According to the United Nations, we are far from achieving SDG6, the sixth Sustainable Development Goal for clean water and sanitation, by the target date of 2030. Currently, more than half the world's people don't have access to proper sanitation and water pollution is an industrial-scale problem with around 80 per cent of wastewater discharged untreated into rivers and oceans. So it's clear that corporates, globally and locally, must play a part in improving their use and management of water resources. The availability of water resources is also linked to economic prosperity. According to the World Bank, climate-driven water scarcity could curb economic growth by as much as 6 per cent – while prudent water management could limit this damage and could even boost some local economies.
Effective change needs to be measured and CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, argues that robust data of the current landscape is needed to pinpoint effective water management strategies. The organisation says it has the largest corporate water dataset in the world, enabling it to measure and track corporate progress and accelerate action towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. It has published an infographic that illustrates how disclosure drives business action on water. Some of the key points contained in the message are:
Opportunities in change
The good news is that an increasing number of companies are tracking, managing and implementing water efficiency solutions. Since 2015, the number of companies in CDP's disclosure survey that are monitoring and reporting their water withdrawals, discharge and consumption has increased by 66 per cent. And in 2017, around half the companies that report on their water management also said that water efficiency presents strategic, operational or market opportunities.
An increasing number of companies are incorporating water quality into their risk assessments, an increase of 55 per cent last year compared to 2015. And since 2016, 61 per cent more companies are pursuing circular economy techniques and discharging wastewater directly for the use of other organizations.
Some companies are actively working in the environments in which they operate to restore rivers and natural habitats. CDP's 2017 survey found that 124 per cent more companies, compared to 2015, have initiatives to restore river basins in response to water risk. It found that habitat restoration and ecosystem preservation is a top sustainability goal for many corporates.
Water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives – collectively referred to as WASH, since they are interdependent – are also becoming a key aspect of corporate risk data. The CDP data shows that, since 2015, 75 per cent more companies now integrate provision of WASH into their water risk assessments.
Corporates in action
The infographic also highlights how some global corporates are innovating and benefiting from improved water management:
- paper products company Metsä Board has saved an estimated US$1.7 trillion and cut energy use by 28.9 GWh per year by reducing water consumption;
- brewing company AB InBev has successfully reforested 100 hectares of degraded areas, and preserved 120 hectares of forests in Brazil and Bogota to reduce sedimentation;
- biotechnology company Biogen Inc. distributes wastewater from its manufacturing process to other organizations for further treatment or reuse as a fertilizer;
- drinks company Diageo has signed the WASH for Work Pledge and set a target to provide 100 per cent of its employees with access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
See the CDP's infographic here.
CTMfile take: This data shows how reporting on corporate data can have a tangible environmental impact. The link between financials and sustainable operations is becoming clearer – and will be further highlighted when work from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is published at the end of this year.
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