The Value of Water for Business

According to UN-Water, the impacts of climate change are felt first and foremost through water.  Increasing global temperatures cause drought, flooding and other extreme weather events 一 all of which pose a direct threat to businesses and the communities they operate in.  

Today 3.6 billion people worldwide live in water-stressed areas and without further action based on projected demand, the world will face a 40 per cent shortfall in freshwater supply within 10 years. 

Companies around the world are increasingly recognizing the value of water and the serious financial impact that water scarcity poses to their businesses.  A 2020 report from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) estimates that some $301 billion of business value is at risk due to water scarcity, pollution and climate change.  

The Water Resilience Coalition (WRC), whose corporate members boast a $2.8 trillion total market capitalization, is an initiative of the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate.  The CEO Water Mandate provides a framework for companies to take action on water and provides peer-learning opportunities for all. The CEOs involved in the WRC focus on finding climate-smart water solutions that address water stress.  The Coalition aims to positively impact water in 100 basins worldwide and to secure sustainable access to drinking water and sanitation for 100 million people by 2030. 

During this session, you will learn:

  • Why water resilience is critical to business performance and sustainability
  • How to set, meet and stay accountable for ambitious water targets
  • Best practice examples of strategies that companies have adopted to increase water sustainability and resilience.
  • How to join the CEO Water Mandate and Water Resilience Coalition (WRC)


Speakers Include:


Antony Currie, Reuters Breakingviews


Jason Morrison, Head, CEO Water Mandate & President, the Pacific Institute

Mark Breitbard, President and CEO, Gap Brand

Michael Kobori, Chief Sustainability Officer, Starbucks

Kelly Ann Naylor, Vice-Chair, UN-Water

Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director of the UN Global Compact

Faith Lawrence, Country Coordinator, Natural Resources Stewardship Programme South Africa, GIZ

Paul Fleming, Water Manager, Microsoft

Closing Remarks: 

Doug Baker, Executive Chairman of the Board, Ecolab

What we learned: 

  • Enhancing corporate water leadership doesn’t just make sense from an ethical point of view 一 it’s also vital from a business point of view.  Businesses are set to lose millions unless they act now.
  • As stated by Starbucks’ Chief Sustainability Officer, Michael Kobori, collective action is essential.  “Water is a shared resource - therefore the challenges and solutions to the water crisis must be addressed collectively.  One company alone cannot protect a whole basin, but joining forces with other companies and organizations can have a major impact.”  
  • Collective action is also central to tackling the fundamental issue of water policy and governance where company and non-company voices can work together to address systemic barriers that impede water security.
  • Water is also tied to key social issues, for example as Gap Brand’s President and CEO, Mark Breitbard stated,  “Water is critical to the health and well-being of the people who make our products, the majority of whom are women (80%).  Women face a disproportionate burden from lack of water resources in those regions.”  
  • Through the release of their Open Letter, CEOs are calling on other companies to join the Water Resilience Coalition and help fight the water and climate crises by delivering a net-positive water impact, establishing water resilient value chains, and leading global water advocacy.
  • The Coalition offers businesses the practical support and guidance they need to improve corporate water sustainability and also provide a platform for global water leadership and advocacy.   
  • The Water Action Hub and Ecolab Smart Water Navigator are free online tools that help companies assess their water risks, set informed, contextual water targets and develop plans to achieve them. All companies can use these tools to take action now on water stewardship. 

Recommended Resources 

  • News