According to the research findings, businesses and governments must take a more holistic approach to water and energy management or “risk major disruption”.

The findings were used to establish a white paper, ‘Energising the drops: Towards a Holistic Approach to Carbon and Water Footprint Assessments’ which provides guidance for governments and businesses on how to manage their climate and water impacts simultaneously, both locally and globally.

Water Footprint Network executive director Ruth Mathews said: “For the first time, businesses and governments can prioritise where to focus their investments in order to reduce their impacts and derive maximum returns.”

The white paper follows news that 15 leading businesses, representing 11 different sectors, have committed to looking at their carbon-water management holistically, including Baxter Healthcare, Buro Happold, Sainsbury’s, Boots UK, Crown Paints, C&A, CLS Holdings Plc, GlaxoSmithKline, Nestlé, Nokia and Tata Cleantech Capital Ltd.

Nestle’s assistant vice-president on environmental sustainability Pascal Gréverath said: “This more holistic approach, combining climate change and water impacts, enhances the quality of the assessment and provides a more robust basis for decision-making; biodiversity impacts will have to be considered too in the future.”

Baxter’s vice president of environment, health and safety and sustainability Art Gibson added: “Implementing projects that consider these elements holistically results in greater conservation of natural resources and improved operational performance.”

However, according to research by the Carbon Disclosure Project, only 63% of major companies have taken steps to manage the business risks of increasing water scarcity.

Current solutions, including pumping water from lower groundwater tables and desalination, require vast amounts of energy. With their use likely to increase in the coming decades, managing the dynamic between carbon and water use will be essential, the report states.

Leigh Stringer

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