Corporate Water Stewardship and the Case for Green Infrastructure

 

From forests that help provide clean water for communities, to wetlands that reduce the risk of flooding for cities, to natural habitats that channel rainfall into rivers and springs, “green infrastructure” offers a variety of benefits that are typically associated with built “gray infrastructure” such as levees or water treatment plants.

Private sector investment in green infrastructure can reduce water-related risks while helping companies become water stewards and implement innovative long-term solutions to freshwater challenges.

The next few decades of global water infrastructure investment will be transformative. The choices made today by both the public and private sectors may determine whether the water crisis that looms in today’s headlines is a harbinger of things to come or a turning point toward a more collaborative and sustainable management of our resources.

A Conservation International report, Corporate Water Stewardship and the Case for Green Infrastructure, makes the case for private sector investment in green infrastructure as part of a broader water stewardship approach that benefits companies, stakeholders in the watersheds where they operate, and the global community committed to sustainable development.

Data, literature, and real-world examples — including case studies from the forestry, packaging and paper, utilities, and food and beverage sectors — led to the following conclusions and recommendations:

  • Companies around the world are increasingly facing water-related risks, such as flooding that can damage infrastructure, or pollution that requires treating water before it can be used as an input.
  • Green infrastructure in the form of natural, near-natural or restored areas is an underused corporate water stewardship solution.
  • By supporting the protection, restoration and management of green infrastructure, companies and other stakeholders can reap multiple rewards that reduce water-related risks and provide other benefits such as biodiversity conservation.
  • Putting green infrastructure at the forefront of corporate water stewardship not only helps companies achieve multiple sustainability goals, it also helps advance the broader application and science of green infrastructure.
  • Financing mechanisms provide multiple pathways for companies to invest in green water infrastructure.
  • ​With increased global attention on nature-based solutions, biodiversity conservation and the private sector’s contributions to meeting sustainability goals, it is time for companies to take leadership roles in supporting green infrastructure — building expertise in the type of integrated, creative and at-scale water solutions that are needed for the next century.

 

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