Forward Faster- Water Resilience

18 September 2023 was the landmark day when the UN Global Compact (UNGC) launched the Forward Faster initiative to accelerate private sector progress to deliver on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and meet the 2030 Agenda. The initiative has identified nine targets in five thematic areas – gender equality, climate action, living wage, water resilience, and finance & investment. These thematic areas have been identified based on their potential to accelerate progress across all SDGs where the private sector can collectively make the biggest, fastest impact by 2030. Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director of the UNGC said: “Now more than ever companies are acting on sustainability, but there’s still not enough progress towards meeting the 2030 Agenda. Companies must be more ambitious and put words into action. Forward Faster is here to guide companies on where they can make the biggest, fastest impact for 2030.”

This blog will unveil one of the key thematic areas of Forward Faster called ‘Water Resilience.

Introduction:

“Hailing from a city surrounded by Brahmaputra, a transboundary river that flows from Tibet, Northeastern India, and Bangladesh, water is always assumed to be abundant in the region of Northeast. However, growing up one witnessed the issues associated with water, a necessity for all human beings. With severe downpours and annual floods, along with the inadequacy of potable water supply, I have witnessed the grave impact it causes to not only the people and their daily chores but also the rich flora and fauna of the region that is slowly depleting at the face of natural and man-made disasters. With urbanization being on the rise, groundwater extraction is moving towards a semi-critical stage. As the condition is only likely to exacerbate the resident’s sufferings, one may see the faces show the weight they carry as they witness the impact of climate change”.

While this is a small anecdote of a region in northeast India, the condition is similar in almost every part of the world. Climate change is looming large across the globe and most climate-related risks come down to water including floods, droughts, and cyclones. It has been estimated that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages[1]. Groundwater resources, which account for 62 percent of irrigation water, are declining. Heavy reliance on rainfall and lack of efficient irrigation systems are major problems in rural areas, where almost 70 percent of the Indian population reside[2]. As India ranked 7th in the Global Climate Risk Index 2021, the need arises to act soon, to act collectively towards building resilience in water operations and supply chain models. Recognizing the water crisis globally and nationally, the UNGC has initiated a Global Initiative called ‘Forward Faster – Water Resilience’ to call businesses worldwide to set water resilient ambitious targets for themselves.

What is Forward Faster Water Resilience?

The Forward Faster Water Resilience is aligned with the commitment areas of the CEO Water Mandate, an initiative of the UNGC in partnership with the Pacific Institute that seeks to mobilize a critical mass of business leaders to address global water challenges through corporate water stewardship. The global water crisis is one of the most urgent sustainability challenges of the 21st century, presenting humanitarian, environmental, and economic concerns. Today, Businesses of all kinds are recognizing the value of water and the serious financial impact that water scarcity poses to their operations. A 2020 Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) report estimates that some $301 billion of business value is at risk due to water scarcity, pollution and climate change[3]. Businesses today cannot solely rely on economic metrics such as revenue, profit, and growth for their development. The environmental and social commitment to the people and planet are key aspects of assessing their business’s reputation and risk profiles. Therefore, collaboration between the public and private sectors is critical to achieving these shared goals and unlocking the co-benefits of water security for other SDGs.

Target 1- “Build water resilience across global operations and supply chains and join hands to achieve collective positive water impact in at least 100 vulnerable prioritized water basins by 2030”.

Defining Key terms

  • Build Water Resilience- We wish to engage with water in such a way that it is resilient to future shocks and stressors. For instance, the water operations that companies rely on are likely to turn obsolete in the face of environmental adversities and climate change. Therefore, the target’s focus is to build resilience among businesses so that they can face such challenges and vulnerabilities in the future.
  • Global Operations and Supply Chain- Building water resilience is crucial in both the site of operation and the supply chains from where materials are sourced. For instance, in a textile manufacturing company, the stressors can be felt in both the site where the operation and dyeing process takes place, and on the fields where the cotton is grown and procured from.
  • Collective Action- When companies operate alone in water, there is only a handful that can be done, but when companies working in operations and supply chain bring together their resources, expertise, and shared interest, they can not only multiply the impact in curtailing risks, but also strengthen local collaborations with CSOs, governments, and like-minded individuals to bring greater impact and accelerate progress.
  • Positive Water Impact- Positive water impact not only focuses on reducing the negative impact that companies have on the water ecosystem such as inadequate water discharge treatment or over usage of water, but also the acceleration of positive practices such as investing in solutions that have positive water impact, for instance restoring a wetland, or treating water ecosystems.
  • Prioritized Water Basins- Globally, 100 priority water basins have been selected where the risks are high in terms of water quality, water quantity and water accessibility. Basins were further prioritized according to those with economic relevance, significant corporate presence and interest in collaboration as well as the presence of local partners to enact programs that address local water challenges and bring about positive change. In India, the prioritized water stressed basins are Ganges, Godavari,Krishna, Indus, Yamuna and Sutlej.

The Indian signatories forthe Forward Faster’s Water Resilience Target are HCL Technologies Ltd., Maithri Aquatech Pvt. Ltd. and Banka BioLoo Ltd. We call more Indian corporations to join hands in collective positive water impact and be a part of this journey towards achieving water stewardship and global recognition of the best practices being implemented.

Together, we can drive urgency towards preserving the world’s water resources and ensuring access to safe and clean water for all. But the question lies in how can the businesses of today join hands in water resilience? To find out, look out for the second part of the blog that would give a detailed description of how businesses can achieve water resilience in their operations and supply chain. The blog would also highlight key initiatives undertaken by UN GCNI in building water resilience with Indian corporations and like-minded organizations

Join UNGCNI now: https://globalcompact.in/participant-engagement/

Take proactive steps and join the movement:https://forwardfaster.unglobalcompact.org/water-resilience  

Read more: https://unglobalcompact.org/what-is-gc/our-work/environment/water 

Explore the comprehensive guide: https://info.unglobalcompact.org/forwardfaster_water_resilience

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[1] https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/water-scarcity

[2] https://www.rural21.com/english/a-closer-look-at/detail/article/strengthening-indias-resilience-to-climate-change-through-water-security.html

[3] https://www.cdp.net/en/research/global-reports/global-water-report-2020