Flowing Forward: A Deep Dive into Corporate Water Stewardship

In a business landscape where corporate responsibility and sustainability are paramount, water, a cornerstone of environmental conservation, takes center stage. As the lifeblood of our planet, water not only sustains ecosystems and nourishes communities but also fuels industries across diverse sectors. 

Join us on a journey to delve into the profound significance of corporate water stewardship. 

Amidst escalating global challenges and the growing emphasis on Business Responsibility and Sustainability Reporting (BRSR), the imperative to safeguard this vital resource has never been more crucial for businesses.  

Explore the pivotal role water plays in shaping the future of our shared planet and understand its critical importance in sustaining various industries, with a wide range of uses like cleaning, mixing, sanitizing, cooling blending, bleaching, product storage, and transportation, dyeing, fabrication, and beyond. 

Explore key insights from recent studies:

Corporate Water Stewardship – A Brief Overview 

Water stewardship involves a suite of strategies implemented by businesses, utilities, communities, and stakeholders to advocate for equitable and sustainable governance of water resources. These strategies include optimizing water usage within organizational operations, collaborating with suppliers, and participating in multi-stakeholder initiatives in river basins. 

Embracing corporate water stewardship, specifically within businesses, plays a vital role in managing risks and leveraging opportunities associated with water usage. It ensures a reliable water supply for uninterrupted production processes, while also fostering a commitment to long-term water security on a broader scale. 

In essence, stewardship is a fundamental practice for addressing pressing water challenges, advancing sustainable water management, and achieving the objectives outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Let’s understand the dangers of water risks for businesses.

Persistent Water Risks: An Uphill Battle for Businesses 

Embracing corporate water stewardship empowers businesses to discern and mitigate diverse water risks that pose challenges to their sustainability and prosperity, including scope 3. Concurrently, it positions them to capitalize on an expanding array of water-related opportunities. This commitment not only facilitates companies in addressing global water challenges and aligning with Sustainable Development Goals but also reinforces resilience, upholding human rights in the process. 

 

Explore real-world instances of industries grappling with water risks: 

  • Cotton: Manufacturers stopped buying cotton from the Aral Sea region. This happened because the irrigation of the sea significantly reduced its size. As a consequence, there were cancer outbreaks due to dust and salt carrying harmful chemicals, which were dispersed by the wind along the exposed lakeshore. 
  • Mining: Newmont confronted protests from local residents near its Peruvian gold mine, prompting the company to forgo access to 3.9 million ounces of gold reserves in 2004 due to water-related concerns. 
  • Beverages: Citizen uprisings in Kerala compelled Coca-Cola to close a lucrative bottling plant in 2005, following claims by local villagers of depleted wells along with soil and groundwater contamination from the company’s sludge disposal. This controversy sparked an anti-Coke movement on college campuses as far-reaching as the United States. 
  • Consumer Goods: After thorough assessment, Unilever discovered that its products could contribute to over 90% of a household’s water use. The bottom line: unless these products become more water-efficient, the company could face a $300 million cost due to water scarcity by 2030. 

Let’s move ahead and delve into the dynamic challenges that businesses face while adopting water stewardship practices. 

Against the Currents: Challenges of Adopting Corporate Water Stewardship 

Embracing corporate water stewardship is akin to navigating against the currents, presenting a set of formidable challenges. In this exploration, we unravel the intricacies of these obstacles. 

  • Policy Maker Engagement: Attracting the attention of state policy makers to water issues, particularly during non-drought periods, poses a significant challenge due to their numerous competing priorities. 
  • Corporate Involvement: Keeping businesses engaged in collective action efforts for water stewardship is a complex task, given the multitude of competing priorities they manage. 
  • Financial Justification: Establishing a compelling financial case for water-related capital investments and identifying projects with a strong return on investment (ROI) remains a challenge. 
  • Strategic Partnerships: Identifying suitable implementation partners for water replenishment and WASH initiatives requires meticulous alignment of stakeholder objectives. 
  • Local Advocacy: Engaging with local governments and advocating for increased public investment in water-related initiatives can be challenging but is crucial for effective local advocacy. 
  • Impact Measurement: Defining relevant metrics and accurately measuring the impact of water-related projects is hindered by loose definitions of water stewardship and related activities. 
  • Economic Valuation: Quantifying the value of water proves challenging as different sectors conceptualize and describe its value in divergent ways, such as the private sector, public sector, and local communities. 
  • Social Change: Cultivating a shift in mindsets and increasing accountability around water management within organizations is essential for driving water-saving behavior, but changing norms and behaviors presents a significant challenge. 
  • Governance Coordination: Overcoming the siloed management of water, a shared resource, requires coordinated efforts and agreement across multiple stakeholders to extend water stewardship beyond organizational boundaries. 

 Now that we understand the significance and challenges of corporate water stewardship, let’s dive deeper and understand water risk mitigation and effective water sustainability. 

Strategic Water Stewardship: Mitigating Risks and Fostering Sustainability  

Discover the foundational strategies employed by proficient corporate water stewards to proactively address risks and enhance sustainability: 

  • Employee Well-being: Prioritize the provision of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) for all employees, ensuring a comprehensive approach to workforce health and safety. 
  • Operational Efficiency: Implement measures to drive water use efficiency and curtail pollution across all operational facets, thereby mitigating environmental impact and fortifying corporate resilience. 
  • Value Chain Optimization: Extend efforts beyond internal operations to facilitate enhanced water performance throughout the entire value chain. This entails collaborating with suppliers and partners to collectively improve water-related practices. 
  • Basin-wide Initiatives: Spearhead collective action and sustainable water management initiatives within the river basins where business operations are situated. This involves active engagement with local communities, governments, and NGOs to address broader water challenges. 
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Establish and maintain a continuous dialogue with stakeholders, including local communities, regulatory bodies, and NGOs. This ongoing communication ensures transparency, aligns corporate strategies with community needs, and fosters a collaborative approach to sustainable water stewardship. 

 

 

Multifaceted Array of Benefits with Water Sustainability 

  • Cost Reduction: Stewardship not only promotes environmental responsibility but also generates cost efficiencies, making it a self-sustaining initiative. 
  • Operational Resilience: Mitigate the risk of operational disruptions arising from inadequate water supplies, ensuring a seamless and uninterrupted business flow. 
  • License to Operate: Companies demonstrate commitment to responsible practices by prioritizing water sustainability, fortifying their social license to operate within communities. 
  • Competitive Edge and Brand Enhancement: Companies gain a distinctive competitive advantage by aligning with sustainable practices, enhancing brand value, and appealing to conscientious consumers. 
  • Investor Assurance: Embracing corporate water stewardship provides a compelling signal to investors about the company’s long-term viability and efforts towards net zero, instilling confidence in the investment’s stability. 
  • Productivity and Talent Magnet: A commitment to water stewardship not only enhances productivity but also serves as a magnet for top talent, as individuals increasingly seek employment with socially responsible and environmentally conscious organizations. 

 

Let’s look at some real-world examples of corporate water stewardship. 

In Action: Corporate Initiatives for Water Sustainability 

From innovative strategies to community partnerships, discover how leading corporations are actively shaping a sustainable water future: 

  • Intel has saved 227 billion liters of water through its conservation projects in source watersheds over the last two decades. As a frontrunner in corporate water stewardship, Intel not only leads in its own water-saving endeavours but also sparks industry-wide action and collaborates with peer companies 
  • Keurig Dr. Pepper is collaborating with high-water-risk communities to restore 85% of local water use, aiming for 100% replenishment by 2030. 
  • Cargill, in partnership with WRI, established company-wide targets across its entire value chain, where 90% of its impact occurs. This includes goals for challenging-to-quantify ‘WASH’ impacts. Cargill has committed to restoring 600 billion liters of water and reducing 500 kilograms of nutrient runoff in its supply chain. 
  • P&G has embraced a comprehensive perspective on water management, recognizing its significance beyond the confines of its facilities. Demonstrating notable success, P&G has surpassed its 2020 target of achieving a 20% reduction in water usage per unit of production compared to the 2010 baseline. 

Now, let’s discuss how FigBytes can help navigate through the high tides of corporate water stewardship. 

Navigating the Waters: FigBytes Water Stewardship Solution 

The FigBytes Water Stewardship Solution facilitates a comprehensive approach to comprehending and addressing water impacts, risk mitigation, and seamless water footprint calculation: 

  • Holistic Risk Assessment: Utilize precise data tracking and thorough analysis to assess and predict water risks. This enables the identification of hotspots within your operations, allowing for targeted mitigation strategies. 
  • Community-Centric Approach: Move beyond mere water compliance by understanding and managing the broader impacts of water usage on local communities. Leverage geography-based data collection and risk analysis to address virtual impacts and foster community-centric sustainability initiatives. 
  • Enhanced Data Accuracy: Elevate the accuracy of water-related data, preparing for impending regulations. FigBytes streamlines ESG data management, offering an integrated solution that automates ESG reporting. This not only ensures compliance but also enhances transparency and accountability in corporate sustainability efforts. 

To Conclude, 

Water stewardship serves as a pivotal mechanism for businesses and organizations to actively support water security initiatives and advance Sustainable Development Goal #6 (clean water and sanitation for all).  

By enhancing operational efficiencies, setting strategic targets, engaging the value chain, and participating in collaborative river basin projects, corporate water stewardship not only reduces costs but also mitigates long-term risks, securing brand reputation, ensuring a stable water supply, and maintaining a social license to operate. 

By choosing FigBytes as a strategic ally, industries can automate ESG reporting and achieve data accuracy effortlessly, it empowers businesses to align seamlessly with water stewardship goals, fostering transparency and accountability in their sustainability endeavors. 

Connect with us to learn more. 

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