Water footprinting - is this necessary for my business?

01 Dec 2008Archived News Energetics in the News

By Dr. Peter Holt, Principal Consultant, Water. 
Climate change, water scarcity and the global financial crisis are leading to investor demand for increased transparency for water-related risk. The development of a water footprint enables an informed risk management and business opportunities strategy.

Water presents a critical underlying resource for many businesses. Traditionally water management has been considered a site based issue and limited corporate interest and transparency was required for water related issues. However, the landscape is rapidly changing with investors having an increased awareness of water related issues. JPMorgan (2008) states that “... corporate disclosure of water-related risks is seriously inadequate ....” . Climate change, water scarcity and the global financial crisis are leading to investor demand for increased transparency for water-related risk.

Understanding business risk, financial and environmental, are critical success factors. Sectors at high risk include the power sector, mining, food and beverages and manufacturing. Whilst immediate risks are understood, for example supply reliability from centralised sources, supply chain and social capital risks are undervalued. Starbucks provides a good example. Starbucks policy ensured a tap was running in all stores globally. The company claimed this was for hygiene reasons. The global community saw this as a resource waste adversely impacting the Starbucks brand.

The solution is to understand the true value of water and its relationship to your core business. The development of a water footprint enables an informed risk management and business opportunities strategy. Combined with a stakeholder evaluation and market place positioning, the true value of water is understood for your business and your shareholders.

To understand more about the importance that is being placed on water footprinting, below is an article announcing the formation of the Water Footprint Network. For further advice please contact Dr. Peter Holt, Principal Consultant, Water on 03 9691 5503.

Peter Holt

Dr. Peter Holt, Principal Consultant, Water

Peter is a chemical engineer with experience in innovative water treatment technologies, institutional capacity development, risk assessment and a systems approach to water management. Peter has worked on strategic projects, decision-making frameworks and institutional capacity development with private and government organisations.

Business Takes Lead on Water by Joining the Water Footprint Network 

Geneva, 16 October 2008 - Seven global groups, including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, joined forces today to set up the Water Footprint Network, with the aim of working towards a common approach to water footprint measurement, accounting and reporting.

“The need for clear principles and tools for achieving and demonstrating progress towards sustainable water management is increasingly recognized,” said Bj√∂rn Stigson, President of the WBCSD. “This is a pioneering initiative, and WBCSD is proud to be a founding partner of the Water Footprint Network.”

Joining the network builds on the work of the WBCSD's Water Project. Its Global Water Tool helps companies map their water use and assess risks. Water is a critical sustainable development issue, alongside energy, climate and food security. Globally, per capita availability of freshwater is steadily decreasing, and that trend is expected to continue as the world's population swells towards nine billion, emerging economies increase consumption levels and the effects of climate change impact.

The WBCSD has long worked on tools for business to measure its impact on the environment, and has previously released guidelines for measuring impact on ecosystems (The Corporate Ecosystems Services Review, jointly with the Meridan Institute and the World Resources Institute), on development (Measuring Impact) and on climate (Greenhouse Gas Protocol, with the WRI). Joining the Water Footprint Network extends that measurement work to water.

“WBCSD has been active on water issues for more than a decade,” said James Griffiths, managing director of Water, Forests and Ecosystems at the WBCSD. “As water becomes more and more scarce around the world, all business use of it will be affected, and expectations that companies demonstrate sustainable water use will grow. A robust platform for water footprinting involving different leadership groups – including business –is going to be essential.”

Other partners are the University of Twente in the Netherlands; WWF, the global conservation organization; UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education; the Water Neutral Foundation; the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank Group); and the Netherlands Water Partnership.

“The interest in the water footprint is rooted in the recognition that human impacts on freshwater systems can ultimately be linked to human consumption, and that issues like water shortages and pollution can be better understood and addressed by considering production and supply chains as a whole,” said Professor Arjen Hoekstra, creator of the water footprint concept and scientific director of the Water Footprint Network.

“Local water depletion and pollution are often closely tied to the structure of the global economy. Many countries have significantly externalized their water footprint, importing water-intensive goods from elsewhere. This puts pressure on the water resources in the exporting regions, where too often mechanisms for wise water governance and conservation are lacking. Not only governments acknowledge their role in achieving a better management of water resources, also businesses and public-service organizations increasingly recognize their role in the interplay of actors involved in water use and management,” he said.

“The concept of water footprint has gained huge credibility and buy-in from the business, governmental and civil society communities,” said Derk Kuiper, executive director of the Water Footprint Network.

“The Water Footprint Network is a multi-stakeholder platform and gateway to further the water footprint methodology and tools. The WFN offers a unique opportunity for businesses and governments to fully partner in and endorse this development and strive for implementation of the water footprint methodology to decrease the water risks to economy, society and nature and thereby moving towards truly sustainable and equitable water management.”

Membership of the Water Footprint Network is open to those working on water resources management: academic institutions, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses, public utilities and UN organizations. Partner registration will start in a few weeks' time and will be announced on the network's website. The public launch of the network will be in December 2008.

About the WBCSD 

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a unique, CEO-led, global association of some 200 companies dealing exclusively with business and sustainable development. The Council provides a platform for companies to explore sustainable development, share knowledge, experiences and best practices, and to advocate business positions on these issues in a variety of forums, working with governments and non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations.

About the Water Footprint Network

For more information, see http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/WFN-mission
Website: http://www.waterfootprint.org
Contact: info@waterfootprint.org


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