Knowledge Is Power

Kofi Annan, who was Secretary-General of the United Nations, said, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating”. Some people can’t cook, because they don’t know how. Some can’t sail a boat, sew a dress, speak Spanish; simply because they don’t have the knowledge to do these things. But, if you do have the correct knowledge, you have the power to do things well.

What knowledge would you need to run a multi-national company, a trillion-dollar pension fund or city with millions of citizens? The data required to do so successfully is mind-boggling. You would certainly need to know the risks the organization will be facing in the future. These days, catastrophic risks caused by changes in the environment must be assessed and dealt with.

That is where CDP comes in. It is a not-for-profit organization that’s been in business for fifteen years. Its people have built the most comprehensive collection of self-reported environmental data in the world, and this knowledge enables investors, companies, cities, and states to measure and manage environmental impacts.
Here’s how CDP work. They ask companies, cities, states, and regions for data on their environmental performance and, from that data, they calculate the future risks to the economy from the environment. This information is then shared with decision-makers, such as investors, businesses, and policymakers who use the data and projections to make better decisions, manage risks, and capitalize on opportunities.

In 2018 CDP analyzed water data from almost 800 publicly-listed companies worth $18 trillion and employing between them 36 million people. They reported: “The world is not on track to meet our global water goal of ensuring access to sustainable water and sanitation for all. The companies reporting to CDP are responsible for a huge proportion of global water use and pollution. While many of their practices and procedures currently contribute to the depletion of freshwater resources, these companies could also hold the key to a water-secure future. To succeed in this transition from water depletion to water security, those companies that affect our water must work to protect it.”

Businesses and property values in Puerto Vallarta are totally dependent on the hospitality industry, and the hospitality industry is totally reliant on a constant supply of water. What if our water supply failed? The bad news is that, according to CDP, “the hospitality sector is the worst performer on the integration of water issues into business governance and strategy. Companies in this sector, such as restaurants and hotel chains, often have large holdings of land across the world. It is disconcerting that many of these companies are not undertaking the comprehensive risks assessments necessary to understand the location and magnitude of water risks.
For example, Intercontinental Hotels reports that they completed a comprehensive water risk assessment across their global estate in 2016, and found that 2,414 facilities, or 47% of all their hotels, are exposed to substantive water risk.” Do the investors, who continue to invest millions and millions of dollars around Banderas Bay, know whether their investments are exposed to substantive water risk?

A warming world continues to put our water supplies at risk. The landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed us that limiting warming to below 1.5C would see our exposure to water stress lowered by 50% compared to a 2.0C scenario. Yet, the world is currently heading beyond this guardrail.
The CDP reports, “More efficient use and management of water are critical to addressing the growing demand for it, but corporate action is insufficient to deliver a water-secure future. Companies are withdrawing more water year-on-year, despite greater awareness of water risks and more targets to reduce withdrawals being set. Between 2015 and 2018, there has been an almost 50% increase in the number of companies reporting higher water withdrawals”.

The old sayings that “Ignorance is bliss” and “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” never made sense. What about “Build it, and they will come.” That seems to be the mantra of the hospitality industry, today in Puerto Vallarta. But what are these hospitality-based companies that continue to build huge developments here doing to use and manage our water efficiently? What is the city doing to plan for the future of our water supply? Nobody knows. We don’t even know how much water we have in our aquifer or how long it will last. How long will it last? Without having this knowledge, the business owners and the homeowners of Puerto Vallarta are powerless.

John Warren on Email
John Warren
John Warren is in charge of Publicity for the International Friendship Club (IFC). His articles describe the programs and charities that IFC supports, the sources of income of IFC and the social experiences, lectures and classes that members can enjoy.
He splits his time between Puerto Vallarta and Lethbridge, Alberta. In the winter months he writes for the IFC, this summer he’s focusing his writing on the environment.