Water is essential to all life and sits at the heart of our efforts to feed and power our societies and economies globally. Sustainable water management and stewardship allows populations to survive, companies to prosper, and for natural ecosystems to provide essential services for society. More than 50% of major listed companies are exposed to medium to high water stress across their value chain (1). These risks include declining levels of aquifers globally, pollution of ground water, vulnerability to flooding, and sea level rise. The planetary boundary for freshwater, referring to the safe operating space for humanity, has been crossed and now exceeds safe limits, owing to dramatic changes in the global water cycle (2).
The need for companies to urgently address water impacts and dependencies is clear, with the release of Science Based Targets for Freshwater, Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), as well as the inclusion of inland water as part of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), raising the expectation for business to play their part: to set ambitious freshwater targets, accelerate basin-level action and be held accountable for their commitments, progress and impact.
WBCSD has developed resources to guide companies on their water stewardship journey, e.g. Wastewater Impact Assessment Tool (WIAT), Business guidance on the assessment of wastewater-related impacts and Freshwater Accountability Navigator FAN. Also, worth highlighting in the CEO Guide to Water and additional projects such as 50L Home and Wastewater Zero.
1 Ceres (2022), Water Risk is a Financial Risk : companies will soon have the tools to calculate, disclose and mitigate it. Blog post. Available here.
2 Stockholm Resilience Centre (2022), Freshwater boundary exceeds safe limits. Research. Available here.