Many companies today are torn between the desire to behave ethically and the pressures on their bottom line.

The opportunity to find solutions that work on both levels inspires and motivates me.

Water scarcity

I’ve experienced first-hand the consequences of water shortage here in South Africa. Ranked within the 30 driest countries in the world, stable supply of potable water is an increasingly scarce commodity in this country.

Last year in Cape Town, a local awareness campaign caught global attention on the looming possibility of ‘Day Zero’ – when the dam levels would be so low that the government would switch off taps and send people to communal water points. Water was restricted to 50 litres per day per person – that’s just 12 per cent of an average American’s daily water use.

There’s enormous pressure to reduce water use, not just on the public, but on every corporate in South Africa too. And it’s not just about doing the right thing – as water becomes scarcer companies need to find ways to manage on less to ensure their business is sustainable.

Preparing for the future

Lacsa is a great example. Based in Durban, the company manufactures lactulose as an ingredient for pharmaceuticals. Lactulose is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines.

With water as the only solvent in the process, water scarcity poses a threat to the sustainability of the company’s business. So they approached us for help.

We applied our WaterScan™ approach, which examines a plant’s waste liquids to assess whether resources can be recovered or reused. These resources could include lost product, chemicals, waste heat or other valuable components.

Sustainability through innovation

Following a detailed site inspection we assessed water input and output across the site, including a detailed study of the overall production process. The results gave clear insight into the processes that consumed the most raw materials and generated the most effluents.

We found a number of options to improve efficiency and reduce water use. Some options were relatively simple; such as reducing the water consumption of the pump seal with an automated system, and optimizing existing water reuse. There were also more advanced water reuse opportunities in the production process.

Good for business, good for society

Best of all, our proposals made business sense. Two of the options will deliver a return on investment in under two years, and are already in progress. Others will be applied in the longer term.

This, for me, is the key to driving global sustainability. Using the latest technology innovations we can find ways to drive sustainable behaviours and improvements that make things better for society and business.

Moral and ethical behaviour can be the most economical too. We just need to find the right solutions.