Sustainability: It’s in the Water

Water is a precious commodity and it has become a central sustainability issue with concepts such as “water footprint” and “embedded water” quickly catching up with carbon in terms of importance. Companies are central to water sustainability since they are the biggest users of the stuff.

In India, a new draft of the National Water Policy 2012, if approved, will force industrial projects to declare their water footprints. The third draft of the policy, recently recommended by the National Water Board, says analysis of water footprints should be included in project appraisal and environment impact assessment for water uses, particularly for industrial projects.

The UN is also taking steps towards water sustainability with initiatives such as the CEO Water Mandate, a public-private initiative under the UN Global Compact designed to assist companies in the development, implementation and disclosure of sustainable water policies and practices. More than 80 Global Compact participants have endorsed the initiative. One of them is Ecolab, a leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services. The company has endorsed the UN’s Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, besides having joined the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative. The UN Global Compact was created in 2000 as part of the United Nation’s efforts to increase support of the Millennium Development Goals. More than 8,700 companies around the world are now participants.

“The ten principles of the UN Global Compact align with Ecolab’s values regarding human rights, fair labor practices, environmental protection and anti-corruption,” said CEO Douglas M. Baker. “The CEO Water Mandate aligns with Ecolab’s efforts to advance sustainable water solutions around the world through our partnerships with our customers, nongovernmental organizations, suppliers and other groups to help ensure sustainable water management.”

Consumers can also do their bit to use water more sustainably. In Europe the website Imagine All the Water helps visitors better understand their water footprint and how our consumption habits impact our water footprint. For example, someone who drinks a lot of coffee and regularly eats meat is likely to have a much higher water footprint than a vegetarian who drinks tap water. In fact, in the section about product footprints, it’s agricultural products, especially animal-derived one, that use up most water. The more your learn about it, the more you realize that water is, literally, everywhere.

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