Many of us in the business world understand that water scarcity is set to become a global crisis. After all, experts predict that by 2030 there will be a 40% gap between the global demand for water and available supply. However, for many companies, particularly those in water abundant regions, this long term water crisis can be a difficult concept to appreciate in the immediate. But the reality is that water is a finite resource, and we must begin treating it as such.
Water is a shared resource which flows across our human boundaries, whether it is a national border, a city or state, or a company's walls. We recognize water as a shared risk, and one we must collectively work to protect. That means all of us – businesses, NGOs, governments and communities – need to collaborate to manage our water supply more effectively and become more water-efficient.
At SABMiller, we have taken this collaborative approach to heart. Among our 10 priorities for sustainable development, we have determined water to be one of the global focus areas because long term, sustainable access to clean, quality water is critical to the success of our business.
That's why, in 2008, we established the Water Futures partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and supported by the German development agency GIZ, to understand watershed risk and develop protection programmes.
Three years later, we are now inviting businesses, NGOs and other organizations to join the Water Futures Partnership, to help drive collective action to address some of the most pressing water risks in cities and watersheds around the world.
Single actors alone cannot effectively mitigate the complex and often deeply-embedded causes of water risks. Our assessments show that the fundamental causes of many of our business-specific water risks are the same drivers of the water problems facing communities and ecosystems. We recognize that these challenges can only be addressed through multi-stakeholder collective action, and therefore, we openly invite other NGOs, donors and public sector agencies, who have a shared interest in the areas we are working in, to join our partnership. It is only by working in a participatory way can we have an impact on improving water management for communities, the environment and business.
We recently published the Water Futures Partnership’s second report, which details the progress we’ve made so far in identifying, assessing and beginning to address the challenges facing businesses, communities and the environment in watersheds in South Africa, Peru, Tanzania and Ukraine. The report also highlights the partnership’s intention to include new partners and new collaboration countries – specifically, Colombia, Honduras, India and the USA.
While a scarce water supply is already a pressing problem for communities and businesses, the science clearly shows that the problem will continue to swell indefinitely in the decades to come. That means now is the time to build upon our solutions to the crisis as well.