Welcome to the Water Stewardship Toolbox
This Toolbox is a collection of guidance documents, discussion papers, online tools, and other resources that can help your company build its water stewardship practice. It is designed around the Water Stewardship Progression (depicted below), which illustrates the activities water stewards conduct ideally.
How to use the Toolbox
Identify what stewardship activities you want to pursue. Click on the relevant part of the diagram below.
Filter resources by Purpose, Type, and Scope.
Select the resources that can most help you advance water stewardship.
Click on each category to connect to relevant resources and information.
The Water Stewardship Progression
What is the Water Stewardship Progression?
The Water Stewardship Progression illustrates the range of activities water stewards conduct ideally. Companies that effectively implement all aspects of the Progression manage much of their water risk and actively support sustainable water management.
Activities at the left of the Progression tend to be the easiest to implement. Activities at the right tend to be more challenging and complex to implement – yet often are more impactful. Though many companies will find it most practical to follow this progression sequentially from left to right, you may find it more strategic to pursue them in a different order, or all at the same time.
How do I determine helpful next steps for my company?
In order to connect to the most relevant resources, first identify where your company resides on the Water Stewardship Progression. If in doubt, keep in mind that many facilities implement activities in the Operations category even before a specific corporate policy is in place. Once you have determined what activities you are currently implementing, you can then:
- Search for additional resources on those topics to deepen your existing practice
- Pursue activities in the next category to the right to expand your stewardship practice.
You need not implement any activity perfectly before moving on to other parts of the Progression. In fact, overly focusing on activities listed under “Operations” can be a detriment to robust stewardship if doing so prevents you from pursuing those listed under “Strategy” and “Engagement”. Generally speaking, the sooner you can begin implementing these advanced activities, the better.
Where is my company on the Water Stewardship Progression?
If you are unsure of what activities you are currently implementing, read the following descriptions to better understand the various activities depicted in the Water Stewardship Progression.
Water stewards at all stages of the Progression seek to engage in ongoing two-way dialogue with internal and external stakeholders. This dialogue allows your company to understand the issues and challenges that are most relevant to your stakeholders, to validate that existing water efforts effectively address those needs, and to identify possible future efforts. This communication comes in many forms including annual reports, community forums, and employee surveys.
Water stewards at all stages of the Progression also seek to improve water management practices at their owned-and-operated facilities and corporate offices. Facility managers often implement these techniques simply as good practice for employee health, efficiency, and cost reduction before a broader corporate strategy is developed and implemented. Many of these practices are low-cost, easy to implement, and have short returns on investment.
- Provide WASH services in the workplace
Providing and properly maintaining drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services in the workplace supports the health and well-being of your workers.
- Measure and monitor water management practices
Continuously tracking the extent to which your operations use and affect water resources helps identify problems and gauge progress.
- Drive operational efficiency and reduce pollution
Implementing water efficiency and pollution reduction measures improves your water performance and begins to address risks and negative impacts.
Another aspect of the stewardship progression is developing a deeper and more dynamic understanding of the water context in which you operate. This involves assessing the degree of water stress in the river basins in which you operate, the effectiveness of water governance in those areas, and the broader water-related circumstances of your value chain. Ultimately, this enables you to identify the most strategic actions you can take to manage your water risks and reduce your negative impacts on people and ecosystems.
- Understand water-stressed and high-risk basins
You must have a firm understanding of the contexts in which you operate to fully understand your risks and impacts and to properly prioritize action among different operations. Specifically, you can identify and investigate those areas that are experiencing water stress or might otherwise be considered high-risk.
- Assess risks and impacts in the value chain
Companies also strive to understand how water risks manifest throughout their value chain, particularly for their suppliers and in product end use. Such an assessment allows you to develop value chain engagements that manage risks and impacts most effectively and strategically.
A nuanced understanding of a company’s own operations, value chain, and the river basins in which it operates positions a company to become strategic about its water policies. Comprehensive strategies are integrally linked to core business and long-term business success. Strategy development can include many dimensions, such as establishing corporate governance and accountability mechanisms, setting goals, and defining a water management philosophy.
Truly transformational stewardship practice requires you to actively engage with others who share the same water challenges as well as value chain actors within your sphere of influence. Such engagement enables you to advance sustainable water management beyond your own gates and in doing so better address the root causes of water stress and water risk. Engagement activities may be challenging and complex, but are often the most impactful and important water stewardship activities.
- Advance sustainable water management and collective action
Companies with advanced water stewardship practices support the sustainable management of shared water resources. Such place-based external engagement occurs in a variety of forms, ranging from information sharing, to community engagement and basin-restoration projects, to working with local and regional governments to strengthen local water management. In most cases, this requires collaboration with other organizations and actors - collective action.
- Facilitate improved performance in the value chain
More mature companies also look beyond their direct operations to address water risks and negative impacts, as well as opportunities, in the value chain. To address those risks, impacts, and opportunities, you can use your influence to drive improved practices throughout your value chain by sharing best practices, developing supplier scorecards, incorporating sustainability measures into supplier contracts, and promoting awareness among customers.
Water stewardship also supports broader social and environmental goals, notably the realization of human rights and the anticipated Sustainable Development Goals. By implementing water stewardship, companies inherently advance these broader objectives. However, there are also some critical considerations to keep in mind to ensure that stewardship practice aligns with efforts to advance these broader goals.
- Respect and support human rights
Ensuring that human rights are upheld and protected is a key consideration embedded throughout the Water Stewardship Progression. You do this primarily by actively respecting human rights, according to the UN Guiding Principles. First, you meet basic responsibilities of providing WASH services in their workplaces and ensuring their activities do not infringe on communities’ rights by identifying and responding to identified impacts. You can then move on to support initiatives that actively fulfill human rights.
- Contributing to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals
Water is also a critical component of the anticipated Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. In fact, water and sanitation are expected to form a dedicated goal in the upcoming SDGs because of their great importance and the degree to which they inform and support the realization of many other critical development goals. Your company can actively support these efforts through water stewardship.