Indian industry underestimating water related risks in a new research from WWF-India and Accenture
India faces some of the gravest water challenges anywhere on earth. Demand for water in India is expected to rise dramatically to about 833 cubic kilometers in 2025 and 899 cubic kilometers in 2050 due to increase in population, rapid urbanization and a growing GDP with significant lifestyle changes. With India’s per capita availability of water reducing from 1,816 to 1,545 cubic meters for the period of 2001 to 2011, this has already shifted India’s status from being “water adequate” to “water stressed” nation. 14 out of 20 river basins are already water stressed.
“Water Stewardship for Industries – the need for a paradigm shift in India” - is part of the research conducted by a joint team of WWF – India and Accenture. WWF and Accenture assessed six industries having relatively higher water consumption - thermal power generation, pulp and paper, textiles, steel, sugar and beverages to understand risks and opportunities arising out of water footprint of these organizations. In addition, 75 separate publications were researched and referenced along with interviews with industry experts both at WWF—India and Accenture.
As per the findings of this report, risk perception varied across sectors and that while, businesses were realizing the risks related to water, they are grossly underestimating them. Risks across the value chain are not understood holistically and recognition of water as a shared resource and therefore a shared risk was missing. As a result, risk mitigation strategies are still at a nascent stage—mostly internal and short term. Such responses may not be enough to insulate the business risk to companies operating in water scarce or stressed areas. It also increases the vulnerability of ecosystems and communities dependent on the watershed or basin.
Businesses need water in order to grow. In times of crisis, water allocation priority shifts to water for domestic use, followed by agriculture and then industry. Industry is given the last priority, while maintaining ecological balance has traditionally been ignored. There is a growing demand to reserve water for ecology, which will further aggravate the competition. This will worsen the business risk to companies operating in water-scarce and water-stressed areas, and also increase the vulnerability of ecosystems and people who are dependent on the watershed, or basin.
The severities of risks are manifold. These include physical, regulatory and reputational risks. Physical risks include challenges of water not being available due to scarcity and quality issues. Regulatory risks include risks from stringent regulatory norms from several institutions, such as Central Ground Water Authority, Central Pollution Control Board, Planning Commission and institutions like National Ganga River Basin Authority and National Bureau of Water Use Efficiency (NBWUE). Reputational risks come from increased attention of NGOs, media, local communities and investors in a business’ water mismanagement, pollution, etc.
Some of the sectors, such as sugar, beverage, pulp and paper had a higher risk perception, as they had already encountered physical, regulatory and reputational risks. However, sectors, such as thermal or steel, had a low risk perception, as they tend to have committed water allocation from local/ central governments during their environmental clearance, ensuring continuous supply of their water requirements.
Speaking on the theme of Water stewardship, Mr. Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF-India said, “ The way forward for Indian industry is to adopt Water stewardship as a core business strategy – water stewardship being defined, as actions that can be taken to improve water footprint not only in industrial processes and supply chain, but also for the ecosystem where the industry is located.”
There is also an opportunity for the industry to improve industrial water productivity to be at par with global best and adopting innovative methods for wastewater reuse, water conservation etc. that reduce costs and drive profitability. This will improve brand building and ensure water sustainability not just for the ecosystem where the business is located but also in turn for the business itself.
“This report provides clear evidence that while water related risks for industry are severe, the opportunity to derive value from addressing these risks through the water stewardship framework is also significant”, says Peter Lacy, Accenture APAC sustainability lead, Accenture. The water stewardship framework would enable businesses to embark a journey where they can leapfrog from a beginner level of engagement addressing short-term risks to a leadership role to address long term water security.
The report is freely available from the WWF and Accenture websites. It proposes a cogent water stewardship framework for businesses which will enable them to achieve long-term water security.
For media information, press enquiries, interviews or images on WWF-India contact:
Neha Simlai (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Manager – Communications, Sustainable Business
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with 259,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US $27.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2012. Its home page is www.accenture.com.