The analytical report is based on comprehensive sociological research on the role of business in water resource conservation. The study was initiated and carried out by NAFI Research Centre and Lake Baikal Foundation.
Russia is included in the range of top-three countries, which have the hugest water reserves in the world. The pressure on water resources is on the rise: they do not have enough time to restore and self-purify. Russian companies play a key role in water resource conservation at the national level. The goal of the study was to explore understanding of Russian commercial companies of their role in water conservation. In particular, the awareness of the entrepreneurs on the concept ‘corporate water footprint’ was investigated.
Anastasia Tsvetkova, CEO Lake Baikal Foundation:
«Partnerships with Russian companies on sustainable management of water resources is impossible without interpretation of current understanding of ‘water’ question in business-processes from perspectives of national regulations, international trends, and strategies of the companies. Gathering good analytics is a step in the direction of the development of dialogue with the key stakeholder and an attempt to join efforts in water resource conservation. Conducted research we consider as a profound ground for launching systems partnerships of business, NGOs and the state, which will contribute to the vital water conservation tasks in Russia».
Representatives of Russian SMEs, in general, are well-aware of trends in sustainable development. Almost have of the companies (47%) already include various aspects related to sustainable development in their annual reports. However, water management is rarely taken into account in companies’ strategies (only 5% among SMEs include responsible water management in the corporate strategy). 30% of respondents assume that compliance with international and national standards in the sphere of water management plays a huge role for their company.
The entrepreneurs do not see any direct link between the implementation of sustainable development practices and benefits for the business. More than half of the SMEs (52%) shared the view, that only practical benefit (reducing running costs, certification, etc) from the calculation of the water footprint can become a stimulus to introduce it in the corporate practice.
According to the research, material costs accounting related to water is held in half of the SMEs (50%), first of all, utility bills are kept track. The estimation of the amount of water used takes place in 39% of companies – the most common case is the calculation of the water amount necessary for technical water supply and drinking water.
The measure, which companies see as their key contribution to reducing their water footprint, is to withdraw less freshwater from the water resources. This conclusion comes from expert interviews with the representatives of the companies.
ESG-agenda (particularly, its environmental aspect) only starts to mainstream among Russian entrepreneurs. Awareness about sustainable water resource management is still superficial and often does not suppose specific actions from the companies. Nevertheless, according to sustainable development reports, transparency and the levels of detail of data on water management disclosure of the big companies is rising, especially, among resource extracting companies. However, these data are presented as a range of separate activities and technological solutions. It is often not obvious, how implemented initiatives are embedded into the corporate long-term strategy of the key players on the market.
Irina Hildebrandt, Head of Social and Economic Research Projects of NAFI:
«Despite the development and popularization of ESG-agenda among Russian businesses, implementation of the best practices is still at an initial stage. ‘Corporate water footprint’ is an important element of the environmental aspect for sustainable corporate governance, but 71% of the respondents heard this term for the first time during our survey. Evidently, at this stage, the questions related to responsible water management are more relevant for big companies, and separate sectors of the economy (metal industry, mining, oil and gas, mechanic engineering), which require a huge amount of water. The majority of the companies from other spheres almost do not regulate this question. Unfortunately, they do not see the connection between control of the corporate water footprint and benefits for the companies.
We are certain, that conducting comprehensive research on opinions and viewpoints of the market payers might become a driver to activate complex water conservation measures at governmental and business levels, as well as to monitor the effectiveness of already implemented solutions».
The text of the research is accessible via the link.