It’s no secret that global water supplies are under great pressure. The fact that estimates suggest 15 years from now, our world will need 40 per cent more fresh water than we can access today, should be a wakeup call for all of us. Many experts predict conflict and population shifts linked to the struggle for water.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of urgency in business and society as a whole to address the water situation. It’s important to understand that the future lies in our hands. Meaningful action is happening in some spheres, but it seems those of us who aren’t facing immediate scarcity or quality issues often take water for granted.

I predict that if you aren’t responsibly managing water in your business, you won’t be in business 20 years from now. 

We decided to make water a key business priority and did a comprehensive assessment of our water use and risks associated with it as well as opportunities for reduction – something I’d encourage everyone to do. 

We also worked with our bottling partners, suppliers and others to take an active role in conservation and community engagement. And, in 2007, we made a commitment to replenish all the water we use, returning to nature and the communities we serve every litre that goes into our beverages and their production.

At the time, this goal was aspirational. It was designed out of both responsibility and necessity. Today, thanks to work in watershed restoration, conservation and safe water access—and with the help of many cross-sector partners—independent auditors confirm we’ve achieved our goal five years ahead of schedule. And, we’re committed to maintaining this performance as our business grows.

In India, our efforts to replenish groundwater were focused on the creation of rainwater harvesting structures, construction of check dams, restoration of ponds and traditional water bodies and projects that helped improve water use efficiency in agriculture like drip irrigation. 

For the projects that the Coca-Cola system undertook in India, NGOs and local communities helped identify priority areas, following which the Company collaborated with local communities to establish rainwater harvesting partnerships. Our NGO partners implemented the projects and mobilised community members to ensure that local knowledge played an important part in planning and assessment. 

At the end of 2010, our system in India had installed more than 600 rainwater harvesting structures spread across 22 states. The project was dedicated to the community in the presence of representatives of SOS Children’s Villages of India and other stakeholders of the facility.

While we’re doing the best we can, we’re just a single business. The difference we can make, even with all our partners pulling in the same direction, is limited. This is the reason I believe we all need to do more—work together—to conserve and responsibly manage this precious resource for the future. While we’re committed to doing our part, water is a shared resource and responsibility across business, government, civil society, communities and individuals.

Our world is more interconnected than ever. A drought on one side of the globe is more than a local or regional event. It can send damaging ripples across the ecology—and the economy—of the entire planet.

There’s no simple solution. Instead, relieving water stress will take many solutions and many collaborative partners. Today, I invite leaders and individuals across all sectors of society, all around the world, to join us in helping protect and conserve water.

If you’re already leading the way, thank you. If you’re making an effort, I encourage you to keep pressing forward. If you’re not yet engaged, I hope you’ll take a hard look at the water stresses facing our world today and act.

Water is one of the major issues that threatens the world we share and transcends the views we don’t. Let this be your wakeup call instead of waiting for a direr one. Our action today defines our tomorrow.

Muhtar Kent was till recently, Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company.