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Incorporate water considerations into core business strategies and functions

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Integrate water management into business strategy

Core Steps

  • Incorporate water into business’ risk assessment processes
  • Develop comprehensive water policy and strategy
  • Set targets for water-related KPIs

Business Benefits

  • Respond to water risks proactively and systematically
  • Raise water awareness within company


Like most corporate sustainability practices, water stewardship is most effective and most valuable when it is systematically integrated into your business strategy, rather than tacked on as a CSR or philanthropy function outside of the business’ core activities. For many businesses, water is such an important input into its operations and those of its suppliers, that a strategy to ensure sufficient and consistent supplies of it is not only helpful, but arguably required for long-term business viability. Having a strategy and policy in places help ensure you have the water and license to operate needed over the long-term.

What? How?

In practice, integrating water management into business strategy means many things, including (but not limited to):

  • Setting water-related performance targets
  • Creating accountability measures and incentives for water-related goals among upper management
  • Establishing a water task force among upper management to track and address water issues over time and bring them to the board as needed
  • Developing water assessment and action policies that are applied across a company’s facilities and operations

A company’s water strategy and policy will certainly differ from company to company. Ultimately, the most effective strategies enable you to understand how your company relates to water; to track changes and trends over time; and to respond in an effective, timely, and coherent manner. The most effective strategies grow from a dynamic understanding of your specific water risks and impacts and are tailored to identify these issues and prioritize them over other water issues that are of lesser importance to your business and stakeholders.

The Ceres Aqua Gauge offers a helpful framework for developing a water strategy, among other things.


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Hotel Water Measurement Initiative (2016)

Primary Functions:

The Hotel Water Measurement Initiative (HWMI) is a methodology and tool to enable hotels measure and report on water use in a consistent way. It was developed by the International Tourism Partnership in partnership with KPMG and 18 global hotel companies. HWMI is free of charge and can be used by any hotel anywhere in the world, from small guesthouses to 5 star resorts.

Purpose: Measure & monitor (Operations) Efficiency & pollution (Operations) Understand water stress (Context) Assess value chain (Context) Water strategy (Strategy) Collective action (Engagement) Value chain engagement (Engagement) Provide sector-specific support
Scope: Corporate Facility / River Basin Value Chain
Type: Tools
Sectors: Hotels & tourism

Developed by: Hotel Water Measurement Initiative, International Tourism Partnership

Natural Infrastructure for Business Platform (2015)

Primary Functions:

  • Make the business case for investing in natural infrastructure, including healthy river basins and wetlands
Purpose: Water strategy (Strategy) Collective action (Engagement)
Scope: Corporate
Type: Discussion Paper Tools Case Studies

Developed by: World Business Council for Sustainable Development

The Business Case for Responsible Corporate Adaptation: Strengthening Private Sector and Community Resilience (2015)

Primary Functions:

  • Learn how companies can adapt to climate change through a collection of case examples, including some related to water
Purpose: Water strategy (Strategy) Collective action (Engagement)
Scope: Corporate
Type: Case Studies

Developed by: CDP ND-GAIN OXFAM Rainforest Alliance UNEP DTU Partnerships United Nations Environment Programme United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change United Nations Global Compact

Water Risk Monetizer (2014)

Primary Functions:

  • Access actionable information to help businesses understand and quantify water-related risks in financial terms
Purpose: Measure & monitor (Operations) Understand water stress (Context) Water strategy (Strategy)
Scope: Corporate Facility / River Basin
Type: Tools

Developed by: Ecolab USA, Trucost

Water Impact Index – WIIX (2012)

Primary Functions:

  • Quantify the impact of companies’ water use and wastewater discharge on local water resources in terms of quality, quantity, and scarcity/stress.
  • Given the technical nature of the tool, use of the WIIX requires some understanding of current conditions and expected changes in quality and quantity use.
Purpose: Measure & monitor (Operations) Water strategy (Strategy)
Scope: Facility / River Basin
Type: Tools

Developed by: Veolia Water, Growing Blue

Aqua Gauge (2011)

Primary Functions:

  • Evaluate (qualitatively) the maturity of your water management practice and determine how you might expand and improve those practices
  • Demonstrate good practice to investors
Purpose: Measure & monitor (Operations) Water strategy (Strategy) Stakeholder dialogue (Communication)
Scope: Corporate
Type: Tools

Developed by: Ceres

Life Cycle Assessment (2009)

Primary Functions:

  • Make cross-media environmental assessments that consider water consumption and pollution in comparison with other environmental impacts
  • Implement mature science-based methods for assessing water-related impacts
Purpose: Assess value chain (Context) Water strategy (Strategy)
Scope: Value Chain
Type: Guidance

Developed by: Standards: ISO 14040/ ISO 14044, Water footprint: ISO 14046

Collecting the Drops & Connecting the Drops (2007)

Primary Functions:

  • Build knowledge of water-related challenges at the facility-level, especially for companies just beginning to think about water stewardship
  • Create basic water management plans at the facility-levels
Purpose: Measure & monitor (Operations) Water strategy (Strategy)
Scope: Facility / River Basin
Type: Tools

Developed by: Global Environmental Management Initiative

Case Studies

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