A World Resources Institute analyst points out that while companies and governments have found consistency in how they approach carbon emissions and climate change, a standardized approach toward water stewardship is lacking.
It has become even more obvious that water scarcity poses one of the largest overall risks to the planet, and therefore, to businesses worldwide. Despite successes in boosting water access to more people across the globe, the United Nations made water and sanitation one of its foremost sustainability goals. The U.N. estimates that by 2050, when 9 billion people are expected to live on Earth, one in four citizens will be affected by chronic water shortages. The World Economic Forum identified water crises as the world’s largest economic risks over the next decade. Furthermore, Ceres, an NGO that advocates for sustainability leadership within the private sector, has long pushed for more proactive water stewardship, from more action at the corporate board level to pushing insurance companies to take water scarcity more seriously. More companies are paying attention to water-related challenges, but the road ahead is still a very long one. But as Paul Reig of the World Resources Institute (WRI) points out, while companies and governments have found consistency in how they approach carbon emissions and climate change, a standardized approach toward economic risks related to water is seriously lacking. According to Reig, three main challenges stand in the way of businesses tackling challenges related to water scarcity. First, a one-size-fits-all approach toward water stewardship is not tenable as water risks vary greatly depending on location. Reig reminds us that in the case of emissions, the impact of greenhouse gases is the same everywhere. But with water, the risks and solutions are far more complex. Water is a local source, not one that is global. What is the source of water across a company’s value chain? Where is that water discharged? Are there ways in which water use can not only be more optimized, but even reused so that companies score an economic benefit?