At last month’s WEF Summer Davos in Tianjin, China, I met Feike Sijbesma, CEO and Chairman of Royal DSM, a global science-based company active in health, nutrition and materials. We had a good discussion about water and biofuels, and he agreed to write a guest post for my blog, in particular about second generation biofuels. Here it is.

It is great to read your blog on water resources. The global challenge we are facing needs these inspiring initiatives. To safeguard the future for generations to come we need to act now and face the challenge we have in climate change and the balance of water used for food, energy and materials.

We face a global water challenge that we need to solve together. There are three types of water problems that any location on the globe can face: too much, too little or too dirty water; let me give a few numbers to illustrate each of these:

• Too much: floods cause thousands of deaths and millions of people to lose their houses every year

• Too little: food prices have more than doubled in the past 10 years (source: FAO Food Price Index), due to – amongst others – severe droughts and drinking water shortages

• Too dirty: every twenty seconds a child dies from water-related disease

Many of us have probably heard some of these numbers, but what can we do about them? At Royal DSM, virtually everything we do is driven by sustainability and by the need to provide solutions for our customers to address the major global challenges. A critical insight is that we need a local approach to address the global water challenge, as every location is unique. Below I’ll provide these three examples that illustrate DSM’s local approach to the water challenge.

1. In one of our production locations in Europe extreme rainfall causes sewage systems to overflow, driving the need for a different infrastructure to handle the water flows. This process also triggers a search for separate solutions for the reuse of storm water and industrial water streams. In this way we save or better use water.

2. In the US, the POET DSM joint venture focuses on cellulosic ethanol from corn crop residues (the so called 2nd generation). Using these residues enables us to make ethanol without interfering with food supply, allowing for an alternative to 1st generation biofuel. Addressing the global energy challenge this way is highly related to solving the global water challenge, as 70-90% of the water consumption is used for agriculture.

3. Water quality is a major issue in rivers in Asia. By investing in wastewater treatment and water recycling, we prevent river pollution. In addition, we supply clean water to our employees and their families who are living in areas without access to it.

I realize that we are just making a few first steps in the right direction. We will certainly continue to develop new initiatives to make our world a better one, and I hope that these efforts inspire others to start similar initiatives as well.

We need everybody’s help to make sure that generations to come can enjoy only the positives of water. We will continue to contribute, as a business cannot be successful nor call itself successful in a world that fails.

Feike Sijbesma

CEO and Chairman of the Managing Board of DSM