BSR Review: Water and Business: Opportunities in Stewardship

A Collection of What BSR Is Saying on Today’s Pressing Issues


Editor's Note

Water and Business: Opportunities in Stewardship

Although we live on a water-covered planet, only 1 percent of the world’s water is available for human use—the rest is locked away in oceans, ice, and the atmosphere. And yet this 1 percent must help feed, clothe, and provide energy for 7 billion people. Our challenge is clear: How can we stretch our shrinking supply of water to satisfy the needs of the additional 2 billion people who will join the planet by 2050?

Today, more than ever, companies are recognizing that water risks are immediate and pressing concerns for everyone. In response, they have developed comprehensive programs to become responsible stewards of water resources. From ensuring access to strategic supply chains to collaborating with other sectors within a watershed, companies have made a business case for water and are implementing strategies that will help improve the productivity, equity, and efficiency of water use.

Drawing on our work with leading companies and on our partnerships with global water-stewardship initiatives, we present a collection of our recent articles, blogs, BSR Conference sessions, and photos on the following topics:

  • Corporate water strategies: Being a good steward of water does not stop at your own facilities. As a responsible business, you must be aware of the kind of risks you face in your operations and supply chain, and develop an appropriate strategy to manage them.
  • The business case for oceans: While many companies depend on the oceans for feed stocks, transport, and energy, few businesses have developed a comprehensive approach to sustaining this precious resource.
  • Water and human rights: What is the opportunity for business to protect and respect the human right to water?
  • Visualizing water scarcity: BSR’s project work around the world offers an opportunity to experience different solutions to global challenges.

For more information on BSR’s work on water, contact Ryan Flaherty.

Corporate Water Strategies

Understanding Water Risk: WRI’s Aqueduct Program (March 14, 2012)
By Linda Hwang, Research Manager, BSR, and Ryan Flaherty, Manager, BSR

Sustainability Matters article: Water experts from the World Resources Institute (WRI) and BSR discussed WRI’s Aqueduct program, a comprehensive tool that lets companies quantify and map water risks at a local scale, worldwide. Read more  →

Using Water-Risk Information for Greater Impact (February 7, 2012)
By Ryan Flaherty, Manager, BSR, and Linda Hwang, Research Manager, BSR

BSR Insight article: Starting with the right tools to analyze their risk, companies can build robust water strategies that include collaboration to protect and improve shared water resources. In addition to informing corporate water strategies, water-risk information can be used to improve business practices related to other sustainability issues, including human rights, local development, and consumer awareness of water issues. Read more →

The New Reality of Water in China: Informed Activism and No Guarantees (January 31, 2012)
By Laura Ediger, Environmental Manager, BSR, and Ryan Flaherty, Manager, BSR

BSR Insight article: With the changing political, regulatory, and consumer climate in China, more companies are considering how they can clean up their waste streams and use less water. Read more →

From Conservation to Restoration: How Investing in Water Can Deliver Concrete Business Value (November 3, 2011)

BSR Conference session: With unpredictable weather patterns and increasing water scarcity, companies face new risks to business continuity and access to raw materials in their supply chains. While some have made great strides in improving water efficiency, leaders recognize that these efforts alone will not mitigate the risks associated with growing competition for increasingly scarce water resources. Recognizing the direct link between access to water and the management of watersheds, some companies are making innovative investments in the basins where they operate. Read more →

Understanding and Managing Water-Related Risks (March 1, 2011)
By Linda Hwang, Research Manager, BSR

BSR Insight article: and Circle of Blue sponsored a World Water Day data visualization challenge, calling on designers and data experts to create visualizations on the topic of urban water issues. The challenge highlighted the difficulty shared by many sectors in presenting the complexity of water issues in simple, easy-to-understand ways. For companies, that challenge is compounded by the need to present information on different types of water-related risks for multiple locations and to a variety of audiences. Read more →

The Business Case for Oceans

A Sustainability Compass for Ocean Issues (February 28, 2011)
By Laura Ediger, Environmental Manager, BSR

BSR blog: At the Economist World Oceans Summit in Singapore, it was widely noted that oceans don’t get much attention, perhaps in part because we humans are a highly terrestrial species. But the topics were clearly relevant to the humans in attendance, who ranged from representatives of conservation NGOs, to leaders of small island states, to people from companies like Google, Tiffany & Co, Shangri-La Hotels, and Electrolux, as well as ocean-oriented businesses such as Maersk Line, APL, Norpac, and China Fishery Group. Read more →

Business’ Role in Ocean ‘Custodianship’ (February 21, 2012)

BSR Insight article: BSR President and CEO Aron Cramer will lead a discussion on how companies can be “custodians” of the oceans at the Economist’s World Oceans Summit in Singapore. Read more →

Protecting Our Oceans: Key to Sustainability (December 19, 2011)
By Aron Cramer, President and CEO, BSR

BSR blog: The Economist's "World Oceans Summit" is a valiant—and valuable—effort to increase awareness and commitment to preserving the oceans. The world's oceans cover three-fourths of the Earth's territory, but they occupy far less than that in terms of mindshare regarding sustainability. This summit may help change that. Read more →

Business: Blue and Green (February 21, 2012)
By Michael Sutton, Vice President, Center for the Future of the Oceans, Monterey Bay Aquarium

BSR Insight article: The Economist’s World Ocean Summit in Singapore will highlight for an audience of global business leaders the latest concerns about threats to our oceans, and how business activities are impacting this ecosystem. While all of us can play roles in caring for our ocean resources, perhaps the only force powerful enough to reverse the decline of our global environment is commerce itself. Read more →

Water and Human Rights

Global Water Crisis Solutions: Moving From Charity to Catalytic Philanthropy (November 3, 2011)

BSR Conference session: Global water and sanitation are the world’s most urgent crises. Every day, millions of people have to walk miles, wait hours, and pay unreasonable prices to secure water for their families. Gary White of discussed the organization’s ambitious vision and how partnerships at all levels can help realize the day when everyone can access and drink clean water, and experience the dignity of a toilet. White discussed solutions that harness market forces, use philanthropy as a catalyst, and help those living in poverty channel their intrinsic power and resources to participate in the process. Read more →

The Human Face of Water-Related Risk Assessments (May 24, 2011)
By Linda Hwang, Research Manager, BSR

BSR Insight article: At the CEO Water Mandate meeting in Copenhagen—which focused on corporate water disclosure—one participant reminded us of the connections between water, healthy populations, and corporate performance. Despite the growing number of tools to help investors and companies assess water-related risks, companies will miss a critical factor when evaluating their long-term risks if the tools do not link physical-, regulatory-, and reputational-risk frameworks to people’s ability to participate in the growth of healthy economies. Read more →

Water as a Human Right: Good for Business (July 30, 2010)
By Faris Natour, Director, Human Rights, BSR

BSR blog: The UN General Assembly declared that access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right. While not directly legally binding, this step will end the longstanding debate about the status of water as something to which all humans are entitled. With almost 900 million people worldwide without access to clean water, this long-overdue declaration reflects the importance of water as a sustainability challenge. It is also good news for business. Read more →

Water Numbers for Real People (February 22, 2010)
By Linda Hwang, Research Manager, BSR

BSR blog: In preparation for my participation in a water-scarcity risks and footprints conference in San Francisco, I’ve been thinking about the data that bring life to corporate water footprints. These footprints typically include a company’s water usage and wastewater discharges throughout a value chain, and allow companies to effectively account for water use and impacts. However, collecting meaningful water-related information is difficult at best, and today there is no clear guidance on what information should be collected, especially when it comes to a company’s supply chain. Read more →

Visualizing Water Scarcity

One Vision of China’s Water Scarcity (May 2, 2011)
By Mark Little, Director, BSR

BSR photo: Here is a provocative image by Shanghai artist Zhao Xian Feng, who exhibits dozens of works with water scarcity as the central theme. Throughout China, he says, water scarcity is a looming issue—one tied to the country's enormous population boom. See the photo →

Out of Africa: Water Access and Safety (February 23, 2011)
By Wei Dong Zhou, Senior Advisor, BSR

BSR photo: I just returned from the China-Africa Enterprise Development and Economic Transformation conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While there, I visited a village about 50 kilometers from the center city to understand local living condition and, in particular, water access and safety. See the photo →

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