Water next big 'sustainability threat' for business

Water scarcity will affect "every angle of our lives" and businesses must put board support at the top of their sustainable business plans.

That's according to representatives from sustainable development charity Forum for the Future, International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ICCSR) and sustainability audit provider KPMG taking part in a webinar hosted recently by Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions.

The event was held as part of Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions first global sustainability month, which aims to raise awareness of environmental issues.

During the webinar each speaker offered their take on the sustainability agenda and suggested how businesses can adapt to future pressures.

Kicking off the session, ICCSR lecturer in Sustainability and Responsible Business at Nottingham University's Business School warned that water was the next big sustainability threat.

He said: "We know that water is going to be a really significant issue, with two thirds of the world's population predicted to be living with water scarcity or water stress by 2025 - that's not very far away.

"Water will affect every angle of our lives - from the obvious uses of drinking, cleaning and sewerage, to energy generation and particularly fossil fuel generation, which requires masses of water, to food production. Food in particular could be a bigger issue for the UK as we are not food independent, whereas for example Australia grows enough food for 40 million people, but only has a population of 24 million."

As a result, Forum for the Future senior sustainability advisor Ben Ross urged businesses to put board support at the top of their sustainable business plans.

He said that businesses need to ensure their business model is commercially successful and put "practical steps in place to take the organisation from where it currently stands to this long-term, sustainable platform".

He added that businesses must also find a way to measure the impact of their plan across the sustainability spectrum.

However, KPMG lead sustainability advisor Ben Wielgus warned that progress in sustainability reporting will "still take years to embed".

Carys Matthews


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