dramatically increased costs, or could grind operations to a standstill.
Interviews with 475 senior executives of large companies in the UK, the USA, China, South Korea and Brazil found that only one in seven of businesses had a set target on water reduction, or publicly reported on water performance.
Of those businesses that did see water as a priority risk, two-thirds listed water availability as an issue, although this figure was significantly higher in countries such as China (78%), Brazil (74%) and South Korea (75%).
Eighty-six per cent were concerned that legislation was hovering on the horizon, as governments around the world assessed the vulnerability of water resources, and reviewed their policy on water scarcity.
Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said: "Addressing water use within a business has not, until now, been high on the agenda for many businesses. However, the harsh realities of future water scarcity means this needs to change and fast.
"We've launched the Water Standard to help companies monitor and manage their water usage and build resource efficiency into future business plans. We know from our extensive experience helping companies to manage carbon reduction that a stringent approach to use of resources can lead to new commercial opportunities and thriving businesses, particularly for those who take the lead here and set the benchmark for others to follow."
For further information on the Carbon Trust Water Standard, visit www.carbontrust.com.