Questionnaire focuses on usage, operations and supply chains and management strategies in water-intensive sectors.
By Andrew Maddocks
Circle of Blue
The Carbon Disclosure Project, a non-profit that compiles global corporate climate change data, announced the launch of a questionnaire today that will poll 300 businesses in water-intensive industries to release detailed information about their usage of the precious resource.
This is the first time that the independent British-based organization is applying its model for emissions’ measurements to water. Companies will measure and disclose information on their water usage, explore the risks and opportunities in their operations and supply chains, as well as water management and improvement plans.
The results, which will be published in late 2010, will give the companies and their investors new tools to analyze water-related risks and bottom line opportunities.
Marcus Norton, head of the water disclosure program, said the survey’s broad acceptance is a sign that companies are beginning to understand water as an important part of their supply chain.
“Companies will need to operate in a water-constrained world,” Norton told Circle of Blue. “Investors will be very interested in knowing that it’s a part of their long-term planning.”
Companies participating this year are concentrated in water-intensive sectors, and includes Ford, L’Oréal, PepsiCo and Reed Elsevier already signed on. More than 130 financial institutions with a combined $16 trillion in assets, which includes Allianz Group, HSBC, ING, and National Australia Bank, are also contributing, according to a CDP press release.
Molson Coors, the global brewing company, announced this week that it not only be a reporting company, but a lead sponsor for the Water Disclosure project. Molson Coors sponsored the recent WaterViews survey of public opinion, published by Circle of Blue, which found that water tops climate change as a global priority.
“This effort will go a long way toward providing a common framework for companies to assess and report on their water usage and water-related risk moving forward,” said Bart Alexander, vice president global corporate responsibility for Molson Coors in the press release.
The questionnaire has three general categories: water management and governance, water-related risks, and metrics. The first group of questions asks how companies work with various parties, from governments to local groups, when it comes to their water supply. Investors interested in these businesses, Norton said, want to know how companies are anticipating the dangers of operating in water-scarce regions.
Norton said CDP designed the survey to collect meaningful data that doesn’t create an excessive reporting burden. While it’s a “rocky” process that will develop over many years, companies have no incentive to mislead shareholders, Norton said.
While carbon emissions have the same effect on London as they do on Michigan, the effect of water scarcity varies across the globe, making useful data harder to gather. This makes localized information the most valuable, according to Norton.
“Until you look at that I don’t think the data is truly meaningful,” he said.
CDP aims to use the project as a lens that connects local and global water issues that will, in turn, give companies and investors far more information, awareness and understanding.
“This is an iterative process of improvement,” Norton said. “We’ll be developing modules for different industries and sectors.”
Eventually, Norton will use the survey’s first year to explore ways the survey should expand and hopes to prioritize two additional categories: the largest, most water-intensive companies and the regions with the worst water scarcity.
Meanwhile Norton says this project will advance global awareness of the water crisis in the coming years.
“I’ve heard people describe us with water as where we were with carbon and climate change five years ago.”
Companies have until July 31 to respond to CDP’s survey.
is a Washington, D.C–based correspondent for Circle of Blue. He graduated from DePauw University as a Media Fellow with a B.A. in Conflict Studies. He co-writes The Stream, a daily summary of global water news.