• Publication: 2014-05-06
          Visit Hit: 5436
          Businesses need to look after their water supplies – or we all perish
          Businesses need to look after their water supplies – or we all perish

          As climate change exacerbates world water shortages, companies realize they must exercise stewardship to survive
          The world's leading authority on climate change science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has issued in recent weeks its strongest warnings yet on just how serious a ****** climate change presents to us all. While intergovernmental agreement on how best to respond has been slow, many businesses have been compelled to tackle climate challenges.
          This corporate action comes in direct response to the growing evidence that rising temperatures, coupled with other drivers, are putting our natural resources at risk. The price tag for these risks is already high: severe flooding in the UK earlier this year cost small businesses £830m and counting.
          With water, the irreplaceable lifeblood of our economy, these risks are already happening. Back-to-back hurricanes in the US in 2008 had an impact on the operations of Baker Hughes, the world's third largest oilfield services provider, resulting in an estimated £46.4m loss in revenue. There are political and social risks, too: Newmont Mining's £2.9bn gold and copper mine in Peru continues to face an uncertain future because opponents allege that it will threaten local water supplies. Risks aren't confined to borders either: studies suggest that Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in 2013, could indirectly affect 21% of US production through supply chain issues.
          Water, and its diminishing availability in a world expected to grow by another billion people over the next decade, also has the potential to spark conflict in certain regions. Couple this with growing competition between industries such as energy and agriculture, and you have a complex ******tail of challenges that governments alone cannot solve.
          Importantly, some companies are already improving their ability to identify water-related risks. But there are others making the key move towards comprehensive water stewardship strategies that safeguard valuable water resources.
          While there is no globally agreed view of best practice for corporate water stewardship, industry leaders are nevertheless attempting to commit to this new thinking in practice by looking beyond water usage in their direct operations and seeking opportunities for collaborative action. The world's largest listed companies are reporting their water impacts and strategies to investors through CDP's water programme, which is designed to help put businesses on the path to water stewardship.
          Nestlé in North America spends nearly £5m a year to maintain and protect the quality of its spring sources and immediate watershed areas (the region that drains into a body of water like rivers or lakes). It also runs water resource field assessments to see how its operations might have an impact on a community's right to water and the long-term availability of water resources, in turn helping it achieve long term security in its own water supplies. In 2012, H&M entered into a three-year partnership with WWF to implement a water stewardship strategy that considers the impacts that 750 of its direct suppliers have on water, helping it to map water risks across its supply chain, demonstrating that these risks exist at every level of its business operations.
          There are economic incentives for companies, too. A report released last year by CDP and Eurizon Capital shows that in the metals and mining sector, businesses using CDP to manage water strategically performed better financially.
          While a leading few are beginning to understand the strategic value of water and the benefits offered by a water stewardship approach, there are still too many who are failing to take a broader view of their water-related risks. And for the companies attempting to deal with the complexity of water challenges, there is a steep learning curve that they cannot necessarily overcome alone.
          Our timeframe to tackle these issues is quickly closing as climate change continues to exacerbate water risks. Companies that are not yet taking action towards water stewardship or the mitigation of climate change need to act fast and can begin to measure and manage progress through CDP.
          On the world stage, we are fast approaching the UN climate change conference in Paris 2015, with the objective of negotiating a new global deal. Industries and investors are expecting governments to rise to the challenge and secure a regulatory framework that values both our economy and our environment. As Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC's chairman, noted this April: "The high speed mitigation train would need to leave the station very soon and all of global society would have to get on board." Businesses are demonstrating their willingness to join this ride. Will governments follow?