What does it mean for a business to be “water positive”?


Many companies have said they will become carbon neutral in the coming decades. Now, there is another environmental commitment that companies are making: the positivity of water. Microsoft, Google and Facebook have all pledged to become water positive by 2030, as have BP and Gap at later dates.

Amanda Schupak wrote about the positivity of water for the Guardian. She spoke to Kai Ryssdal, host of “Marketplace“, companies that are committed to tackling water scarcity. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: I need a little help with the vocabulary here. Positive water – what does it mean?

Amanda Schupak: So being positive for water means putting more water back into the environment where you operate than you take out.

Ryssdal: Alright, how does that work? Because I mean, yeah, I know all the water on the planet today, you know, has been around for so long, and it came from dinosaurs or whatever. But it’s not like we’re producing more water.

Schupak: Law. So obviously you can’t magically make more water appear. It is not an option. Thus, the actions necessary to achieve these positive water goals that companies set for themselves usually involve a combination of water saving strategies and then long term projects involving outside experts in environmental or environmental matters. infrastructure to improve health and resilience. of the local watershed. And the watershed part is really important, and that’s because water is a hyperlocal problem.

Ryssdal: Yes, say more about it. Because that was the # like question, 3 or 4 on my list. Carbon emissions are global by nature, aren’t they? They blow themselves up and this and that. Water is water where you are.

Schupak: Water is water where you are. This is exactly the point. “Hyperlocal” means that the water problems a person faces in one place can be very, very different from their neighbor in another state, or even from their neighbor on the other side of the crest of that mountain there. -low.

Ryssdal: It’s almost like that old bumper sticker: “Think globally, act locally”. Law?

Schupak: Yes. As one of my sources told me, using water is good. The goal is to minimize the negative impact of the water you use. And water means different things in different places.

Ryssdal: Law. So with that in mind, tell me about the PepsiCo plant in Mexico that you talk about in this article. I mean, there’s a bit of greenwashing, there’s a little, sort of engineering going on here. There is a lot going on.

Schupak: There are. The watershed of the Valley of Mexico is therefore in serious difficulty. The water table is so low that the city is sinking. People do not have adequate access to safe drinking water. The infrastructure is in very poor condition. And then you have companies like PepsiCo and others that have significant manufacturing facilities there. And so what Pepsi realized they had to do is something, isn’t it? Like, it’s just not sustainable. They truck water from afar to make sodas and snacks, and they can’t keep doing that. It is really expensive. And it’s not a great look either, although that’s not how they told me. So what they do is first find ways to use less water and then treat the water on site so that they can reuse the water. And then they even take some of that reused water and use it somewhere else. So the example I give in the story is that they have to clean the tanks and the pipes when they go from Pepsi to Mountain Dew. And after they clean these pipes, they can take this water, they can process it, put it in a truck, go I think it’s nine or 15 miles across town where they have a factory that makes chips. And they can use that water to clean the potatoes that they cook in French fries.

Ryssdal: Which is, at first glance, great. And if these companies keep their promises in terms of positive water, it is a net positive for the environment and for humanity at a time when water will only become scarce. But what’s the risk, do you imagine, that these positive pledges and commitments for water will become a bit like ‘Oh, we’re going to be carbon neutral by 2050’, and companies and countries are saying it, and there? is there a very big grain of salt to have with that?

Schupak: Oh yes. The risk is high. This grain of salt is indeed big. I mean, it’s a problem that these are voluntary commitments. And the experts I spoke to said that it’s very important that we see things like milestones by 2050. I want to see all the numbers in your sustainability reports. All of these things will help hold businesses accountable. But at the end of the day, if they miss those goals, all they have to do is shrug.


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