Global corporations must migrate toward a collectivist mindset to conserve the world’s water supply. That's the consensus that emerged from the World Water Week conference in Stockholm this week, according to reports from participants.
"Because water is so multifaceted, it’s too large an issue for one company or even one sector to tackle alone," wrote attendee Andre Fourie, head of Sustainable Development at SAB, the South African subsidiary of SABMiller, in a post for the Guardian this week. "There was a definite feeling around the table that partnership and collaboration is the right path, but questions do remain about how to structure that relationship."
The theme of this year’s conference, which brings together leaders of multinational corporations, academics and other industry experts, was water and food security -- a highly pertinent focus given that food prices have been on a skyward trajectory, due in part to intense droughts around the globe.
At the conference, Nestlé Chief Executive Officer Paul Bulcke encouraged governments to conceive "credible, cost-effective strategies" to address the world’s water calamities, but also underscored the need for businesses and other members of society to do their part in preserving water.
Bulcke also emphasized the need for minimal and targeted water consumption.
"Fresh water is being massively overused at nature’s expense, but it seems only a global crisis will make us realize the importance of the issue," he said. "Plants only need about 40 to 50 percent of the actual amount of water withdrawn for agriculture today, so there is still huge potential to make savings."
In order to alleviate their business risks associated with threats to water supply, some companies are already linking with nongovernmental groups to address the water crisis.
WWF International collaborates with various companies including SABMiller, Coca-Cola and H&M to address water risks, said Stuart Orr, the organization’s freshwater manager.
"We see our ultimate goal of protecting biodiversity and flows in rivers as very similar to business," said Orr. "We both need well managed systems to take risk away and ensure that sustainable water management serves the multiple needs of users, including the environment."
Image of orb of water provided by T-Design via Shutterstock
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