Good water stewardship is good business
Written by Alexis Morgan, Lead Advisor, Water Stewardship & Standards at WWF
In a country blessed by water, we often don’t think twice about its availability or quality. While there are regional and local issues – drought affecting parts of the Prairies, pollution affecting a town in Eastern Canada, or flooding affecting the west coast – Canada is still very fortunate to have access to sufficient, good quality water.
We don’t, however, only use the water in our own country. If you visit your local grocery store right now, you’ll quickly appreciate how much we rely upon water from Mexico, Florida, California, and other parts of the world to provide us with a variety of fruits and vegetables in the winter. (And as much as I love turnips, potatoes and carrots all winter, the odd fresh piece of fruit is indeed welcome!)
Our energy supplies also rely upon water, as do the clothes and electronics we buy, and the tourism destinations we enjoy. Simply put, our water footprint reaches far beyond our national borders.
This realization is not only relevant to us as citizens but something companies are increasingly paying attention to. This past month, 174 Global 500 companies responded to the latest CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) water questionnaire asking companies, on behalf of $60 trillion dollars’ worth of investors, to disclose their water risks. When you look deeper into these, you realize that companies’ water risks – whether physical risks like scarcity, quality or flooding, reputational or regulatory risks – often come from supply chains that touch many parts of the planet.
Many companies have plans and initiatives in place to reduce their water consumption. That’s great but insufficient to deal with the coming water reality. With water scarcity a top corporate risk and global demand expected to grow 40 per cent by 2030, water stewardship is becoming a new corporate imperative.
For companies to manage risks, build their reputations and enhance their social license to grow, they need to retool their business models and supply chains and begin to engage stakeholders within the watersheds that they touch. Forward-looking companies are starting to do this – by adopting water stewardship strategies that respond to local water challenges and opportunities along their value chain.
Join a Conference Board of Canada webinar on December 4, to learn more about corporate water stewardship from WWF’s Alexis Morgan, CSR strategist Coro Strandberg and others: details here. WWF-Canada followers can access a discount by registering here.