Water Stewardship: Concepts for a More Sustainable Future
Water matters. Not just to the broader economy, but also to companies whose products and services impact our global economy and climate. Water issues are now taking a far greater and more prominent position in the global economy.
As growing pressure emerges on our planet’s most precious resource, businesses have turned their attention and focus on the importance of water stewardship. Smarter business means understanding the risks posed by water scarcity and pollution. Taking action requires businesses to adopt more sustainable practices.
Encouraging good water stewardship means incorporating sustainable water management if businesses are to continue operating, and for people to keep on living. Here are three approaches to corporate water stewardship.
1. Understanding the importance of a changing water world
When examining the role of companies in the context of water stewardship, consider these trends as highlighted by World Wildlife Fund:
- In the next 40 years, the human population will exponentially increase by 2.5 billion. This will increase humanity’s water footprint, increasing costs for infrastructure.
- Rising incomes will result in changes in consumption patterns. Higher consumption of food and other resources will require collective action to ensure there is enough food and resources to meet demand.
- Global climate change will have a greater impact on weather variability. Snow and ice will carry less freshwater storage, more extreme events will lead to changes in ecosystems. These will have undeniable effects on water management practices, particularly in environments that support life and livelihoods dependent on freshwater.
Already, it is estimated that 4 billion people worldwide face economic water shortage, leading to inadequate sanitation. A lack of access to clean, potable water has resulted in many being exposed to water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and diarrhoea, among other water-related illnesses.
The global nature of our changing water world means coordinated action is required across governments, sectors of society, and enterprises to ensure water security for all, and sustainable water resources and infrastructure.
2. Business engagement with water management
The implications of freshwater supply challenges, from societal, environmental, and investment perspectives, means water stewardship should be a top priority. Current water issues, both regionally and locally, mean businesses will soon face, if they have not already done so, serious water problems. Water risks for companies will have strategic and profound impacts on brand value and its profitability.
Business engagement must go beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR). Achieving accessible and sustainable flows to clean, potable water is a core business issue that is strategic to long-term opportunities for growth and profit. As water is material from a production standpoint, businesses must highlight the importance of good water stewardship to c-suite executives, shareholders, and investors.
The highly varied possibilities of water scarcity-related risks mean businesses must provide an exhaustive evaluation of water-related risks and corporate water usage performance. This can provide interpretive guidance for companies to actively manage water risks.
3. The role of leadership in water stewardship
Becoming a proven global leader of good water stewardship is critical from a business perspective in addressing pressing problems surrounding water management and sustainability. The evolving role of business in a global economy has impacted how society is incentivized to engage in water sustainability practices. Indeed, establishing good water stewardship and environmental responsibility must be demonstrated from a leadership position.
While a significant amount of work has already resulted in many technological and scientific breakthroughs in addressing sustainable water stewardship, business leaders must build on this work and demonstrate sustainable water management to bring substantial, long-term and all-encompassing change.
A collaborative approach, focusing on cross-sector and cross-industry involvement will be key in tackling sustainable challenges in the years to come. Addressing further issues surrounding sustainable water stewardship must come from an authoritative standpoint. Initiatives that discuss innovative solutions to water management must be proposed and discussed among senior policy-makers and business leaders.
The enormous influence of those in leadership positions is critical in starting a dialogue that will translate into meaningful and widespread collective action.
A call to action
The stewardship role goes beyond those within the private sector. Using agents to create a local-to-global approach will be critical in advancing the dialogue on how the global society addresses freshwater shortage issues and meets general water-related challenges.
Only engagement through collective effort will lead to better, more efficient and sustainable water resource management for the benefit and survival of everyone.
Patrick Randall is the Vice President of National Sales at Hepure Technologies. He holds a BS in Mechanical and Chemical Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and an M.S. in Civil Engineering from CSUS. He has been working in the environmental and bioremediation space since graduating in 1986.