This post is a part of our ongoing Carbon & Beyond series.
The climate crisis has almost become synonymous with carbon. Commitments of carbon neutrality and lowering GHG emissions dominate sustainability discussion, headlines, and corporate ESG reporting initiatives. Although incredibly important to addressing climate change, targeting carbon alone will not save us.
While there are many environmental impacts to consider when building an ESG Strategy, the water crisis is very real, widespread, and projected to worsen, with more and more lives expected to be affected every year. If you’re not already, it’s time to start paying attention to water.
The Water Crisis Is Critical and Getting Worse
From devastating floods to megadrought and contamination—there is a lot be to be worried about when we consider our water future, both from a business perspective and as global citizens.
People are losing their lives, homes, and livelihoods. A staggering stat: 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries. In fact, most countries (129!) are not on track to meet the UN SDG 6, establishing sustainably managed water resources by 2030. They will need to double recent progress to make this goal a reality.
At an organizational level, some companies have already started addressing water reduction, but only 4.4% are reporting progress against water pollution reduction targets. Tracking consumption is important, but we need to collectively embrace a more comprehensive approach of water stewardship. It’s the only way to truly protect such a vital resource. There is a lot of work to be done.
There Are Real Business Risks and Opportunities
In 2020, the total financial impact of water risk was estimated at $301 Billion, 5 times the amount needed to mitigate that risk ($55 Billion). Additional research shows the potential financial impact from water risk is likely to be three times higher than from carbon risk, which is surprising considering the amount of airtime water receives relative to carbon.
Addressing water risk can save money and contribute to the bottom line. Still need convincing? The CDP reports estimated business opportunities related to water security at $711 billion.
Investors Are Demanding More Transparency and Action
Overwhelmingly governments remain behind on necessary regulation incentivizing organizations to be good water stewards, especially in the US. While there are some signs of impending change with contaminant protections, there is generally more of a focus on penalty than proactive protection.
That needs to change, but the material risk is waking up other stakeholders—specifically investors. More and more investor coalitions and networks representing trillions of dollars in assets are pressuring companies and whole industries to start taking action on water. Considering the potential devastating costs of water risk, investor demands for transparency and action are only expected to increase and become the norm, even if governments lag behind.
Sustainable means future-focused. Organizations that can look beyond carbon and the now will recognize that the water crisis is truly an issue we all need to be addressing. And the sooner, the better, to protect this critical natural resource.
Need help managing your water impact? We can help. The FigBytes Water Stewardship Solution tracks, measures, and manages water risks and impacts across your organization. Take full control of your water footprint.