Water Scarcity Has to be Taken Seriously

With water security a rising concern, Japanese beverage giant, Suntory Holdings Ltd has merged science and nature into a Natural Water Sanctuary programme.

Just 14 percent of food sector companies have targets for reducing water pollution, according to data from CDP, a not-for-profit charity that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

In it’s recent report, A Wave of Change, CDP found that companies who disclosed through CDP’s water security questionnaire in 2020 risk losing up to a combined US$301bn in business value if they don’t address water risks.

The top water risks faced by companies are increased water scarcity, flooding, drought, severe weather events, and declining water quality.

“Water shortages are affecting more than 3 billion people worldwide, with the amount of freshwater available per person having lunged by a fifth over two decades. The water crisis must be approached with the same urgency and innovation as the COVID-19 crisis, and the business case for action is clearer than ever,” noted Cate Lamb, Global Director of Water Security at CDP.

“Some of the world’s thirstiest companies are already innovating by reasons water in creative ways.”

Suntory is one such innovator. The drinks company places water at the heart of its business and has established a long-term vision to become ‘water positive’ by 2050, with mid-term targets set for 2030.

To achieve this, Suntory has established its Sustainable Water Philosophy built around four pillars:

  • Understanding the local water cycle.
  • Promoting environmentally conscious water use at its facilities.
  • Conserving watersheds where the company sources water.
  • Engaging with local communities on this vital shared resource.

As part of its commitment, Suntory established its Natural Water Sanctuary in Japan back in 2003. Today the company manages 21 forest areas in its domestic market, the equivalent to around 12,000 hectares of land.

Suntory also supports a science-based approach to understand the natural water cycle, it conducts field studies to analyse factors like topology, geology, river run off, ground water level and water quality.

Taking action on water isn’t just about reducing business risk, explained Yuko Koshiishi, Senior G.M of the Corporate Sustainability Division at Suntory.

“Reduced risk is and important element of water sustainability not only for the business itself but also for the natural environment and the communities in the watershed,” commented Koshiishi, adding that it is imperative for businesses to safeguard access to water for communities in which they source it.

“Water is a precious shared resource.”