water conservation

Fresh Water creates a Fresh Challenge for Business

A further significant challenge facing businesses wishing to do business in the 21st Century is emerging with news that access to fresh water is declining more quickly than originally feared.

A report by Globescan and SustainAbility notes that a combination of population growth, urban development, farm production and climate change is increasing competition for fresh water and producing:

“shortages so acute that virtually every industry in the world anticipates sweeping and systemic transformation over the next decade in their strategic planning, production practices and business models”

I repeat: “over the next decade“….? Are business leaders prepared for this? I must confess that this is not a business issue that has been high on the agenda with my clients but might this be about to change?

The survey, which covered some 80 countries and 1,200 influential leaders, said that water scarcity will deeply influence virtually every major company that wants to stay in business in the 21st century.

Respondents called for a focus on water conservation rather than increasing water supply.

This will impact on the way all businesses operate: from the way they function, to the products and services that they produce, as levels of water conservation continue to be squeezed.

This also opens a significant opportunity for innovation by entrepreneurs to either remodel a production process to use less water or to create products that use less water in the hands of the end user. Think of white goods manufacturers; easy-clean fabric and textiles; washing powders; sewerage systems; farming irrigation methods etc…. all ripe for reinvention.

Future investment in production plants will also likely be governed by the availability and access to water e.g. the report suggests that executives considering a new plant in China will be mindful of rapidly melting Himalayan glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau that feed some of China’s key rivers and that US factories may need to be relocated from drier South West areas to the more water-rich Great Lakes region.

So in addition to businesses managing their carbon-footprint it looks like a company’s water-footprint will become increasingly important – to understand the life-cycle of water within the business and to maximise conservation and management. Coca-Cola has been ahead of the game in this area and it is likely that the rest will have to follow.

“When it rains, it pours”…..so the saying goes, but this might turn out to be a distant wish unless we start responding to these challenges now.

Photo credit to gato.