Executive Briefings

Is Measuring Your Water Footprint the Next Step in Sustainability?

In a blog at Harvardbusiness.org, Domani CEO Will Sarni notes that linkage between water and business was a hot topic at the August 2009 Stockholm World Water Week. Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, singled out supply chain water use for specific attention. As fresh water becomes more scarce and supplies uncertain, how companies use water and where it comes from will increasingly affect their business risks and opportunities, Sarni says.

Sarni describes how global brewer SABMiller is evaluating its supply chain water use. In August, the company, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, released a landmark report titled  Water Footprinting: Identifying & Addressing Water Risks in the Value Chain. The study evaluated the water footprint of the entire value chain for SABMiller's beers in South Africa and the Czech Republic, from crop cultivation and processing to brewing and distribution, while highlighting both direct and indirect water use. As one would expect, the footprint is dominated by the agricultural component. SABMiller now understands which parts of its supply chain could be threatened by water scarcity or poor water quality in the future, and is better positioned to develop strategies to address these challenges, Sarni says. There are examples in other industries as well.

Although the process and protocols for determining a company's water footprint are not as well developed as carbon accounting, procedures are quickly being refined and multinational companies are making business decisions based upon preliminary evaluations. The time to start measuring the amount of water in your supply chain is now, before water becomes a business constraint to operation and growth, says Sarni.

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In a blog at Harvardbusiness.org, Domani CEO Will Sarni notes that linkage between water and business was a hot topic at the August 2009 Stockholm World Water Week. Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, singled out supply chain water use for specific attention. As fresh water becomes more scarce and supplies uncertain, how companies use water and where it comes from will increasingly affect their business risks and opportunities, Sarni says.

Sarni describes how global brewer SABMiller is evaluating its supply chain water use. In August, the company, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, released a landmark report titled  Water Footprinting: Identifying & Addressing Water Risks in the Value Chain. The study evaluated the water footprint of the entire value chain for SABMiller's beers in South Africa and the Czech Republic, from crop cultivation and processing to brewing and distribution, while highlighting both direct and indirect water use. As one would expect, the footprint is dominated by the agricultural component. SABMiller now understands which parts of its supply chain could be threatened by water scarcity or poor water quality in the future, and is better positioned to develop strategies to address these challenges, Sarni says. There are examples in other industries as well.

Although the process and protocols for determining a company's water footprint are not as well developed as carbon accounting, procedures are quickly being refined and multinational companies are making business decisions based upon preliminary evaluations. The time to start measuring the amount of water in your supply chain is now, before water becomes a business constraint to operation and growth, says Sarni.

Read Full Article