When it comes to water security, businesses cannot afford to wait. Our 2020 Global Water Report shows the cost of inaction on water risks is up to five times the cost of action. With huge business opportunities to seize, companies need to rethink their strategies and transform their business models to build a water-secure world.
In 2020, companies reported maximum financial impacts of water risks at US$301 billion – five times higher than the cost of addressing them (US$55 billion).
Beyond risk management, there are also business opportunities when investing in water security – estimated at US$711 billion.
In the lead up to COP26, corporate climate leadership means protecting our vital water resources. Together, global water use, storage and distribution – and the lack of wastewater treatment - contributes 10% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making it key to the net-zero transition.
Almost two-thirds of companies are reducing or maintaining their water withdrawals, and more than half are monitoring the quality of their wastewater discharges - a basic action that all companies should be taking.
Worryingly, only 4.4% of businesses are reporting progress against water pollution reduction targets; action here is severely lacking and must be urgently scaled-up.
Companies must shift their business models and invest in innovative solutions, develop new products and harness value from wastewater.
L’Oréal has created ‘waterloop factories’ to reuse or recycle process water in a loop on site
Formosa Taffeta’s ‘Right First Time’ fabric dyeing technique uses artificial intelligence to reduce water consumption
Unilever has launched a new ‘dry personal care’ range for water-stressed areas which is estimated to generate US$2.2-3.4 billion of sales by 2025
Mars’ wet-dry irrigation system for rice cultivation is expected to reduce water consumption by 30% and save the company US$60-180 million
Transparency on water impacts and risks is higher than ever and must continue accelerating. Despite 2020’s challenges, 2,934 companies disclosed through CDP on water impacts – a 20% increase from 2019.
Investors with over US$110 trillion in assets are requesting companies to disclose on water through CDP in 2021.Companies already disclosing should also encourage key suppliers to report their water impacts and risks, collaborating to build sustainable value chains.
Taking action on water risks is essential for climate action and it makes business sense. It can stimulate economic development and create jobs, contributing to a green economic recovery from COVID-19 in the short term – while also building long-term resilience.
The solutions are here – together, we can reach our 2050 vision for a water-secure, net-zero world.