Water. We take it for granted. But, according to a new global opinion poll conducted by GlobeScan and SustainAbility, over the next decade, virtually every industry in the world will need to adjust strategic planning, production practices and business models because of increasing competition for this essential resource.
More than 1,200 sustainability experts from more than 80 countries participated in the SustainAbility Survey Poll on Water, and the results show that these leaders think multi-faceted engagement with water will be required to effectively manage businesses and communities in the future. For instance, in an era of water scarcity, new business practices will need to stress water conservation and efficiency, ecosystem protection, public education and engagement. Companies also will need to anticipate market pressure to appropriately price water.
The experts polled by SustainAbility and GlobeScan strongly favored measures that reduce demand over those that increase supply. And rather than anticipating that new technology will solve the world's water crisis, experts said they expected better use of existing technologies coupled with more effective government policies and public education as offering more promise. They also cited strong links between water and energy in developing effective public policy.
A very good discussion of the survey results is available here, at Circle of Blue.
Obviously, water is a critical raw material. And, as I've said before, it's even more important than oil simply because there are no alternatives. Climate change and global consumerism are already having an impact on water availability, so it's critical that you begin to prepare for emerging supply risks related to water scarcity.
For many companies, water footprinting has moved to page one of the corporate agenda. As Jeff Erickson, senior vice president at SustainAbility, sums it up:
"One of the survey questions was about the importance of water footprinting compared to the importance of carbon footprinting. What we found again was that the strong majority of experts said that water footprinting was at least as important as carbon footprinting, if not more important. You know, the challenge here is that carbon is carbon and has the same impact, regardless of where it's generated. With water, it's very location dependent, so there's that additional level of complexity in defining what your water footprint is. It's not just about how much you consume. You have to layer on top of that the impact to your local environment. A bit of complexity, but again a recognition that if companies are not on top of this now, they need to get on top, because that's what all of their stakeholders, including their shareholders, are going to require in the very near future."