Getting stakeholders informed and on board with a company’s water sustainability initiatives can be challenging. Many stakeholders may not yet understand the relevance of water stewardship and reporting to the company and therefore may not be convinced of a company’s commitment or intentions. Communicating the rationale underlying a company’s water stewardship efforts – and the specific topics its focusing on – is a powerful tool in achieving that buy-in.
Last week, we talked about materiality in the context of water disclosure – how to decide what to report? This week, find out how to effectively explain your decision to key stakeholders.
Compelling Communication in Three Simple Steps
Once your company has concluded which water-related topics are relevant to report, you will want to justify those decisions to its stakeholders. This could include investors, potentially-affected communities, customers, employees, and other decisionmakers, among many others.
There are three steps to effective communication of a water-related materiality assessment, as laid out in the CEO Water Mandate’s Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines.
Step 1: Illustrate the importance of water to business
This is the most crucial step, where the question “why should I care” is met with an articulate and defensible answer. This should be done using the lens of water-related risk and opportunity, as it relates to the company and its stakeholders. Explain how reporting and taking action on the water-related topics chosen through the materiality assessment will help elucidate and mitigate any associated risks. Stakeholders should come away understanding the rationale for water stewardship, both from a business perspective an in alignment with the mission and morals of your company.
Step 2: Explain how the chosen water-related topics were prioritized
This is an opportunity to show the thought process behind materiality decisions. Briefly walk stakeholders through the succession of brainstorming and prioritization of water issues that the company could report on. A helpful tool for achieving this is a table (see example below) showing the chosen material topics and the considerations that went into selecting them. Make it clear why some topics were chosen over others, and what information guided the choices. This is a good time to show that the basin context was factored into your analysis. Stakeholders don’t need all the details, but they do need to see that the materiality assessment was thoughtful and well-informed.
|Material Topic||Company, Facility, or Value Chain Entity||Geographic/ Geopolitical Area(s)||Risks, Opportunities, Impacts||Stakeholder Interest||Company’s Ability to Influence||Reporting Location|
|Company information here|
Step 3: Show how stakeholder needs and engagement informed the materiality assessment
Demonstrate that the stakeholder(s) matter by explaining how their priorities were incorporated into the decision-making process. This can be done in part through the table from Step 2, in the “Stakeholder Interest” column. In addition, verbally describe which specific stakeholder groups were involved in the assessment, how it was done, and what the key outcomes were. It may also be helpful to report on any lessons learned, and communicate the stakeholder engagement strategy for the next reporting cycle.
The materiality assessment itself is important, but you need stakeholder understanding to make water reporting an accepted and integrated component of your company’s business strategy. For more information on how to effectively communicate about water stewardship and reporting, check out our Communication Toolbox.