The 2014 United Nations World Water Development Report anticipates that global water demand will increase by 55% by the year 2050, due to increasing water requirements for manufacturing, thermal electricity generation and domestic consumer use. Supporting this projection is Ceres, a non-profit organization promoting sustainability leadership, which predicts that continuous population and economic growth will trigger a growing demand for more potable water and food in the coming years. According to WWF, a leading conservation organization, the agricultural sector alone consumes about 70% of the world’s freshwater resources. Food production relies on water, and unsustainable water use in the agricultural sector can harm the environment, resulting in a diminished supply of clean and potable water.
As a result, discussions on corporate water stewardship are gaining the attention of business leaders. A number of global organizations understand the pressures brought about by global water challenges that threaten many business industries through their own experiences. Businesses rely on water for their daily operations, and not having a water risk management system threatens their use of water as an everyday resource. The issue is a global crisis—one that will worsen if people, particularly those in business, do not act to address it.
Water Risk Disclosure Initiatives for Organizations
As the business community, together with policy makers and non-governmental organizations, begins to realize the serious need for water management, water risk disclosure initiatives have been established to encourage businesses to mitigate their water-related environmental impacts. Such disclosure initiatives serve as a platform for organizations and companies to share common knowledge and frameworks in building partnerships with governments and civil society.
Ernst & Young reports some water-related disclosure tools and initiatives that have assisted companies around the world in the battle against global water scarcity:
The CEO Water Mandate
The CEO Water Mandate was launched in 2007 by the United Nations Global Compact to support the development, implementation and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices of private companies worldwide. The CEO Water Mandate includes six aspects: Direct Operations, Supply Chain and Watershed Management, Collective Action, Public Policy, Community Engagement, and Transparency.
WBCSD Global Water Tool
The World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) uses the Global Water Tool (GWT), which organizations use to keep track of water usage and assess the water risks that come with it. The GWT works using Microsoft Office Excel and is free for companies to use. In addition, the WBCSD has a Water Task Team that manages a forum that invites companies and organizations to engage in water-related discussions and help in developing other water risk management tools or initiatives.
Ceres Aqua Gauge
The Ceres Aqua Gauge is a water management tool and framework generated from the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability. This is a tool used by companies to evaluate their corporate water risk management. The tool is designed to allow business investors and organizations to better understand global water challenges and apply the most effective water strategies in their operations.
Veolia Water Impact Index
Veolia Water established the Water Impact Index, a volume-based water measurement tool that presents a comprehensive and holistic set of parameters for a more efficient water management system. It measures the amount of water volume, water stress and water quality of a company.
CDP Water Disclosure Project
CDP’s Water Disclosure Project is an international platform which organizations use for their reports on water usage and exposure to water-related risks. The Water Disclosure Project assists business investors and companies in gaining a better understanding of the various risks and opportunities related to water scarcity.
FirstCarbon Solutions Water Management Solutions
As CDP’s Gold Consultancy Partner, Silver Software Partner, and Global Scoring & Sustainability BPO Partner, FirstCarbon Solutions works with organizations to examine the importance of water management in their operations in order to add value to their business. FirstCarbon Solutions Sustainability Workbench™ includes a dashboard that keeps track of a company’s water consumption, water quality and water sampling. FirstCarbon Solutions also offers expert advice on how water risk management initiatives help organizations gain competitive advantage and corporate resilience.