Blue, green, red – the changing colour of water

My thoughts turn to water…. and not just because of the return of our rainy season with the onset of autumn here in the northern hemisphere.

One of our stories concerns nuclear power in Japan, where the company involved has admitted it didn’t properly plan for the eventuality of the earthquake-induced tsunami. That contrasts with France, where nuclear power stations are also down, not because of too much water but too little (river water levels are low). If water is a universal human necessity, so too is energy (not just in the cold north) – and they are inextricably are linked.

Back in September, I chaired a debate with Unilever, Thames Water and the CDP water disclosure project about water as an issue of corporate sustainability. This was part of a research programme looking at likely future trends and best practice examples.  Now my colleagues in the Corporate Citizenship environment team have produced a paper with proposals for companies wanting to develop a robust strategy.  They’ve included a practical six step plan of action. Yohan Hill introduces it in this month’s Briefing Round-up, with an article looking at water in Africa, the new frontier for corporate sustainability.

It’s become something of a cliché to say that blue is the new green – and yet it’s true that many of the most pressing environmental issues do rapidly lead back to water.  Climate change itself isn’t the problem, but rather its effect on water – too much, too little, in the wrong places, at the wrong times, too dirty to drink or to use in agriculture or industry.

And when water – that universal human necessity – goes wrong, the effect on humans is far-reaching: thirst, food shortages, less energy, rising costs, civil unrest, land grabs…. ultimately wars over watershed regions. These factors will have a profound effect on business-as-usual.

So this month my proposition is simple: whether the colour of water is blue or green, your business risks going into the red, unless you act now.

This article first appeared in Corporate Citizenship Briefing

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