Pacific Institute

Corporate Reporting on Water - A Review of Eleven Global Industries

Water is a crucial resource for nearly all industry activities. Yet decreasing water availability, declining water quality, and growing water demands from nonindustrial water users are creating new challenges to businesses that have traditionally taken clean and reliable water for granted. Around the world, corporations are now facing diverse water risks, including changing allotments, more stringent water-quality regulations, growing community interest and control over local resources, and increased public scrutiny of water-related activities. Confronted by these challenges, some businesses are starting to see the need to take more proactive and comprehensive strategic water management actions,
and to report on those actions to shareholders and the public. In this study, we offer a comprehensive review of corporate reports, with a focus on evaluating how companies are recognizing, addressing, and reporting their water- related risks and practices.

Corporations have long published annual financial reports describing economic trends and opportunities in their sector, as well as the yearly performance of their own firms. Over the past two decades, a growing number of companies have begun publishing non-financial reports to describe their environmental and social performance to their stakeholders, with the understanding that these factors are increasingly tied to financial performance and company reputation. Unlike financial reporting, sustainability reports take diverse formats, and the information presented in them varies widely from company to company. This is partly because sustainability reporting is still in the process of being harmonized, but also because the information that is considered material to a company and its stakeholders varies greatly among companies and industry sectors. In other words, the contents of such reports reflect what companies (and sometimes their stakeholders) perceive as critical. This study focuses on a review of corporate reporting pertaining to freshwater use and quality in an effort to provide insights on the type and extent of water risks businesses are recognizing as significant, as well as how they are striving to manage those risks.

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