SDGs and water: why invest?

An alert issued by the United Nations (UN) in June reports that about 130 countries are under threat, in the near future, from facing the worst drought of the century and another 23 will suffer from a lack of water related to growth. populational. The UN points out that 1.5 billion people have already been affected by problems of water scarcity worldwide, causing an economic loss of US$ 124 billion. ( Brazil Global Compact Network )

The alert serves for companies and organizations in the productive or service sector to position themselves in front of consumers and investors, in relation to their water footprint .

In recent years, consumers and investors are increasingly aware of the socio-environmental practices and impacts of companies and organizations. But how to accurately measure the most relevant impacts on companies' lives?

To achieve an optimal level of metrics and transparency, a United Nations (UN) initiative proposed, in 2005, guidelines and recommendations on the inclusion of environmental, social and governance issues in the management of companies and organizations. There, the principles of ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance, are established. Among the parameters proposed in the environmental pillar, the use of water is included .

In this specific case, one of the indicators is the water footprint, that is, how many cubic meters of water are needed for a given unit of product, be it a linear meter of fabric, or a ton of meat, for example.

Counselor Weber Amaral, from DEEP, PhD and MA in Environmental Public Policy and Professor at USP, explains that “ water, an increasingly scarce asset, is a super relevant indicator to be measured”.

“ It is important to understand and quantify the water footprint of each product, each service. The ideal for reducing impacts would be to design products and services based on the measures , with a view to reducing water consumption. There must be alternatives for producing a certain product so that it consumes less water”, says the counselor.

As for the mitigation of impacts, Amaral believes that it is possible, if there is a reduction in water pollutants resulting from the industrial process, through the use of filters, technologies and solutions so that the process water is not lost (with closed cycles in the production) and the  maximum reuse of water in production systems is carried out.

ESG and SDG 6 – the contribution of companies

Valuing the assets of companies and organizations through the practice of ESG involves contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed at the UN in 2015 and in force since 2016, covering topics such as sustainable consumption, climate change , economic inequality, innovation, diversity, peace and justice. There are 17 Goals , including SDG 6 and its sub-items, which specifically deal with water: “Ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.

The executive director of the UN-Rede Brasil Global Compact, Carlo Pereira, believes that a company that complies with ESG practices understands its negative and positive impacts on society and is able to act on them. “It is necessary to minimize the negatives and enhance the positives, as well as to equate the damage already caused”, he recalls.

The Global Compact is a UN initiative with the objective of engaging companies and organizations in the adoption of ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption .

“ Considering a changing climate, investing in ESG and risk management, including environmental and social issues related to water, is essential to ensure the longevity of the business. In a scenario of water and energy crisis, companies that already work with ESG/business sustainability issues related to water have an advantage, as they increase the competitiveness of the business sector in the domestic market and abroad, reduce costs, improve reputation, reduce risks and bring greater resilience in the face of the uncertainties of our time”, evaluates the executive director.

For Carlo, the company contributes to SDG 6 by implementing water management strategies that are socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial in the watersheds in which its operations have influence and in its supply chain.

Perception of individual investors

In addition to the ESG investment funds that exist today, which move trillions of dollars in shares, direct investments and funds of funds, there are more local investors who care about the sustainability of companies when investing and this makes companies have to evaluate the environmental issue within its strategies and products.

“ Investors should take sustainability into account when choosing a company to invest in, because if they choose a company that does not incorporate this into their strategies, the tendency is that they will start to lose revenue as the competition adopts those strategies, and the company perceives a loss in its customer niche. This all stems from the perception that  investors need to make more responsible investments, which has been a trend”, says Arthur Covatti, CEO of DEEP.






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