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Water Scarcity in Southeast Asia

September 2020

Water scarcity issues pose a serious challenge for businesses in Southeast Asia, and responsible water management efforts remain niche. This briefing argues the need for businesses to develop proper water management strategies as Southeast Asia faces substantial water risks.

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Key Findings

Water scarcity is a critical issue and needs to be given more attention by businesses

Water is the lifeblood of numerous businesses; it is used as a key ingredient and in manufacturing processes to refine, extract and clean essential elements of a product’s life cycle. Inefficient management of water will threaten the continuous supply of clean and usable water, which creates a domino effect on the longevity of a business. In 2018, water-related financial losses due to improper water management amounted to an estimated USD36 billion.

Southeast Asia’s water risks will be made worse by COVID-19 unless immediate action is taken

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the precariousness of the business landscape; companies will need to remain agile by innovating quickly to survive the tumultuous economic environments across all Southeast Asia markets. Water risks will only worsen the business landscape; companies should take this as an opportunity to commit more strongly to mitigating water risks and implement context-specific measures.

Big businesses should spearhead water-efficient technologies and innovations

The management of water is a highly technical field that requires more than declaratory statements for collaboration across different sectors. Huge multinational firms, by virtue of their size and resources, should prioritise the development of water-efficient technologies or collaborate with water start-ups that specialise in preventing leakages or filter wastewater properly.

Water stewardship as an inclusive platform to understand unique water risks

Water stewardship is a collaborative and multi-stakeholder approach to understand complex water issues and implement the appropriate measures to manage water more efficiently. By working closely with government agencies and NGOs, businesses are held more accountable to their targets. In the sustainability-focused climate, this is important and can make or break the long-term growth prospects of a business.

Introduction

Scope
Businesses overlook the importance of water in sustainability goals
Why water scarcity matters for businesses
COVID-19 will make it harder to secure fresh water in the future
Demand exceeds the finite supply of water
Pollution and agriculture are also leading causes of water scarcity
Water scarcity in Southeast Asia: 2019 in a snapshot
Key Southeast Asian markets fraught with water scarcity
Singapore leads the way for sustainable water management
Water scarcity threatens Vietnam’s top exports and growth trajectory
Thailand’s water plan aims to mitigate risks of droughts and floods
Droughts and water loss impact water access in the Philippines

Case Studies

Top industries generate USD80 billion but they are also water-intensive
Household water consumption will rise as more remain homebound
G-Star Raw and Levi Strauss: rethinking the way denim is made
Unilever releases water-efficient products in the home care space
Xeros develops water-saving technology in the laundry space
Waterless formulations in beauty products target end-consumer use
Use of less water in the production of plant-based meat analogues

Assessing COVID-19’s Impact on Water Scarcity in the Region

Southeast Asia’s real GDP tumbles but picks up from 2021 onwards
Biggest Southeast Asian economies rank the lowest on Water Index
COVID-19 will push businesses to prioritise their water needs
Water stewardship as one way forward
Water stewardship in action: Vietnam’s textile industry
Invest in more water-efficient technologies…
…while keeping in mind the connection between energy and water

Key Findings

Key findings

Appendix

Environmental Sustainability Index: indicators
Metrics used to calculate the indicators
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