Why India Inc must cut its ‘water footprint’ to thrive in global economy

By: | Published: January 8, 2018 5:27 AM

Across the globe, industrial societies thrive on an extensive use of water to run their manufacturing facilities and workplaces.

water crisis in india, indian companies water crisis, why should companies reduce water footprintThese industries discharge large quantities of water from their sites, and should assume responsibility by ensuring they leave no footprint. (Reuters)

Across the globe, industrial societies thrive on an extensive use of water to run their manufacturing facilities and workplaces. These industries discharge large quantities of water from their sites, and should assume responsibility by ensuring they leave no footprint. So, while the utility of water resources by Indian manufacturing firms will be inevitable as the country makes economic progress, how can these entities attain a ‘water positive’ status that is tied up with their overarching sustainable development vision? It is important that India Inc walks the talk and steps up efforts in resolving India’s looming water crisis. This will also give them the ‘license to lead’. The water situation in India reflects many concerns. A 2016 report by an international organisation,Water Aid India (WAI), has pointed out that 76 million Indians have no access to safe drinking water supply. Water supply in India for long has been dependent on two principal sources — rivers and groundwater. While Indian rivers continue to shrink as a result of gross industrial pollution, a growth in population over the decades has resulted in the depletion of groundwater resources.

Little wonder that the Indian government too has announced a water index to rank states on the merit of their water management capabilities. These developments clearly underscore the government’s renewed approach towards water conservation. But, will the government efforts alone suffice for delivering the ‘water for all’ promise?

Just like the carbon footprint, water management and resource development must feature on the corporate agenda. Companies need to first assess their water footprint or the total volume of freshwater that is used to run and support their company operations. By proactively reducing the water footprint, companies can turn water into a competitive advantage.

Indian corporates must adopt a three-pronged sustainability approach of reducing, recycling and replenishing water resources. Metering, monitoring and controlling water usage at manufacturing facilities, corporate and regional offices will be vital going forward. Companies can today deploy innovative water tools that measure and prioritise efficient use of water.

It is also becoming increasingly important for corporates to educate communities in rural locations they operate in on traditional methods such as rainwater harvesting and groundwater restoration. Investments must be channelised towards corporate social responsibility endeavors that empower farming communities with water efficient techniques like drip irrigation. Conjunctive use of surface and groundwater should be promoted for optimum utilisation of canal water and enhancing productivity.

Partnering with private institutes and universities for research on water management and resource development will be critical in India Inc’s quest for enabling a sustainable tomorrow. Fostering relations with local water administrators and researchers to improve systems for measuring and explaining variation in water resources will go a long way for India Inc in paving the way for a greener future.

To create a sustainable tomorrow, it is important that corporates broaden their view on the value they bring to societies. They will have to collaborate with the government on the mission in achieving their sustainable development goals with renewed emphasis on clean water and sanitation. They also need to revise the way an organisation’s success is measured and taken into account, both its positive and negative impact.

Needless to add, there has to be a focused strategic decision to prioritise the organisation’s significant levers to reveal the bigger picture. This could start by adopting strategic projects and measuring the positive and negative impacts that would include the sum total of all actions in economic, environmental and social areas to create more value on triple bottomline of people, planet and profit. Only then can one say an organisation’s ‘true value’ has been achieved.

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