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What Turkey, Football and Beer Have in Common (It’s Not Just Thanksgiving)

November 23, 2010

The following post originally appears on the Forbes CSR blog. Click here to read the original.

Image source: Wikipedia

In the upcoming days, millions of tables across the United States will be covered in layers of turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. Undoubtedly, many bottles of wine, beer, and champagne will be imbibed in a celebration of uniting family and giving thanks. Moreover, from the local high school gridirons to the television broadcast of National Football League matches – games will be won or lost, all to the elated joy or consternation of millions of fans and cheerleaders. One thing, beside the traditional holiday of Thanksgiving, unites these foods, drinks and football: the importance of water.

According to, agriculture uses approximately 70% of fresh water. Without water, the turkey at the table would never arrive and human existence simply wouldn’t be possible; never mind football games.

So what? That’s nothing new, right?  Well, the oncoming water crisis is going to make water shortage, cleanliness and access regular headlines. Unfortunately, news media dispatches about cholera outbreaks, like the ones we now hear about from Haiti, are going to become much more common.

It is my opinion that in the next 50 years, the issue of water is going to become the sustainability issue for companies to tackle. Naturally, companies that use water as a key ingredient are going to be the first in line to take on the issue. But a new report issued by the Carbon Disclosure Project demonstrates that many companies, not just the usual suspects, are tackling it.

Some highlights from the report:

  • 67% of companies responding to the survey say that responsibility for water-related issues lies at the Board or Executive Committee level
  • 89% have developed specific water policies, strategies, and plans
  • 60% have set water-related performance targets
  • 39% of companies have already experienced detrimental impacts under broad categories such as water quality, necessitating pre-treatment, increased water prices, pollution incidents, drought, or flooding, among other issues

Interestingly, 62% of respondents have identified significant water-related business opportunities such as improved water management practices that lead to a reduction in operating costs, increased market interest in water-related products (such as treatment chemicals, and growth in demand for water infrastructure to support burgeoning populations and adaption due to climate change (e.g flood defense and storm water systems).

The commentary and works of companies like Molson Coors, Norges Bank, Colgate-Palmolive, and Caterpillar are all featured.

If you thought water shortages just meant you can water your lawn during the day, be prepared to reevaluate what you’ve already thought. Big companies are taking on this issue.

Currently, nearly one billion people lack access to safe water and 2.5 billion do not have improved sanitation. This figure will likely grow. The United Nations predicts that by 2025, forty-eight nations with a combined population of 2.8 billion will face fresh water stress or scarcity, according to

In North America, we’re already seeing the impact of the future water crisis on public policy. The states and Canadian provinces created the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 3, 2008. The main purpose of the Compact is to disallow any new diversions of water outside of the region. This is to prevent arid states from looking at the five Great Lakes as their reservoirs.

So this year, as you look to satiate yourself on incredible food and conversation, remember that should you become parched, you can always walk over to your kitchen sink and fill a glass with fresh and clean water. In the future that might not always be the case. But for right now, you have a lot to be thankful for this year.

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