Over the past decade, an increasing number of companies recognise that water poses a significant risk to their business. Calling for sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, the new sustainable development goals are emerging as one alternative framework for action. They will also steer part of the evaluation of progress toward addressing the global water challenges that create water-related business risk.
Pioneering businesses are already addressing potential risks and adopting better water stewardship approaches - as embodied by Coop, one of Switzerland's largest retailers and wholesalers businesses. Working with WWF and South Pole Group, Coop integrated emission reduction projects directly into its operations, focusing specifically on water in the fair trade supply chain. This practice of relating emission reduction projects to the business value chain is referred to as "insetting".
Part of Coop's coffee beans are sourced from rural Kagera, a region located in the northwestern corner of Tanzania and home to nearly 2.5 million people. Kagera has the highest proportion of rural households in the country, and many locals work as smallholder farmers growing mainly cooking bananas and coffee. Supply with safe drinking water remains a challenge in Kagera, where over one third of the people boil water to make it safe for drinking. The South Pole Group managed project Coop invested in aims to employ local entrepreneurs to enable sustained supply of household water filters, while also focusing on awareness raising in the communities. Until 2020, over 30 thousand tonnes of CO2 will be prevented from emission into the atmosphere by replacing water boiling with a low-carbon filter technology. To ensure adequate stakeholder involvement, the project also works closely with the local coffee exporter:
"We are very happy about the project. In order to produce better coffee, people need to take care about their health and their families. The water filter project helps our farmers to have safe drinking water to stay healthy and us to ensure long-term supply of high quality coffee", says Leonard Kachebonaho, General Manager of Kaderes Peasant Development (KPD), the local company in charge of buying, processing and exporting the coffee.
Leveraging synergies between carbon compensation and better water stewardship is paying off for Coop: It is fortifying trust among its stakeholders and minimising water-related business risk along its value chain while creating shared value within the communities it operates in. Not to mention leading the way for more businesses to follow suit.