As the demand and competition for diminishing water resources increases, all companies are facing increasing pressure to do their part to protect this vital resource. As a result, water stewardship initiatives have taken root and are expanding.
But the question is: Are traditional water stewardship practices going to be enough to sustain water access, availability, and quality — and your business — for the long-term? To put it bluntly, no.
After more than three decades of water stewardship and sustainability consulting, Antea Group firmly believes that great water stewardship is not the end game — it’s the kick-off, and water security is the winning touchdown.
The Practical Reality
Water access, availability, and quality are being impacted by a myriad of interrelated factors and trends including: global population and economic growth, increased urbanization, and — the sum of all factors — climate change. In fact, according to the United Nations, water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of the population increase in the last century. Furthermore, under the existing climate change scenario, almost half of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030.
“In the face of these practical realities, we’ve simply reached a point where water stewardship in its traditional form is no longer enough to protect and bolster water resources,” Nick Martin, Antea Group Senior Consultant and Sustainability Practice Leader, says. “At its core, water stewardship is all about becoming a better water user. Water security, however, aims to safeguard sustainable water access, availability, and quality for all.”
The bottom line? Despite the great water stewardship work already being done, water risk is accelerating. As a result, it’s time for businesses, as well as communities and governments, to shift their water strategies to focus on water security as the ultimate goal.
The Business Reality
Water is a unique and complex challenge for companies across all industries, touching every aspect of operations — from sourcing of raw materials to the end use of a product, and everything in between. Recognizing water as a rising global challenge and its linkages to business, many companies have significantly advanced their water strategies over the past few years.
But traditional water stewardship practices typically focus on activities at the facility level — rather than across the whole value chain and beyond. In addition, they often don’t take local watershed conditions into consideration.
“Context is everything,” Martin explains. “Every watershed faces unique social, environmental, regulatory, and resource scarcity risks. When businesses weave in local context, they’re able to craft more holistic water strategies — and take critical steps toward water security.”
The beverage sector has been particularly successful in this regard.
“With water being a vital product ingredient and production resource, the beverage sector has emerged as a global water stewardship leader,” Michael Washburn, Senior Consultant and Food & Beverage Segment Leader, says. “Through consortiums like the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER), industry leaders are working together to advance water stewardship and work toward security.”
“In addition, many member companies are working to create partnerships with other organizations and local governing bodies to help tackle systemic issues impacting water security,” he added. “And more companies are starting to realize it takes a collective effort to protect this precious resource.”
The bottom line? Striving for water security will be key for helping ensure your company is in business today, tomorrow, and beyond — and it will take collaboration within your industry and the communities you operate in.
Finding the End Zone
Simply put, there can be no water security without water stewardship. Water stewardship is the foundation of water security. With the practical and business realities before us, it’s time to shift our focus to create more holistic, game-winning strategies.
Learn how Antea Group works with global companies across an array of industries to further their water stewardship and security efforts.
Food and Beverage