Building resilience and value through water stewardship
The world runs on water. It keeps industry, agriculture and the economy afloat and is vital for human and environmental health. Even the smallest of problems linked to water resources can directly — and significantly — impact business and generate costs.
Climate change is spurring a rise in water risks around the world and businesses are increasingly coming under pressure to demonstrate their commitment to addressing the global water crisis. To turn the tide and future proof their businesses, companies need to identify and quantify water risks, develop robust water strategies and action plans, and better understand the costs and opportunities of effective water management.
A robust water strategy allows companies to manage risks, build resilience
and create business value.
The Water Stewardship Journey
Water stewardship is the use of water that is environmentally sustainable, socially equitable and economically beneficial, achieved through a stakeholder-inclusive process that includes both site- and catchment-based actions. It allows companies to manage risks, build resilience and create business value.
An effective water strategy is one that drives innovation, fosters collaboration and generates new opportunities. It starts with assessing your water hotspots and quantifying risk. Businesses can use this valuable information to set context-based water targets and define actions with local stakeholders to achieve those targets.
1 + Assess and quantify potential water risk factors: Assessing and quantifying potential water risk factors — physical, regulatory and reputational — within operations and across the value chain is the first step of the water stewardship journey. These risks are tied to a local context and should consider external factors (e.g. water scarcity, regulatory changes), internal factors (e.g. water quantity and quality requirements, environmental management system performance) and the magnitude of the potential financial impacts. This information is essential for making informed decisions that are comprehensive and context-based and creating and prioritizing action plans.
2 + Set ambitious goals through context-based water targets: Context-based water targets offer a way for companies to structure water stewardship plans and develop meaningful solutions that take local conditions into consideration. Rather than focus on quick fixes, context-based water targets hone in on what is needed to address the most relevant water challenges by aligning corporate strategy with basin requirements for long-term sustainable water use and availability.
3 + Work collectively on water stewardship challenges: Based on their knowledge of water risks and definition of their context based water targets, businesses can create effective action plans. Given the shared nature of water challenges, companies should both dip their toes into internal water issues and dive deep into their supply chains to tackle issues at catchment level to maximize impact. Internal actions should target more efficient water use on-site At catchment level, companies must work together with local stakeholders to co-develop solutions and support the development of sustainable public water policy. Actions should focus mitigation efforts where water risks are highest and align with the pillars of Sustainable Development Goal 6 — improving water balance, quality, governance, access and sanitation.
Measuring the benefits of water stewardship
Measuring the benefits of water stewardship activities bolsters robust water strategies by helping companies prioritize investments, report benefits and ensure water stewardship activities are delivering long-term value. Until now, however, there has been no common method for assessing these benefits in terms of their effectiveness in addressing shared water challenges and creating shared value.
Developed by Quantis, WRI, LimnoTech and Valuing Nature, Volumetric Water Benefit Accounting (VWBA) is a standardized, science-based method for assessing the benefits of water stewardship activities by measuring the volumetric output of water stewardship investments.
VWBA aims to increase investments in water stewardship activities that deliver the greatest benefit to local watersheds, advance public policy objectives, help companies track progress over time and collective action.