Water supplies will be the top sustainability challenge

A warning that two thirds of the world's population will be living with water stress by 2025 headlined a business sustainability webinar run this morning by Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions.

Delegates were also told that food security is posing a major potential challenge to the UK supply chain.

“Water is going to be an enormous issue going forward,” said Nottingham University Business School’s Simon Wright, responding to a delegate request to name the next big climate change threat.

Water concerns will be massive, he said, not only as a direct and vital source of life but also as a key component in energy generation, food production and delivery. Food scarcity will come increasingly into focus with the US in particular still juggling with its biofuel versus food issue.

Contributing to the webinar during a business trip to Australia, Mr Wright also commented on potential food security differences between Australia and the UK.

“While Australia is food independent, in fact producing twice as much as it needs, a trip round supermarkets in the UK quickly reveals that there’s not much British-grown food on our shelves,” he said. “For us, growing and transporting the food that appears on UK shelves is going to be a challenge in the future.”

In seeking to present sustainability solutions for businesses, Forum for the Future’s Ben Ross, urged delegates to place Board level support high up on their list of early actions. It was essential to create time and commitment at top level within a business if sustainability concerns were to be addressed successfully.

To tackle sustainability, businesses need to understand the key issues and how they might impact on their future profit and performance. Spotting developing trends, analysing emerging success stories, such as the Google-factor, and being aware of shakeholder and investor pressures, were all keys elements in forming a sound sustainability strategy

“Benchmaking against both your competitors and admired others can also be beneficial,” he said. “In addition, looking at major operators such as GE and Unilever and seeing how they’re responding to sustainability may be valuable.

“I also always encourage businesses to select one sustainability leadership area of their own, maybe focusing on one or two specific lines as a starter. See what the risks and opportunities are at a selected level and you may ultimately end up with improved business sustainability and enhanced performance.”

Edie Staff

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