Water footprints are becoming a growing concern for companies transitioning to sustainability. However, according to an Ecolab-Greenbiz study, some challenges to this regard still to be overcome.

Climate change and other related phenomena such as deforestation, ocean acidification or the degradation of ecosystems often bring the topic of carbon footprint to the discussion table. CO2 is at the heart of all sustainable development initiatives for companies and the carbon footprint is now one of the most widely adopted indicators in CSR strategies. The problem is that by focusing on carbon we sometimes tend to forget other important indicators such as biodiversity, soil erosion or, as we discuss in this piece – the water footprint.

For many companies, water is a strategic resource and is a fundamental element to be managed when it comes to sustainable development. The companies focused on calculating their water footprint and implementing an integrated strategy that assesses and manages their impact on the water will be the ones ahead of the competition – reputation and. risk prevention-wise. 

This is the subject that the Ecolab-Greenbiz study wanted to assess by examining the way companies deal with this water question and the challenges around it. Let’s take a closer look.

Water Footprint Is Increasingly Becoming A Concern For Companies

One of the first conclusions of the study is that water management is a growing concern around the planet. According to projections by the United Nations, 40% of the planet could face freshwater deficits by 2030. This issue must be of concern to the largest freshwater consumption businesses. Why? Because 40% of the water used in developed countries is consumed by businesses.

But do companies take this risk into account? If we believe the Ecolab-Greenbiz study that assessed 86 large global companies: yes. Not only 74% of the companies questioned declared that they considered water as an increasingly high priority. 59% claimed said they were aware that water management was a significant and growing business risk. 88% of the companies surveyed also say that they were going to put in place specific actions to measure and manage their impacts on water in the next 3 years.

However, when it comes to taking concrete action, things get complicated. Almost half of the companies admit that they have no concrete action plan to achieve their objectives of reducing their water footprint. Less than one in two say they use precise monitoring technologies to assess their water consumption or their water savings. In 2017, the same survey showed that 82% of companies said they lack the tools to reach their water-related goals.

Raising Awareness And Engaging Stakeholders: The Number 1 Issue Regarding Water Footprint

According to the study, this discrepancy comes from the inability of companies to mobilize and engage their stakeholders on the subject. Many companies establish a water consumption reduction target. However, they fail to reach it because it is hard and challenging to engage the employees in the field, to explain to them why doing so is important and of the company’s best interest and what are the methods used.

Almost 40% of companies feel that it is difficult to hire, mobilize and educate their operational managers in the field once the goals have been set. And this is a real problem because it in the field that the savings decided by the CSR or sustainable development teams are effectively realized and have an impact.

Beyond the definition of objectives and targets for the water footprint, there is real work that needs to be done to engage the stakeholders. Setting up training and awareness sessions for managers and employees in order to get them involved in the process is a fundamental step. However, external stakeholders shouldn’t be neglected either – especially customers and consumers. In fact, they are the main audience businesses target and it is, therefore, them, who can push for the development of more water-efficient products and offers. Responsible, positive marketing, thought out for the activation of consumers is, therefore, an essential step to give substance to companies’ reflections on the water footprint.

[Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash]