The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #6 is to ensure access to water and sanitation for all. The good news: Between 1990 and 2015, the global population using an improved drinking water source increased from 76% to 91%.
In part, we can thank sustainability practitioners. The Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE) follows trends and helps train sustainability practitioners to understand the complex interrelated issues surrounding water.
The bad news: we need many more people addressing these issues. Poor water management still accounts for millions of deaths a year with almost 1,000 children dying due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrheal diseases – EACH DAY!
Materiality issues surrounding water range from access to clean water infrastructure, to pollution of water sources, to depletion of natural water supplies. Corporations, organizations and local governments each must address water concerns within their manufacturing processes and supply chains.
After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico, a tropical island with tremendous rainfall, is suffering water shortages. But it’s not the water delivery system; it’s the damaged electricity infrastructure needed to power delivery. For every direct link to water there are indirect considerations. The Louisiana waters of Lake Pontchartrain and its wildlife are threatened by an oil rig on fire miles from its shores.
While progress has been made, in the UK in 2016, sewage water plant failures increased for the first time since 2012 while the WWF standard of “good” ecological status for UK waterways went down from 2010 status.
With rising populations, increasing urbanization and climate change, water concerns will affect every community, every manufacturer, all agriculture and even energy. Hydropower is the most widely-used renewable energy and represents 16% of total electricity production worldwide.
Questions addressing water metrics, best practices and role in sustainability reporting will surely arise in the next CSE program in Atlanta next March. In July 2017, there was a citywide boil water advisory. The city is home to water dependent Coca-Cola. And, Atlanta is currently embroiled in a US Supreme Court case on water rights.
With 70% of our bodies and 70% of our planet composed of water, its protection is literally a matter of life and death. Good corporate citizens need to know how to measure their own impact and set goals to improve sustainability within companies and their communities.
The Atlanta Certified Sustainability Practitioner Program (Advanced Edition 2017) in March 2018, the Sustainability Academy and CSE clients such as Heineken are addressing these concerns to improve reporting and hence planning, rain or shine.