Whether it is meeting growing regulatory requirements, managing long-term risk or improving relationships with communities, companies are increasing their focus on water stewardship. Historically, water management has been the go-to solution, but now the focus is evolving to water stewardship – the sustainable use of water achieved through stakeholder engagement that aligns actions at a particular site with conditions in the broader watershed -- to address ongoing water issues. CEO Water Mandate describes “Water Stewardship as a framework and set of practices that help businesses manage risks, cut costs, and build trust while promoting long-term water security for all.”
Every water stewardship journey is different. There are multiple programs, standards and frameworks that can be used to guide corporate water stewardship. The increasing situation of water extremes – too much or too little – has caught major corporations unprepared and the following programs can help you get started:
WAVE: Water Stewardship Verified is an enterprise-level verification program for understanding a company’s water use, impacts, and risks. The Water Council introduced WAVE 1.1 last month to update protocols based on implementor comments and expand the types of organizations using WAVE, including universities, privately held companies, and public utilities. #JoinTheWAVE is catching on, as WAVE was named an honorable mention in Fast Company's World Changing Ideas awards in the 2023 Water Category.
Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) International Standard is a globally applicable site-specific standard providing a framework to evaluate and plan water stewardship practices. It involves inclusion of site water management, stakeholder identification and understanding of the catchment or watershed. The Standard considers actions taken at the site and within the watershed where a site is located. Stakeholder engagement is a crucial component of the Standard. There are currently over 250 AWS certified sites globally.
Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) focus on air, water, land, biodiversity and ocean with proposed science-based targets to address needed environmental change. In May, SBTN introduced the first corporate science-based targets for nature Technical Guidance for companies. It outlines the first three steps of the evaluation process. Freshwater is one of four technical hubs established, but the true value of SBTs is the recognition that all four hubs, Biodiversity, Freshwater, Land and Ocean, are interdependent.
These water stewardship programs are complementary to each other and programs can be tailored to fit organizations of any size and industry. They can be used individually or combined with site-specific frameworks as tools to address multiple water stewardship actions based on your goals.
Fresh Coast Climate Solutions has the expertise to support you through your water stewardship journey, providing guidance and technical expertise to develop and advance your water stewardship program. Rae Mindock is the Director of Water Programs at Fresh Coast Climate Solutions. A water stewardship leader with expertise in corporate water stewardship practices. To learn more, contact Rae Mindock.
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