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A world without water: Financial Times counts the cost of water scarcity

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Since 2011, companies around the world have spent more than $84 billion (£49bn) to improve the way they conserve, manage or obtain water, according to a new investigation from the Financial Times.

In the first article of a new series on the global threat of water scarcity, FT environment correspondent Pilita Clark looks how the marginal cost of water – a resource previously taken for granted – is rising for companies of all sizes.

The report explains how a growing, aspirational global population and the impacts of climate change are straining water supplies and forcing business to take action. 

From figures supplied by Global Water Intelligence and data gathered from regulatory disclosures and executive interviews, Clark estimates spending has reached at least the tens of billions in the last few years alone.

She adds, however, that this number “is neither comprehensive nor easy to compare with past spending levels,” as companies are not required to disclose such costs. Whatever the exact figure, costs are rising in all sectors.  

Some examples listed in the article include Coca-Cola’s £1.2 million investment in conservation efforts to restore the River Nar. The Nar is a narrow waterway near London that supplies much of the sugar beet the company uses for its products in the UK.

Another is Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton’s $3bn (£1.75bn) desalination scheme in Chile, which will use treated seawater in their shared copper mine, rather than exhausting local water supplies. The ambitious project will need to pump water 10,000 feet above sea level.

The mining industry is one of the most exposed to rising water costs, the report says. Its collective spending on water is expected to exceed $12bn (£7bn) this year.

However, all sectors are being affected – water is needed for almost every aspect of agriculture and energy production.

Clark notes that the reasons for such investments differ from company to company – some are PR exercises, some are required to meet new regulatory standards.

Whatever the reason, concern over sustainable water use is growing among investors and shareholders.

The article refers to the findings of the not-for-profit CDP, which appeals to companies on behalf of investors to disclose their environmental risks. Last year, 70% of the 180 FTSE Global 500 companies that disclosed through CDP said water was a risk to their business, up from 59% in 2011.

However, the water crisis risks much more than profits. The investigation also digs out a 2012 intelligence report prepared for the US State Department, which forecasts instability and conflict in states that are rapidly drying out. 

Experts have already observed how water shortages have acted as an instigator and been used as a weapon in the current conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

Peter Brabeck, chairman of Nestlé, tells the FT that the crisis is even more severe than climate change.  

“Climate change will further affect the water situation but even if the climate wouldn’t change, we have a water problem and this water problem is much more urgent,” he said.

Asking what can be done, Clark suggests that it is ultimately down to policymakers and legislators to solve the problem. 

Some dispute this. A recent report from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership suggested that cooperation from companies and stakeholders would be essential in preserving the precious resource.

Whatever the right course, the message of Clark’s article is that action must be taken soon.

“The risk a growing number of business leaders fear […] is that these steps will be deferred until the last minute, forcing a costly scramble for action,” she concludes.  

Photo: Anthony Quintano via Flickr

Further reading:

Government predicts an overcrowded planet riddled with conflict by 2050

Resource inefficiency impacting prices, economies and environment, says UN

Co-operation among stakeholders ‘key’ to securing future water resources

Water becoming ‘a tool of conflict’ in Syria and Iraq

Water and food shortages at the root of the Syrian crisis, claims study

 

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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