There is an immediate need for more businesses to recognize the risks water scarcity poses to their company’s bottom line and the communities in which they operate in Latin America, according to SABMiller Peru Managing Director Fernando Zavala.
Speaking at the Sustainable Innovation Forum, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, Zavala stressed the increasing risks water scarcity poses to business and society, while also talking about the economic, social and environmental benefits of tackling climate change and investing in water security in the region.
More than 70 percent of the global brewer’s business is in developing markets, many of which already suffer from water scarcity. Through its sustainable development strategy, Prosper, SABMiller has set itself demanding targets to reduce its water use and carbon footprint throughout its whole value chain, from grain to glass. Now it is calling other businesses in the region to do the same.
Leading a closed VIP Roundtable on Tuesday, with leaders from NGOs, multilaterals, government and other businesses on water scarcity, Zavala said: “Investing in the security of water in Latin America isn’t just an environmental issue — it’s a very real business risk, and an investment which contributes to our profits. It is in our interest to work with other businesses, local communities, and governments to tackle shared water risks in the region to secure and replenish the water basins we all depend on.”
Zavala highlighted Latin America’s water challenges, a region which accounts for one-third of SABMiller’s profits — as a pertinent case study: “While abundant, water is often in the wrong place throughout Latin America, in areas of low population density. In Lima, for example, the 2nd-driest city after Cairo, Egypt, nearly 15 percent of the population has no access to the water network and depends on more expensive ways of obtaining water. In Peru, like in our other markets, we are committed to growing sustainably — water security has become an important element of our work.”
The 2020 targets set out how SABMiller plans to address five ‘shared imperatives’ that SABMiller believes are shared by society, business and government; securing shared water resources for SABMiller’s business and local communities is one of the five shared imperatives. The company is working to address this both locally and internationally through the Water Futures Partnership, a growing alliance of multi-national companies, global conservation NGOs and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH with the common goal to improve water security for people and businesses.
Businesses around the world would be wise to give water the weight that it warrants in terms of potential risks to their long-term viability. CDP’s latest annual global water report, released last month, found that two-thirds of the world's largest companies are reporting exposure to water risks, some of which have potential to limit growth. According to the report, 68 percent of businesses report exposure to water risk that could generate a substantive change in their business, operations or revenue, while 22 percent of companies anticipate that issues around water could actually limit the growth of their business.