What Water Means to Businesses

By: Amjad Azmeer | UN Global Compact Network Sri Lanka | 22 March 2021

Water scarcities pose a threat to ecosystems, communities, industries, and economies. In 2050, it is estimated 45% of global GDP will be at risk due to water stress. The World Economic Forum has consistently named the water crisis among the top 5 global risks in terms of impact for the past 7 years. In Sri Lanka, over 337,000 people across 8 out of 25 districts are facing a water crisis due to the dry spell and sea water intrusion into surface water.  To address these global water challenges business leaders in partnership with the UN, NGOs, governments, civil society organizations, consumers and other stakeholders need to come together to create a water centric ecosystem in line with SDG 6.  For the private sector, water is crucial to the entire value chain.

"To accelerate the private sector response to the water crisis, business leaders should embrace water stewardship practices."

Water Stewardship

Stewardship is the act of caring for a public resource. Water stewardship is the mechanism through which businesses can contribute to water caring efforts. Good water stewards take a conscious effort to assess water risks of their own business and drive water performance through different strategies based on water targets. Water strategies encompass all value chain segments including raw materials, manufacturing, direct operations and end product. For instance, businesses can look to use less water-intensive supplies, make their processes as efficient as possible, and invest in circular technologies. Further, water stewards recognize the need for collective action at a watershed level. For instance, industries discharging wastewater effluents upstream into common river basins comply with water quality regulations to prevent harm to communities utilizing the water downstream.

Value to Business

Business leaders investing in creating a culture of water stewardship creates opportunities to enhance operational performance and gain a competitive advantage. The value proposition for water stewardship also includes:

1. Reduction of costs in the long term by investments in water smart solutions

2. Protection from operational disruptions due to insufficient water supplies

3. Gain competitive advantage and boost brand value

4. Assure investors that the business is viable for the long term and changing water quality regulation

5. Drive improved productivity and talent recruitment

At a time where businesses are racing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water stewardship cannot be under the radar. COVID19 has highlighted the importance of having a strong water infrastructure. The time is now for business leaders to develop a water plan, set and achieve meaningful water targets, and engage all stakeholders in the entire value chain.  Let us use this precious and scarce resource as a catalyst for collaboration.

Start your water stewardship journey by endorsing the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate. Find out more on the Value of Water to Business in the UN Global Compact Academy on World Water Day 2021.