There is a pressing need for companies to address water risks in their supply chain, according to well-known sustainability innovator Nelson Switzer, chief sustainability officer for Nestlé Waters North America, speaking at a national environmental conference today.
“As the effects of climate change increase and extreme weather patterns persist, the water supply in the U.S. is threatened, creating serious environmental and economic risks for companies across the country. These threats are not exclusive to any one industry. Water scarcity is a problem that poses significant risk to every person and every business,” said Switzer in his keynote address at the Environmental Leader Conference in Denver, CO.
“We, as business leaders, need to assess and mitigate our risks through active management plans. We can no longer be strictly reactive, addressing water concerns when there are quality or quantity issues, regulatory or community concerns,” he added.
Proactive management of water resources is the key to effective corporate water policy. Such policies should be considered part of the overall protocols such as human resources, environmental standards and financial transparency, which each govern corporate conduct today, according to Switzer.
“We must start understanding our total water impact from rivers to watershed, and from product to supply chain. For many companies the answers will be quite surprising,” he said.
Steps that companies need to take when beginning to analyze and understand their water vulnerability include:
Understanding the current state of water risks at the watershed level;
- Engage internally at their operational facilities as well as at the corporate level as well as externally with stakeholders to evaluate risks and impact;
- Report externally and seek independent assurance
- Understand water poses material risks to their operations and supply chains
- Develop a corporate water policy
In addition to this speaking venue, Switzer shares his perspective on water risk management in posts on his LinkedIn.