The world is awash with corporate commitments to cut carbon. These are critical to move towards net zero but have acted as a distraction from action on our most precious resource of all – water.
Not only that: water is becoming scarcer. According to a United Nations report, the world will face a water deficit of up to 40 per cent by 2030. It’s a stark statistic. At PA, we want to expand the narrative from scarcity alone to the overlooked opportunity of the relationship between water and carbon.
This water-carbon nexus is underlined by some startling statistics. Take semiconductor microchips, which are used in computers, smartphones, cars and much more. In just three months, a semiconductor fabrication plant can consume 927 million gallons of fresh water, produce nearly 15,000 tons of waste (most of it hazardous) and use 561m kilowatt-hours of energy – equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 153,000 UK or 52,000 US homes. Now imagine the direct and indirect carbon consequences of each and every aspect of the water lifecycle across the value chain – whether it’s moving, treating or heating water.
We believe there are clear and underexplored opportunities to better utilise water while simultaneously reducing the carbon impact: achieving the big drop. Our research explores how leaders can do this through four actions:
- Understand your water and decarbonisation challenges and opportunities.
- Determine greener ways to access water.
- Innovate for water and energy efficiency.
- Green your core business strategy and partner for everything else.
Acting with urgency now will create an ongoing, virtuous circle. Because consumers want brands with sustainability at their heart and will spend more on sustainable products. Organisations able to demonstrate they’re doing the right thing can grow and command higher margins. In turn, these profits will fuel further sustainable innovation.
 Valuing Water, UN World Water Development Report 2021, unwater.org, 21 March 2021
 'The computer chip industry has a dirty climate secret', theguardian.com, 18 September 2021