Monday, April 19, 2010

Water as a "Critical Business Issue:" Sustainability Expert Will Sarni's New Book to Address Rapidly Growing Business Issue

Will Sarni, founder and CEO of DOMANI Sustainability Consulting, is one of the nation's leading experts on using sustainable strategies to improve business performance. Consequently, when he talks about a rising business issue it is worth paying close attention.

Mr. Sarni, who has degrees in hydrogeology, has a long and successful career in environmental consulting. He has authored many books, including Greening Brownfields, and given scores of presentations. Recently he has identified corporations' "water footprint" as being as significant a business issue as their "carbon footprint." Early this year he wrote about this concept in this blog (click here to see his commentary).

Recently Mr. Sarni and I talked about the growing need for businesses to think carefully about water strategies. Among his observations are:
Multinational corporations have now recognized to varying degrees that sustainability is an essential element of their business strategies. Resource constraints are one of the significant business drivers for sustainability. These constraints can present a material risk to their business, restrict their license to operate, and have a negative impact on their brand value.

Water has now emerged as a critical issue for multinational corporations and for the public sector. Historically, business has viewed water as a minimal cost of doing business and not a strategic issue. However, this has changed in response to extreme drought conditions in Australia and the U.S. and increased recognition that multinational corporations play a critical role in addressing the challenges of global water shortages.
Partly in response to this new challenge facing business as well as his own experience in consulting with major multinational firms on water issues, Mr. Sarni is now writing a book entitled Corporate Water Strategies that will be published in 2011. It is worth noting that one of the world's premier environmental/sustainability publishers, London-based Earthscan, will be publishing Mr. Sarni's book. This is yet another indication of the importance of the underlying issue.

Mr. Sarni, who has been a regular contributor to this blog, has shared the book outline with us. Among the key topics that the book will address include:
  • The Global Challenge of Water
  • Global Issues With Local Solutions
  • The Water Pricing Versus Water Value Problem: Water is not priced according to its actual value, a matter that is complicated by the fact that all users of water have an equal right to this water at a low cost.
  • The Implications of "Virtual Water": Virtual water is also known as embedded or embodied water and refers to, within the context of trade, how much water is used in the production of a product.
  • Water and License to Operate: The issue of "license to operate" is essential for any business, and civil society has the ability to withdraw this license to operate for a business not only through regulatory controls but also through activism.
  • Water as a Brand Value: The intangible value (brand and reputational value) of a company as a percentage of the total value has risen steadily over the past several decades; in particular this increase in brand value makes companies very sensitive to any threat to their brand.
  • The Role of the CEO and the CEO Water Mandate: The "green" CEO has emerged as a powerful voice in mobilizing companies to truly build a sustainable business operation; leadership by CEOs is now a powerful tool in not only addressing globally sustainable challenges such as water and climate but also driving top and bottom line growth for their companies.
  • Developing and Implementing a Successful Corporate Water Strategy
  • Case Studies
  • The Future: Where are we headed with regards to building a sustainable approach to global water issues?
As mentioned above, the book will not be available until 2011. But in the meantime, it is well worth our time to listen to Will Sarni, a sustainability opinion leader, and to begin thinking about the challenges as well as business and professional opportunities that will arise from this new approach to thinking about water.

In this regard, the Carbon Disclosure Project has recently asked more than 300 of the largest global companies to being reporting for the first time on water use and other water-related issues "to increase the availability of high quality business information and raise awareness of water-related risk."

--Don Smith
Director of ENRL Graduate Program

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