Every drop counts, for our future and for your business

Every drop counts, for our future and for your business

“Water is the driving source of all nature,” as Leonardo da Vinci said many centuries ago.

Without water, we would simply not exist. It’s a similar story for industry: Without water, many businesses would be forced to shut down. And with the global demand for water expected to grow by more than 50 percent by 2030 and a limited supply, this precious resource is in danger of becoming increasingly scarce.

While water access has long been on the sustainability agenda of many companies - part of their corporate social responsibility programs - it has now also become an operational issue. With water resources under increasing pressure and regulations on water use expected to become stricter, industries are under growing risk of having less water for their operations. For companies, therefore, especially those in water intensive industries, a sustainable water strategy is becoming an existential necessity.

Turkey is not exempt from being deeply affected by the growing water risk. While Turkey’s water demand has been increasing rapidly, available water resources are set to drop by more than half by the end of the century. By 2020, most of Turkey’s territory will be under high water stress.

For Turkish manufacturers, some of whom use up to 90 percent more water than their international peers, water availability and quality is a growing operational, regulatory and reputational risk. Key economic centers such as Istanbul, Kocaeli, Ankara, Bursa, and İzmir are among the highest water risk areas due to their growing populations and intensive industrial activity.

The good news is that there are opportunities to address this situation. Turkey’s manufacturing sector has the potential to save enough water to meet annual demand of a city of the size of Ankara for example, with a payback period below three years, while unlocking 1.5 billion Turkish Liras in related savings. With a sound sustainable water strategy, these savings could be several times greater.

The solutions to address the water challenge for industrial manufacturers can range from simple saving measures to bigger scale water efficiency and waste water treatment projects. In either case, there are big gains to be made. The private sector can contribute by reassessing water consumption, rehabilitating water infrastructure and taking measures for water efficiency. In many cases, these measures are no longer only corporate responsibility, but necessary investments for their survival.

When Turkish paper company Modern Karton’s expansion plans were hampered by limited water supply, for example, an International Finance Corporation (IFC) loan enabled the company to recover its wastewater, saving a billion liters of water each year and minimizing the environmental impact to enable a 66 percent capacity expansion. By building an advanced wastewater recovery system, the company presently expanded production by 50 percent without increasing water use and became a leader in innovative paper production.
Industrial water efficiency should be approached beyond individual cases and companies. By partnering with industry associations, financial institutions, and other stakeholders, the impact can be much greater. In Bangladesh, through the Partnership for Cleaner Textile, IFC has supported the adoption of best practices in the sector. The program has advised over 200 wet mills and garment factories, slashing their water use by 18.4 billion liters per year.

It’s clear that industrial and financial institutions have a critical role to play in promoting sustainable water use across Turkey. But a business-as-usual approach will not be sufficient to address the growing challenge - this will require a strong joint effort by the public and private sectors, along with financiers and key stakeholders.

Companies need to manage the water risk not just in their operations, but also along their supply chains and within their portfolios. They must consider where their business and inputs are and focus on water efficiency. They also have to be strategic in their thinking and act fast. This is not only a matter of responsible corporate citizenship, but a key business decision for their very survival - and the survival of the planet for many more centuries.

Tomasz Telma is the International Finance Corporation’s Regional Director for Europe & Central Asia

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