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Business Case


June 2002


Dear friend,

There are emerging signals, some strong, some faint, that the business case is building for companies to develop more coordinated and forward-looking water strategies. Water costs are increasing, business disruption risks are growing, and stakeholders are becoming more concerned about companies’ water-related performance. Global demand for freshwater continues to grow, while many water sources are showing signs of stress such as rising pollutant levels or withdrawal rates that exceed replenishment rates. While these trends do not affect all companies and geographic regions equally, these signals are likely to grow stronger in the coming years. Companies that understand the trends shaping the global business environment will be better positioned to identify new market opportunities, mitigate risk, develop sustainable water strategies, and create shareholder value.

Freshwater availability and quality are not just issues for business. Perhaps more than any other issue, freshwater stands out as a sustainability challenge. Businesses, communities, and ecosystems everywhere depend on clean freshwater to survive and prosper. When water needs in one area—economic, social, or environmental—become threatened, the risks to all increase.

Balancing competing water needs requires creative, collaborative, and coordinated management. Companies need to think in new ways, listen closely to critical customers, and innovate. Water resources can be managed more efficiently within the factories, fields, and other places where businesses operate. Businesses are finding benefits in taking steps beyond their fence lines to address water challenges. Partnerships with local communities, investments in source water protection, and supply chain initiatives offer promising results. In addition, significant business opportunity lies in assuring that people, ecosystems, agriculture, and industry have sufficient access to clean freshwater into the future. Those companies that listen to the signals and find ways to meet global and local water sustainability needs will increasingly create shareholder value and competitive advantage.

GEMI’s Water Sustainability Work Group has developed this tool to help you better understand and guide your own organization’s relationship to water. The five steps, or modules, in this tool assist you to identify water-related opportunities and risks, determine the business case for action, and engage your organization—whether it is a department, facility, or company—in developing and implementing an effective water strategy. Case studies demonstrate how several of our companies have reduced risk and created significant business value through coordinated action. Sections on common challenges, water trends, and perspectives on water sustainability provide additional guidance and context. GEMI has also developed a companion website ( with additional resources to help you use this tool.

As Ben Franklin wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1746, “When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.” We believe it is within our collective ability to design a future of opportunity in which the well is full for all.


Paul S. Halberstadt
ConAgra Foods
  Harry J. Ott
The Coca-Cola Company

Co-Chairs, GEMI Water Sustainability Work Group