Companies are getting better at managing water use but will have to step up efforts to meet sustainable development goals, according to an investors' benchmark analysis released Oct. 25 by Ceres.
The report from Ceres' Valuing Water Finance Initiative analyzed 72 companies in four water-intensive industries — apparel, beverage, food and high-tech — and measured them against six corporate expectations for water to be met by 2030. That is the target set by the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal for Water, SDG6.
For companies and investors, "there is a lot of work to do between now and 2030," Kirsten James, senior program director of water at Ceres and co-author of the report, said in an interview. "We need that ambition to match the scale and scope of the problem."
The benchmark report based on publicly available company disclosures covers companies' vulnerabilities, opportunities and strengths when it comes to managing water. It found that many of the companies have made progress in managing water use and ensuring board and executive oversight, while "significant work remains" when it comes to water quality impacts, aligning public policy engagement and lobbying activities, protecting freshwater ecosystems, and improving clean water access.
The report found that 75% of the 72 companies have set time-bound targets to reduce water use, but only 17% have done so to reduce their impacts to water quality.
Both water availability and water quality are material financial issues to the assessed companies, and an escalating global water crisis also increases financial risks for businesses and their investors, said James.