Linkages Across Sustainability Issues


Though practice in this area is quite nascent, companies also endeavor to consider and report the linkages between water and other sustainability topics, such as food production, energy use, land use, and climate change. The figure below highlights some of these core linkages.

The Water-Energy-Food Nexus


At a minimum, audiences should understand how water is inextricably linked to these other challenges and how companies must consider water management in the context of other sustainability issues. More robust reporting might include a description of the effects of such linkages on water-related business risks and how considerations related to sustainability trade-offs inform specific corporate strategies.

Examples of linkages and trade-offs across sustainability issues

Linkages and trade-offs across sustainability issues potentially affect each of the three major sections of Detailed Disclosure. Examples of the possible water-related linkages and trade-offs companies can report, depending on their relevance to the company and its stakeholders, are as follows:

  1. Current state – the extent to which water-related challenges contribute to other corporate sustainability issues, including:
    • The water used to generate energy on which the company relies
    • Wastewater discharge resulting from the generation of energy on which the company relies
  2. Implications – how other sustainability challenges may affect the company’s approach to water management and corporate risk assessment, including:
    • The potential effects of drought on a company’s access to energy
    • The potential effects of land use decisions (e.g., deforestation, agricultural practices) on runoff and therefore the company’s access to water
    • The potential effects of upstream agricultural runoff on the company’s access to clean water
  3. Response – the suitability and value of water-related response strategies (depending on the extent to which they create undesirable trade-offs):
    • The energy requirements and greenhouse gas emissions of wastewater treatment and water recycling systems
    • The water use implications of different crops and crop varieties
    • The energy implications of different irrigation options
    • The water use implications of alternative energy sources

The above list represents examples of linkages that companies might report. For many companies, reporting this full range of linkages is neither possible nor appropriate.