Move Over GHG: Water is Trickling In

Jun 16, 2011 10:00 AM ET

BrownFlynn's SustainGenuity Blog

Water is trickling into another basin: World Resources Institute.  WRI’s Aqueduct project is a database and suite of practical tools that measure, map and explain water-related risks (À la Water Risk Atlas).  As H20 issues are increasingly facing companies and their investors, organizations can use this project to effectively manage and reduce their exposure to water risk.

Sure, managing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a commonplace sustainability concern, but there is no doubt that water is a pressing environmental issue as well.   In my last article on the subject, “Water Leaks into CDP, DJSI, GRI and Others”, I cited our reliance on water and the increasing pressure on accountability, transparency and management of use.  To quote WRI, “As water scarcity emerges as one of the defining challenges of the 21st century, companies and investors are realizing that there are many ways a company’s water use can pose significant risk to its bottom line.”

Rating agencies, environmental think tanks, stakeholders, investors, non-profits and NGOs continue to push the water agenda of companies on a global scale.  At a recent United States Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD) meeting, I heard water come up in many conversations: Advanced Synergies; Building a Resilient Energy Gulf Coast; Water Management and Use in the Oil and Gas Industry (hydraulic fracturing); Biodiversity; Ecosystem Services and the like, but the water conversation did not start in that meeting and it will not end there.

We all need to be mindful of our water use and think about actionable steps towards reducing our impact and gaining some of the many benefits – innovation, market and sustainable leadership, cost savings and goodwill.  For those who were solely focused on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and blind-sided by the growing management of water use, now is a great time to start focusing on a whole-systems approach to your environmental, social and sustainability efforts.