|The future predictions around water supply and their implications are often times a great concern to both business and government leaders. By 2030 global water demand will grow 40 percent above current accessible and reliable supplies.1 Water shortages, combined with climate change and population growth can threaten the global food supply. For example:
- The global population is estimated to expand to 10+ billion people by 2050.2
- Global temperatures are projected to increase from 0.5 to 8.6 F by 2100.3
- Arable lands may reduce by as much as 50 percent, resulting in food shortages and global imbalances in food and water supply.4
The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Risk Report identified water crises as number three among the top five global risks in terms of impact.5
Private Industry’s Role in Averting a Global Water Crisis
Many are looking at private industry to do its part. Even as global trends drive increased demand and water scarcity, companies that proactively and effectively manage water resources can succeed and thrive, while at the same time promoting the well-being of the planet and protecting the future.
To help protect global water supply companies should consider focusing on the many challenges and opportunities of global water management which fall into three areas:
- PHYSICAL: An increasingly scarce water supply, leading to shortages and higher costs, can jeopardize the ability of companies to reliably deliver quality products. Companies can help ensure access to consistent and reliable quantity and quality of water when they need it, while optimizing usage across applications by capitalizing on opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle water.
- REGULATORY: Often there’s a complex and evolving regulatory landscape that affects companies’ water allocation and operations, which can complicate management of costs and sustainability goals. Companies should consider gaining an understanding of the frequently changing and regionally specific water allocation issues and regulations. Companies that manage the current regulatory environment and are prepared for upcoming changes will likely be well positioned for the future.
- REPUTATIONAL: It’s important for many corporations to manage the increasing strategic risk water has for corporations, brands, governments and investors. For example, sustainability has become increasingly important to consumers6, suggesting that companies focus on driving sustainability and communicate those efforts to their consumers. This can involve identifying opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle water in support of sustainability; monitor consumer perceptions of the brand as it relates to sustainability; and understand what reputational risks may exist for the brand.
Companies Taking a Stand on Global Water Management
Some companies are being proactive with regards to global water management. For example:
- In August 2016, The Coca-Cola Company, along with its bottling partners, announced that they had met their goal to balance and replenish the equivalent amount of water used in global sales volume back to nature and communities.7
- SABMiller, in accordance with Goal 6 of the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure access to water and sanitation for all by 2030, has revamped its water efficiency targets. During 2015, it achieved its original goal to reduce brewery water use by 25 percent.8
Several companies were sponsors of events in conjunction with World Water Day, such as:
- Ecolab hosted a meeting on Tackling Water Scarcity for Business Resiliency. The event addressed topics such as: how digital and data are accelerating business transformation in a water scarce world, how minimized risk exposure drives water efficiency financing and the business case for smarter water management.9
- Scott’s Miracle-Gro, through its newly formed Foundation which focuses on sustainable solutions for environmental and social causes, co-sponsored a summit with The Everglades Foundation. The Impact and Water Summit addressed concerns around the growing problem of water nutrient pollution.10
There are many opportunities for companies to take the lead in managing global water supply and help avert a global water crisis. To help be positioned for the future and affect positive global change, companies will likely need to efficiently and effectively manage water. This can be accomplished by having access to relevant and timely insights that enable them to decrease operating costs and manage water related risk as well as connect with thought leaders on issues related to regulatory topics.
12030 Water Resources Group, Charting Our Water Future: Economic Frameworks to Inform Decision Making, 2009, http://www.waterresourcesgroup/water_full/Charting_Our_Future_Final.pdf
2World Bank, “Overview,” April 1, 2015, http://www.WorldBank.org/en/topic/food security/overview#1
10Press Release: The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company Announces Creation of Charitable Foundation to Advance Sustainable Solutions for Environmental and Societal Issues; Dow Jones Institutional News, February 22, 2017