Handle with care - why should business pay attention to water?

22 March 2016

Is water our planet’s most precious resource? It’s hotly debated, but for business it’s moved up the agenda to become a big risk. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2016, ranks water crisis as the top long term risk.

The Top Five Global Risks of Highest Concern for the Next 10 Years


So as today marks the UN’s annual World Water Day, and this years’ theme is ‘better water, better jobs’ there’s no better time to reconnect with the water issues your business faces now and over the coming decades.

Access to water is fundamental to business. Having too much or too little water, or water that’s too dirty or expensive, can expose business to risk and have consequences for their direct operations or supply chain. Whether it’s flooding, drought, supply continuity, infrastructure or quality issues, or the post-use treatment, temperature or pollution of water that’s released back into the water basin, it can be difficult for business to address water stewardship on its own. Our report, Collaboration: preserving water through partnering that works, looks at how business can identify water risks, take action to manage them, and collaborate with the right partners to build up resilience to water issues.

Watch the video to find out why collaboration across the water basin is so important.


Business is right to be concerned. Water requires continual management. Unexpected disruptions to water supply or its quality can have negative impacts – something that the people of Flint in the US will be all too familiar with when switching to a new supplier saw lead levels in the water soar. It wasn’t just a problem for residents either – the high chlorine levels in the water running through an antiquated system of lead pipes resulted in General Motors buying its water elsewhere for fear of corrosion in its engines.  

The impact of water scarcity is having huge implications for businesses across all industries too. Planning ahead to understand and reduce risk exposure, is key. For example, working with Ferrovial (an infrastructure services and construction company) we were able to identify and assess their water-related risks and opportunities in the coming years to inform their water management strategy.

It would be safe to assume UN Water think it is our planet’s most precious resource – in fact, water has a significant presence across the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It says “Water is at the core of sustainable development. Water resources, and the range of services they provide, underpin poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental sustainability. From food and energy security to human.”

With such a high dependence on water, to heat, cool and clean, as well as an ingredient, it’s in the best interest for business to stay engaged, understand its water requirements and challenges, and cooperate with government and society to manage them well. It’s not a one and done process but requires constant monitoring and collaboration.

Today is World Water Day - it is a good day to take a closer look - and spend 5 minutes thinking about the water risk that undoubtedly exists, but that you haven't yet identified.

Malcolm Preston | Global Sustainability Leader
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