Can Efficient Water Management generate sustainable revenues and brand awareness?

Julia Kondrateva

Event Manager, Global Compact Network Netherlands

Water plays a significant role in our lives, where every actor – a private person or a multinational business – contributes to the overall sustainability cycle. The approach is circular: efficient water processes, such as daily consumption optimization and water reuse, help to reduce energy consumed for water treatment (1), consequently, decrease CO2 emissions (2), and, ultimately, lead the world towards overall sustainability (3).

The SDG 6 of the United Nations explicitly focuses on the availability and sustainable management of water for all. Raising the water efficiency awareness among over its 19500 members, United Nations Global Compact assures that now is the time for companies to evaluate their water performance in order to address global challenges and ultimately stay business competitive.

The questions is: how can businesses – at the beginner or the advanced stage – create water efficiency leading to a positive sustainable shift? The answer is complex, as corporate water footprint consists of water used along all the process of production of goods or services – used throughout the supply chain process until it reaches end-users or consumers.

Before diving into action, private companies have to access the motivations and benefits of following the effective water management path. We might conditionally group them into pure economical (or financial) and near-financial reasons.

 

Economical motivations and means to success

Starting off, businesses must take a closer look at their daily operations and implement some simple and accessible measures. Here we turn to water-efficient devices which detect or fix water leaks, among those are: rainwater collection tools, eco-labeled equipment, low-volume showers, water sensors, and others. According to recent data, companies can save up to 30% of their water spendings through those simple and low cost actions.

Moving to a higher level of awareness and water management, a number of UN Global Compact members, such as Heineken, Royal DSM, Shell, and others state that they not only reduce water consumption globally but treat water circularly by means of reuse and recycling. Dutch government portal indicates that: “companies should make their water as clean as possible before releasing it into the sewer. They should also take measures to pollute water as little as possible”.

Depending on the country settings and local demands, wastewater can be treated for irrigation or industry use, applying advanced technologies – such as zero liquid discharge and others. In water reuse process, creating public-private partnerships for water treatment and detailed water and energy reporting is beneficial.

According to the latest CDP Global Water Report 2020, the rewards from using innovative techniques can be significant. For instance, the maximum total value of water-related opportunities reported through CDP was US$711 billion.

 

Near-financial motivations, means, and outcomes

This is clear now which financial outcomes companies can achieve through efficient water management. Apart from the numerical values, they also become part of sustainable-minded community with sustainability embedded in their mission.

Modern businesses – through annual reports, statements, and water programs – create loyalty amongst their 1st, 2nd and 3rd tier stakeholders: employees, customers, partners, and others.

Belonging to global water programs, such as the CEO Water Mandate – an initiative by the UN Global Compact that mobilizes business leaders on water, sanitation, and the Sustainable Development Goals – creates like-minded community of business leaders and strengthens brand image. In The Netherlands, already five Global Compact members, such as Aequator Groen & Ruimte, Akzo Nobel N.V., Heineken N.V., Royal DSM, and Royal Philips NV joined the CEO Water Mandate. Needless to say, active businesses have higher potential to attract investments, media and NGO attention, therefore, create more partnerships and – again – business opportunities.

To move the needle on this topic, on 12 May 2022, Global Compact Network Netherlands is partnering with Closer Cities for a Water-Energy-Food Nexus Conference taking place in Almere, Netherlands on systems approach related to water, energy, and food.

Global Compact Network Netherlands sees water-related objectives of companies as significant contribution to sustainable development and its 17 Goals. We encourage businesses to safeguard water resources in order to achieve short-term and longer-term value, sustainable revenues, and enhanced brand value from healthy stakeholder relations.