Businesses must prioritise their water footprint, says SPAN chief

Charles Santiago welcomes the adoption of ESG principles but says only 9% of businesses are working to combat water scarcity.

SPAN chief Charles Santiago said it is imperative that water be given more importance in ESG goals. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: National Water Services Commission (SPAN) chief Charles Santiago today called for water to be given more importance in environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals.

“A recent survey among 610 Malaysian SMEs showed that 44% prioritised energy efficiency in the environment pillar.

“Yet, only 9% focused on water scarcity. This raises the question as to why water is taken too lightly by SMEs,” Santiago said at a conference themed “Cultivating Transformation in the Water Services Industry Through ESG” at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

“It is imperative that water should be given more importance in ESG. As with carbon footprints, every business and individual will have a water footprint.

“Everything that we consume – from manufacturing, to buying and selling – uses water in the process.

“For example, it takes 2,000 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans. This is what water printing means: it is the process of measuring the amount of water used to produce the goods and services that we use,” he said.

Santiago said that while businesses have acknowledged that ESG is the way forward and have taken steps to minimise their corporate footprint, their water footprint must be an intrinsic element of that.

“Being accountable for water footprints in our own operations isn’t enough. It is equally important to monitor the water footprint of the supply chain,” he said, adding that businesses must take a more comprehensive approach by ensuring that they calculate their own water footprint and that of their supply chain.

He added that SPAN is partnering with the Malaysian Green Technology Corporation in subscribing to its low carbon operating system for the entire water services industry in accounting for and managing emissions.

He also said that the industry needs to champion zero waste concepts, focusing on recycling, redirecting, or repurposing in all ways possible, and that all water treatment plants must employ the concept of zero discharge in terms of effluent.

“ESG is also about amplifying social governance. In 2023, during the tariff review, it was agreed that water and sewerage operators would account for and report how the extra revenue gained due to the tariff adjustment was being utilised,” he said.

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Thus, everyone has a role to play in conserving and protecting our waters. It’s a shared responsibility.

“If we don’t take care of the water cycle, it will not take care of our life cycle. It is critical that we act now,” he said.

FMT Reporters-

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