Managing your water sustainability: An ERM guide for business

24 November 2009

This ERM business guide is aimed at organisations wishing to ensure their water resource needs are managed sustainably. It offers insights into the importance of water within your operations and gives practical pointers on how you can make progress towards ensuring the sustainability of your water resources and satisfying stakeholders that your water needs are being met responsibly.

The guide covers the following key areas:

  • Freshwater stress - why this impacts your business
  • Assessing needs and measuring impacts - a business case for action
  • A practical programme for tackling water sustainability

Water: A Changing Resource

Global freshwater resources are being placed under increasing pressure by the dual impacts of climate change and population growth.

Climate Change. Whilst climate change is most often associated with shifts in mean global temperatures, it has also been linked to increases in the variability and volatility of global precipitation patterns.

These changes have meant that extreme weather events such as floods and droughts are not only becoming more widespread, but are also increasing in both severity and frequency. As a result, freshwater resources are becoming more vulnerable and unstable, characteristics that are making their management increasingly complex.

Population growth. In the last century, the world population has tripled and it is expected to continue on this path, rising from its current level of around 6.5 billion to 8.9 billion by 2025.
The scale of this growth will clearly place greater demands on existing freshwater resource. However, the nature of this growth and the regions in which it will occur is also of considerable concern.

Significant growth is, for example, expected in countries such as India and China, which are already ‘water stressed’. In addition, shifts towards greater urbanisation and development will mean that per capita water requirements will also increase.

The Business Case for Pursuing Water Sustainability

The changing characteristics of global water resources are impacting business and consumers in ever more direct and measurable ways. There are four key issues that will increase your organisation’s focus on water sustainability:

Increasing water costs. Global climate change and population growth are contributing to a decline in both the quality and quantity of freshwater resources. The net result of these changes will be an increase in the cost of your water supply, due to increased competition for freshwater resource, and/or increased requirements for water treatment prior to use.

Potential business disruptions. Increasingly volatile precipitation patterns could mean that your operations are more frequently disrupted by extreme weather events such as floods and droughts. Such disruptions could affect your operations directly, or indirectly through your value chain.
Customer expectations. Your clients and consumers are increasingly well-informed about global environmental issues and are placing greater emphasis on such considerations when making their purchasing decisions. Whilst carbon currently has the greatest profile within the global psyche, water sustainability and water scarcity are becoming increasingly significant.

Business ‘license to operate’. As public expectations of sustainability shift, your ‘license to operate’ could also change. Increased community awareness and recognition of local water challenges could, for example, alter public acceptance of and support for your company’s strategic plans or water-related practices.

Download and read the full booklet Managing your water sustainability: An ERM guide for business (3.54 MB)

Managing your water sustainability

his ERM business guide is aimed at organisations wishing to ensure their water resource needs are managed sustainably.