The Network for Business Sustainability, a Canadian business organization which claims to be comprised of over 300 researchers, has released a report detailing what the group believes will be the top sustainability challenges for companies in 2010. The report, titled 2010 Knowledge Priorities for Business Sustainability, lists the following seven questions as the top sustainable challenges for businesses:
- How can we measure and value a firm’s ecological impacts (e.g. ecological footprint)?
- How can we build a durable, enduring sustainability corporate culture?
- How can we promote and ensure sustainability within our supply chains?
- How can we incorporate sustainability into employee incentives?
- What business risks are associated with water quality and water shortage?
- What is the aboriginal perspective on business sustainability and what are the best approaches to constructive engagement?
- Are the concerns of NIMBY-ism borne out?
The presence of question number five signifies that even in water-rich Canada, companies are examining the ways in which water will affect business in the future. The report asks these additional questions focused solely on water risks:
- How can we evaluate the risks of poor water quality and quantity?
- How do the risks differ in different contexts?
- What can we learn about water management within businesses operating in other countries?
Plenty of answers already exist. And while some large companies, such as Intel and MillerCoors, are cognizant of the business risks associated with water scarcity and quality, many others have yet to fully examine this potential problem.
Far more companies are concentrating on measuring their ecological impacts, or creating a sustainable supply chain. However, those questions have far more to do with water than these companies might think. For instance, in order for a company to properly examine its ecological impact, they must include a look at water sourcing, how the company uses water, and what happens to that water after the company uses it.
The same applies to creating a sustainable supply chain. At some point in the supply chain, water is used. In the textile industry, water may be used to grow raw materials or dye garments. A supply chain cannot be “sustainable” if the water used within the supply chain gets polluted or contaminated.
The seven questions outlined by the Network for Business Sustainability are quite important for companies to examine in 2010. However, we have one minor quibble. Because of water’s integral role in almost all companies’ operations, we believe it deserves higher placement on this list. At the very least, risks from water scarcity should have been listed above finding a way to incorporate sustainability in employee incentives.