Doing More With Less Water

The costs of water risk (Image credit: Ecolab)

Amid growing fears that water scarcity could impede business growth (and the reality in places such as California), Ecolab sees an opportunity for companies to improve efficiencies and sustainability. But getting companies to share that vision requires it to confront the old adage “out of sight, out of mind,” and develop innovative ways to make water risk an actionable business metric.

“Sustainability is core to our mission, and water is a common thread across our divisions,” said Emilio Tenuta, Ecolab’s VP of Corporate Sustainability. “My mandate is to help our commercial teams constructively address water scarcity with our 1.3 million customer locations worldwide.”

The company introduced a tool in 2014 to help realize Tenuta’s challenge.

The Water Risk Monetizer is a user-friendly, online tool that lets any business calculate the risk-adjusted price for the water they use. Hidden behind the interface of the expanded version, launched in August, are calculations and estimates around water availability in a particular geography, the effects of current and likely regulation, and how water risk might impact company revenue or brand reputation.

More intriguingly, Ecolab offers the Water Risk Monetizer freely to anybody who visits the site and the company does not have access to the data entered, which remains completely confidential. So far, it has been accessed more than 10,000 times.

“If you can monetize it, you can measure it; if you can measure it, you can manage it; if you can manage it, you can improve it.”

“We want to change the paradigm of how businesses value water risk, and empower them to make better decisions,” Tenuta explained.

For example, one multinational hotel chain used the Water Risk Monetizer to help with brand equity and budgeting, using the tool to identify properties that might be water stressed in the near future, and where investments in water technology are most essential now.

Water is already top of mind in many industries, and it’s one of the fastest-increasing line item expenses in many geographies, not just California, making sustainability less of corporate responsibility option, more of a core functional requirement.

In fact, this year the global water crisis rose to the number-one business risk in terms of impact, according to the World Economic Forum. And without action, global water demand could outstrip supply by up to 40% by 2030, according to the 2014 CDP Water Report.

Another innovative aspect of Ecolab’s work with customers is its eROI approach, which weaves together water reduction with safety, energy, and health improvements, thereby linking performance, efficiency, and sustainability into business metrics that clients can manage. The “e” stands for “exponential,” but could just as easily apply to its focus on “environment.”

“Our proprietary eROI approach equips our commercial teams to help our clients see the aggregated impacts of what were traditionally separate activities,” Tenuta said. Ecolab provides hundreds of these operational analyses each year.

“If we value water differently and provide relevant metrics, we can drive more operational resilience,” Tenuta concluded. “We see tremendous opportunities to innovate business growth.”

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