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Water is at the core of significant trends that will impact global businesses in 2020

  • Water is at the core of significant trends that will impact global businesses in 2020

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A new report by global consulting firm Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council, Year-ahead predictions 2020, predicts 10 significant trends and events for 2020 that will have an impact on the global business environment. This annual report reviews, for the fourth year in a row, key developments in demography, economy, environment, geopolitics, governance and technology, and this year three of the 10 trends singled out are related to water management.

A wave of water crises will spur innovation

Water crises due to floods, water scarcity and unclean drinking water are increasing globally. As they continue to proliferate in 2020, governments and companies will turn to innovation to deal with them. Examples are new public bodies such as India’s new ‘Jal Shakti’ (water power) ministry formed by merging the former ministries of Water Resources and Drinking Water and Sanitation, keeping with Prime minister Modi's election campaign promise of forming an integrated ministry dedicated to water issues; campaigns such as Cape Town’s Day Zero initiative to reduce water demand; and international partnerships to address flood management such as China’s scheme to share satellite data with India.

On the corporate side, companies are looking into their water footprint, like the Coca Cola company, which made a pledge to replenish the water they use back to communities and nature. On the other hand, start-ups are making business with products to fight water scarcity and pollution, for example Altered, from Sweden, with water saving taps, and Orb, from San Francisco, with handheld devices to measure water-quality. The report cautions though, although these products will proliferate, they will not solve water challenges.

The evolution of cities will accelerate to meet infrastructure and climate challenges

Cities face challenges related to infrastructure to ensure the provision of services to a growing urban population, while at the same time they have to address the effects of climate change. The water sector is one of several facing these challenges, together with housing, transportation, etc. The reports predicts city mayors will get further involved and accelerate efforts to manage these challenges which are global in nature.

A new disaster economy will emerge as catastrophes become more frequent and severe

This third trend is also related to ever-changing climate conditions and the resulting increase in natural disasters. Water-related disasters accounted for 90% of the 1,000 most severe disasters that have occurred since 1990, and floods now account for 50% of all weather-related disasters, according to the WMO. Although international organisations and nonprofits continue to be for the most part responsible for disaster relief efforts, the private sector is increasingly more involved.

Examples are products to prevent home flooding or technology platforms to locate people in need during extreme weather events. The demand for relief services will keep on rising. In fact, the global incident and emergency management industry is expected to grow more than 6% per year in the coming years, and to exceed $114 billion in 2020. Emerging technologies will give rise to new relief products, while existing ones will be more widely deployed, encouraging investment and additional advances.

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