Corporate water stewardship efforts must look beyond a company’s fenceline and consider its operations in water-stressed areas, says DuPont’s Bob Reich, global environmental stewardship manager, in a blog.
Reich says DuPont has learned six key lessons over the past 15 years, including:
1. Water Risk is Business Risk. In addition to being a good neighbor, addressing water issues in the communities in which a company operates helps reduce business risks, such as risk to operations from lack of availability of water or rising cost of scarce water.
2. It’s Not How Much; It’s Where. Instead of focusing on sites that use the largest amount of water, DuPont focuses on operations in water-scare or stressed sites. “Why place your emphasis on large water operations located in areas where water resources are abundantly available?,” Reich writes. “You need to assess where the risks truly lie.”
3. There’s Good Science Out There. Use it. Water mapping tools, including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Global Water Tool, and the World Resources Institute Aqueduct Water Risk Tool, can help give companies a more in-depth understanding of potential problem areas.
4. Their Water Risk is Your Water Risk. Significant water issues affecting businesses extend beyond plants’ fencelines. “Now, greater opportunities to reduce water risk to the business lie in two other areas: communities or regions in which the industry has operations (our focus here) and the value chain,” Reich says.
5. There Are Good Partners Out There. Collaborate. Work with local stakeholders. This should result in agreement on respective roles and the identification of potential programs or projects to address water issues.
6. 2-4-6-8, Set a Goal and Communicate. After a company has determined which operations are located in water-stressed areas and engaged with stakeholders, it’s time to set goals, Reich writes. For example, DuPont’s 2020 Sustainability Goals includes a water stewardship goal: All sites evaluated to be in high water-risk locations will establish water risk mitigation plans and complete priority implementation objectives by 2020.
Reich says about 20 of the company’s sites in high water-risk areas are moving forward to engage stakeholders and identify on- and off-site projects to address local water issues. Companies also need to “quantify the portion of the impacts that it will be making, with a goal of at least making beneficial impacts on the same order of magnitude as its water use or consumption.” Reich points to Coca-Cola’s Replenish program as a good example of this.