GEMI Water Sustainability Planner and Tool


The Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI), a collection of dozens of mostly North American-headquartered companies working toward more responsible corporate environmental stewardship, has developed two tools to advance corporate understanding of water issues. Released in 2002, the Water Sustainability Tool is an online tool that helps organizations create a water strategy. It assesses a company’s relationship to water, identifies associated risks and describes the business case for action, and helps address companies’ specific needs and circumstances. It features five modules:

  • Water Use, Impact, and Source Assessment
  • Business Risk Assessment
  • Business Opportunity Assessment
  • Strategic Direction and Goal Setting
  • Strategy Development and Implementation

The Tool does not provide a method or calculator to measure or quantify water use, impacts, and risks, but rather introduces a number of questions on these topics to facilitate companies’ understanding of various water sustainability issues. These questions act as the basis for guidance on goal setting and the development of strategic plans.

The GEMI Water Sustainability Planner— an online tool released in 2007—focuses on the needs of a facility-level user rather than the company as a whole. It helps facility personnel to better understand the facility’s dependence on water and the status of the local watershed (including local social and environmental considerations) and to identify its specific challenges and opportunities. The Planner is divided into three modules:

  • Facility Water Use and Impact Assessment Program
  • Water Management Risk Questionnaire
  • Case Examples and Reference Links

It uses input from the facility to give a broad assessment of risks regarding the local watershed, supply reliability, efficiency, compliance with regulations, supply economics, and social context. As with GEMI’s Water Sustainability Tool, the Planner does not provide quantitative data but rather qualitative guidance on risks and identification of some of the most pressing issues.

From the perspective of the researchers, both GEMI tools are perhaps best oriented to companies and facilities that are just beginning to understand how water issues affect nearby ecosystems and communities, as well as their own business risks. They can be used to get a broad assessment of some pertinent questions, but provide no quantitative information with which to compare different water uses, products, or facilities. As such, they are perhaps less useful for companies that are seeking a comprehensive assessment of different water uses and impacts in order to assess hotspots, drive product development, or identify specific long-term water strategies.


Financial and personnel requirements

Both of the GEMI offerings are much less expensive and timeintensive than undertaking water footprints and LCAs. That said, quantifying the time and money needed for these GEMI tools is more difficult due to their focus on building corporate understanding of water issues rather than providing specific quantified answers. As such, reading the relevant guidance in these tools could take less than a day. Completing the Planner’s risk assessment questionnaire is more demanding, but could still be completed in 1-2 person days if the company already has the necessary data relating to their operations and nearby watersheds (Van De Wijs, 2010).

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