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Report: Viable Business Demands Collective Water Management

Companies should develop and implement a more holistic watershed approach, according to a report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

A watershed approach takes into consideration upstream and downstream interactions, direct and indirect impacts, and the needs of the environment. For many businesses, this approach is a more cost-effective method to mitigate water risks and provides significant benefits and opportunities through new revenue prospects, reputation enhancement, improved compliance and cost-savings, the report says.

Sharing Water: Engaging Business says business plays a crucial role in ensuring responsible management of water resources and encourages greater collaboration across sectors. The report finds that leading companies have begun shifting their perspective beyond merely managing operational water use to becoming more conscious of how corporate actions impact local and regional water resources and, conversely, how water resources and watersheds impact business.

Over the next 20 years, companies must adopt a broader focus on water management “beyond the company’s fence-line,” to ensure sustainable water use. Local participation in water management is vital to ensure long-term access to a finite resource, the report says.

The report cites findings from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that, under business as usual, water demand will increase by 55 percent globally by 2050, leaving little scope to meet increasing water demands while respecting the needs of ecosystems. With no improvement in the management and use of freshwater resources, the world could face a 40 percent supply gap by 2030.

According to the report, the challenge of water management is complicated by the localized nature of water quality and quantity, which are determined by a range of local factors including geography, geology, climate, demography, infrastructure, competition and regulation. No two watersheds are the same, and, as such, some regions are less susceptible to water constraints while others face scarcity and pollution challenges.

Water-intensive companies making operation location decisions increasingly consider the reliability of local water management when determining long-term strategic investments, writes Veolia Water Americas president and CEO Laurent Auguste in a February Environmental Leader column. Water and its availability can singularly propel economic success — or establish certain doom, he says.

In January, WWF and H&M entered into a three-year partnership to develop a global water strategy that will be implemented across the fashion retailer’s 48 national markets and 750 direct suppliers.

Photo Credit: Mcconnell Franklin

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