The impending water shortage for my generation is becoming increasingly more apparent. Significant droughts are occurring in the likes of California, India, and Vietnam; this is not a regional issue, but instead affecting the whole world. Droughts can have an extreme impact in both developing and developed countries especially impacting major areas of industry. Companies have already faced the consequences of this as their cost of operation has increased due to the scarcity of water. In fact, it was reported at the WBCSD that some companies had to stop operations in India due to regional water shortage. As water shortage worsens, these operational stoppages may expand.
In consequence to increased water shortage, I believe this will force the private sector to engage in two pivotal areas, discussed at the WBCSD, to manage long-term sustainability: increased investment in innovation and further utilization of a circular economy approach to management. Even in the wake of water scarcity industry will not, and cannot, stop.
Although we cannot rely upon innovation in a silo, it may be one of the biggest combatants of climate change. Water shortages will force companies to continue to invest in water efficient technology. Reducing water usage via technological innovation will not only help the earth but reduce costs as water prices rise. As the financial argument for research and development strengthens, senior management will prioritize these efforts.
In addition to innovation, the premise of managing through a circular economy approach will become increasingly more prominent. The circular economy, or an economy in which we reuse resources for as long as possible, was a hot topic at the WBCSD. Companies are trying to find innovative ways in which they can maximize reusable waste to minimize environmental impact. As natural resources, in this case water, become more expensive the private sector will need to find new ways to reuse the outputs of their production processes.
Water shortage and other natural resource depletion will force the private sector to think differently about how they view the natural world. Companies represented at the WBCSD seemed to have this foresight, adapting their business model to better align with the realities of today’s natural world. This adaptation is necessary and companies will be left behind if they do not create a plan for a worldwide water shortage and more broadly the fast-changing natural world.