Corporate Water Footprinting: What is measured and how? (Part 4) Reply

The previous blog posts discussed the importance of corporate water footprinting from the environmental, business, and sustainability perspectives.  But what is measured and how?

Businesses consider three different water types:  blue, green, and grey.  Blue water is measure of freshwater from surface or ground water. Green water is a measure of rainwater stored in the soil as soil moisture. Grey water is polluted water associated with production.  

The corporate water footprint also considers the abundance of the local supply, as well as the water quality. Given the water types, using more water isn’t always “bad.” Producing agriculture in an area with plentiful Blue water is less of a problem than producing the same crop using scarce groundwater supplies.

 There are several online tools available to assist companies in reporting their water usage. Some examples are:

  • The Carbon Disclosure Project
  • The Water Footprint Network’s “water footprint”
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Global Water Tool
  • Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) Water Sustainability Planner/Tool

When undertaking corporate water footprinting, businesses should have a thorough understanding of the tools available for reporting. A comparison of these tools will be discussed in more depth in our free webinar March 21. To register, visit: http://www.capaccio.com/handouts/eblast/0312_Water_Footprinting_WebEvite.htm

Corporate Water Footprinting: Why is it important? (Part 3) Reply

As we mentioned in our previous blog, water is both a local and global issue and must become a major priority in any sustainable organization.  The water scarcity issue is addressed in The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which concentrates on reversing poverty, hunger, and disease internationally.  Goal 7 of the MDG aims to “Ensure Environmental Sustainability” and includes a specific target to “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.” The UN states that this target will not be met.

In a recent news article from the American Geophysical Union, the President of the Pacific Institute, Peter Gleick, addresses the status of the world’s water. Regarding falling short on the MDG for water, Gleik blames a lack of priority, not technology. He suggests an integrated approach for water issues, similar to energy and climate change issues. To accomplish this, it is necessary to understand “where the water is and where the water goes.”

A joint mission between NASA and the German Aerospace Center, entitled the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), involves two satellites that have been taking monthly images of groundwater since 2002. In ScienceNews (January 2012), Leonard Konikow stated, “There are too many areas in the world where groundwater development far exceeds a sustainable level. Something will have to change.” That change can begin with corporate water footprinting, and identifying the water stressed areas both up and down the supply chain.

Corporate Water Footprinting: Why is it important? (Part 2) 2

Water scarcity represents an ever growing risk to businesses in all sectors across the globe.  Business related water risk can be categorized into three areas: Physical, Regulatory, and Reputational. 

Physical risk refers to the direct limitation of business activities, supply of raw materials, and product use. Declines or disruptions in water supply can affect production, irrigation, material processing, cooling, and cleaning. Reputational Risk deals with competition for water supply (especially in water-strained areas), and can lead to community or local unrest regarding water withdrawal.

Regulatory Risk is directly caused by a combination of water scarcity and concern in local communities, and often forces local authorities to take action by allocating water, increasing prices, setting permitting standards, and developing rigorous wastewater quality standards.

The CDP Water Disclosure Global Report 2011 highlights some key statistics regarding water and the Global 500:

  • 59% of respondents cited water as a substantial risk to the company, while water-related risk has already impacted  1/3 of the reporting businesses. 
  • 63% of respondents identified opportunities including cost reductions and increased water efficiency, revenue from new water-related products or services, and improved brand value.
  • Less than 50% of respondents identified water policy as a board level issue, indicating that water is receiving less attention than climate change and energy conservation.  

Large companies throughout the world are aware of various water related risks, and recognize that there is opportunity for improvement, but water scarcity is still not receiving the attention it deserves. Corporate water footprinting can be an appropriate step in identifying these risks and opportunities to mitigate potential problems surrounding this limited resource.  

Please visit  our blog next week as we discuss corporate water footprinting and sustainability.

Corporate Water Footprinting: Why is it important? (Part 1) 2

Water is a scarce natural resource, often misunderstood and undervalued.  As we have come to recognize the dangers associated with climate change and energy security, the availability of water also concerns individuals, communities, and businesses on a global scale. The unsustainable rates of carbon emissions and water consumption are directly linked to population growth and industrial activity. However, water supply is also threatened by climate change as precipitation patterns and water availability change. 

While many companies voluntarily report on carbon emissions and energy usage, measuring and reporting water usage across the supply chain (corporate water footprinting) can be more difficult. Water has effects both locally and globally – extraction and usage greatly depend on the source and the geographic location. It is important for businesses to understand potential threats and opportunities specific to water usage.  

The Carbon Disclosure Project touts the importance of corporate water footprinting for many reasons: to highlight areas of risk and opportunity for businesses; to develop standard measurements and assessments; to provide transparency; to raise awareness about water concerns; and to ultimately encourage action and dialogue.

Each week, we will post a related blog to this site to inform our readers about important sustainability topics. Next week our blog will focus on the business related aspects of corporate water footprinting.  To subscribe, please enter your email address into the “email subscription” box on the right. You will be notified by email as new posts are made to the site.

For more information, please contact Wayne Bates at 508.970.0033 ext. 121 or wbates@capaccio.com.