Why Water Conservation and Innovation Matter for Startups


From wildfires raging throughout the drought stricken western U.S., to excessive floods in Europe and the specter of rising sea ranges, challenges and dangers abound across the subject of water. As we cope with local weather change’s affect, water is already really a world difficulty: by 2025 two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants might face water shortages.

These are issues the funding and enterprise communities can’t afford to disregard. Contemplate this: in 2020 over 8,000 suppliers reported by way of the worldwide environmental disclosure group CDP that $1.26 trillion in income is probably going in danger over the subsequent 5 years as a consequence of local weather change, deforestation and water safety. That might lead company patrons to face value hikes of $120 billion. “Wherever you’re positioned, I assure you’ve acquired some type of water problem in your doorstep,” says Alaina Harkness, Govt Director at Current, a Chicago-based water innovation hub working to develop the blue financial system, speed up innovation and remedy urgent water challenges. 

Alaina lately joined 500 Startups to debate why early stage corporations want to consider water conservation now, and the way they’ll method stewardship and innovation with regards to water. Advances in water expertise are actually going to be vital going ahead, however this isn’t simply a difficulty for the water enterprise or for mature corporations which can be heavy water customers. “Water creates plenty of threat for your corporation, even when you’re not a water enterprise,” says Alaina. 

These dangers look totally different relying on trade, however nonetheless lead to operational, regulatory and reputational dangers for corporations throughout the board. Clearly, industries which can be heavy water customers—suppose agriculture or manufacturing—might face vital monetary impacts if costs change and shortages grow to be extra acute, however water can be hidden in a provide chain and create unexpected publicity. Future rules and legal guidelines might additionally have an effect on the price of water and entry to it, bringing extra penalties. 

In the meantime, round popularity and model alignment, Alaina highlights the affect of youthful generations which can be proving to be extra environmentally aware customers. That may make it more durable for corporations to flee scrutiny for wasteful or dangerous enterprise practices linked to water.

It’s by no means too early for a startup to start excited about water. Alongside avoiding future issues, it could additionally pave the way in which for alternatives to innovate and enhance backside traces, from reducing vitality consumption to creating extra top-line development by way of sustainable merchandise. Getting began may be so simple as finding your corporation in an vitality environment friendly constructing, or formalizing an environmental, social and governance (ESG) technique.

Already there are many examples of fine water stewardship within the company world to contemplate. Alaina factors to Kraft Heinz and Naclo Water, who partnered in 2019 to launch a water recycling undertaking that saved roughly 86 million gallons of water in a yr at a single plant. That delivered an annual web value discount of round $500,000. Or there’s HP, which decreased its water footprint by 11% final yr in comparison with 2019, by lowering oblique water consumption from electrical energy technology and paper manufacturing related to its merchandise. Startups are making an affect right here too. Alaina highlights Rheaply, a Chicago-based round financial system startup that has a useful resource administration and change platform that helps shoppers cut back vitality and water affect and lower your expenses. 

Crucially, Alaina factors out that traders are additionally eying water points as a part of ESG metrics. About two-thirds of 800 institutional traders surveyed within the US, Canada, Europe and Asia in 2019 stated considerations over water factored into funding selections, third behind cybersecurity and anti-corruption as a prime ESG consideration. “The underside line is that traders are beginning to take discover about what corporations do with water and the way they care about it, whether or not or not they’re explicitly a water firm,” says Alaina.

Fortunately, there are lots of methods entrepreneurs can flip water threat and water conservation into upside. A easy start line is to map out the way in which a enterprise makes use of (or could ultimately use) water and work out how H20 is embedded into provide chains. Founders must also begin vetting suppliers and companions round water utilization and practices, together with asking about disclosures. 

That may reveal alternatives to optimize water and vitality prices, and methods to scale back affect. Founders ought to anticipate adjustments coming down the pipeline–for instance, how costs can potentially change in water-starved California–and take into account how that would affect a rising enterprise. Founders can then create water conservation targets round lowering each direct and oblique consumption, and hopefully have extra market energy to realize these ends as their corporations develop.

On the governance entrance, having sustainability experience on a board is one other method to infuse water conservation into decision-making and technique. As an early-stage firm, it may be a good suggestion to plan for such a board seat sooner or later and construct a pipeline of prospects. Water metrics may be embedded into enterprise planning and affect measurements, permitting founders to begin monitoring and speaking these insurance policies and outcomes to stakeholders. Organizations reminiscent of CDP can show helpful right here for corporations seeking to perceive environmental reporting requirements. 

On the subject of the social side of ESG, tackling water points is a no brainer for corporations seeking to construct credibility and contribute positively to the communities the place they function. A method to begin is getting concerned with native water hubs or nonprofits (like Present in Chicago) to higher perceive the native panorama. 

In the end, the challenges and tendencies round water and conservation are advanced and daunting. Nobody firm is able to fixing them alone. However entrepreneurs can and must be taking steps to know their affect with regards to water. Doing so may help keep away from vital future challenges and create sustainable companies with extra strategic freedom. “There’s plenty of alternative to draw income, appeal to funding and likewise simply enhance your corporation backside line if you consider water as constructed into your corporation,” says Alaina.

Upcoming ESG Webinars at 500 Startups

Be part of us on August 4th at 1PM PST, for a dialogue with the B-Lab group to know B-Corp certification and the way it impacts model consciousness. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-stakeholder-governance-playbook-for-startups-tickets-164907866869

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