Considering that we drink about a gallon of water a day and consume around 520 gallons through our food consumption and production, water consulting is the business opportunity of the century. In contrast to carbon intensive energy sources, water has no substitute. Moreover in 2010, the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”
Around 33 years ago, the Clean Water Act established policies and penalties for water remediation, and created a compliance driven industry, such as remediation of pollution and reduction of environmental liabilities during property transfers. Over the last 5 years, businesses have recognized the risks water scarcity poses, such as increasing water costs volatile price fluctuations, changing customer expectations and the disruptive risk to business operations, and realize the advantage of a proactive water management strategy.
Today, significant investment have been made to proactively identify long-term sustainable water strategies for governments, corporations and NGOs alike, such as stakeholder engagement, water foot-printing, grey- and black-water treatment, water-efficient technologies, water recycling and water infrastructure management.
The Carbon Disclosure Project published the first CDP Water report in 2010, which highlighted that 39% of companies have been affected negatively by water in the last 5 years and acknowledge that water management has to be addressed right now. Similarly, although water savings are small compared to total revenues, 62% of corporations understand water as an opportunity; for instance metals in the mining industry, and chemicals in the industrial & manufacturing industry. Importantly, 72% of corporations are aware of energy and costs savings available through water management tools.
Thus, corporations embracing proactive water management can account for increased profits, stronger balance sheets, attracting and retaining a talented workforce and increasing brand equity. Understanding water as a business opportunity has resulted in the development of several corporate coalitions that are currently steering water stewardships, and have leveraging frameworks and tools such as:
Despite, positive progress in water management and sustainability reporting, many corporate groups have been accused of blue-washing, exploiting natural resources and securing water ownership through privatization to maximize profits, which has caused violent protests and political instability in several countries.
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