CELEBRATING WORLD WATER DAY: COMPANIES MAKING WAVES IN WATER STEWARDSHIP

By: Devika Narayan, Senior Account Executive

Water is the essence of life. Yet, for many, this basic human right is rapidly drying up. With climate change dramatically affecting rainfall patterns and water availability, the global water crisis is intensifying in many parts of the world. Today, more than 650 million people still lack access to safe drinking water sources, while another 2.4 billion do not have access to basic water sanitation.

However, the opportunity to make a difference is tremendous. As World Water Day approaches this Wednesday, March 22, it is an important moment in time for both individuals and businesses alike to take a step back and reexamine water’s interconnectedness with broader environmental and human rights challenges. Thankfully, more companies are making strides in offering real solutions to many of the planet’s most challenging water issues, partly in response to the water-related Sustainable Development Goal (Goal #6). Today, best-in-class organizations that are looking to drive understanding and action around water scarcity are focusing on the following trends to make the most impact:

·         Commitments that Extend Throughout A Company’s Value Chain: Most businesses begin their water stewardship journey by focusing on reducing water usage from direct operations. However, an increasing number of companies are recognizing that impacts extend to, and are much larger, in products’ consumer-use and/or supply chain phases. Today, more innovative companies are working to address these impacts. After finding at-home washing to be the largest impact associated with its products in a 2007 life cycle assessment, Levi’s became an early adopter of educating consumers by launching a series of awareness initiatives that encouraged shoppers to wash their jeans less frequently. Additionally, companies like General Mills, PepsiCo and Kellogg are leading the way in setting goals in their agricultural supply chain that aim for positive water impacts.

·         Collaborations that Extend Impact: Increasingly, companies dedicated to tackling water scarcity are developing public-private partnerships to turn sustainability risks into opportunities for growth, learning and innovation. Sealed Air’s plant in Iowa Park, TX, for example, recently formed a partnership with two local municipalities to develop a water reuse project that will conserve 18 million to 20 million gallons of drinking water annually. Instead of using potable water in its chiller process, the plant is now using recycled sewage water from Iowa Park’s wastewater treatment plant. Similarly taking advantage of innovative partnerships, General Electric recently collaborated with the University of California Davis and wine industry services provider Winesecrets to pilot a program using captured rainwater in wine production.

·         Inspiring Communications to Raise Awareness: For many in the developed world, the plight of the millions of people who still lack access to safe water can seem distant and remote. To combat this disconnect and raise awareness for the global water crisis, many companies are turning to creative communication channels to get the message out. To celebrate World Water Day 2017, Stella Artois and National Geographic are premiering “Our Dream of Water,” a documentary highlighting the effects of the global water crisis, which builds on Stella Artois’ ongoing "Buy A Lady A Drink" campaign. The film illuminates the real lives of women across Haiti, Peru and Kenya who spend their days hauling water back to their homes. By spotlighting the personal stories of these women and what is at stake on their difficult journey for clean water, Stella Artois is helping make the issue tangible and urgent to the everyday consumer.

As the world continues to struggle with global water shortages, a number of businesses are diving in to tackle the issue head on. And while World Water Day is just a moment in time to bring awareness to the issue, real change comes from companies who are addressing water year-round. By performing against commitments that touch entire value chains, collaborating to extend impact and investing in inspiring communications to take consumers along the journey, businesses can truly make a splash when it comes to combating the global water crisis.