Affected stakeholder: Those individuals whose human rights are or may be affected by a company’s operations, products, or services. See also “stakeholder.”
Assessing impacts: The first of the four stages of human rights due diligence, undertaken in order to identify and assess any negative impacts on human rights with which a company may be involved. This includes both actual impacts (past or current) and potential impacts, and impacts that occur through the company’s own activities and through its business relationships.
Business relationships: Relationships a company has with business partners, entities in its value chain, and any other entity (state or non-state) directly linked to its operations, products or services. They include indirect business relationships in the value chain, beyond the first tier, and minority and majority shareholding positions in joint ventures.
Cause: When a negative impact results solely and directly from a company’s own decisions or actions. “Solely” means that a company’s decision or action could create this impact on its own. “Directly” means that there is no intermediate decision or action by another party between the company’s role and the impact itself. It is important to note that it does not matter whether the company intended to cause the harm, nor whether the harm was foreseeable.
Collective action: Coordinated engagement among interested parties within an agreed-upon process in support of common objective.
Communicating human rights performance: In the context of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, communicating is the set of processes through which companies are able to account externally for how they address their actual and potential human rights impacts. This is particularly important when concerns are raised by or on behalf of affected stakeholders. Communication needs to be appropriate to the company’s impacts in terms of its form, frequency, accessibility, and the adequacy of information provided.
Where companies have severe human rights risks or impacts, they should publicly report on how they address them.
Contribute: Situations where companies facilitate, encourage, or incentivize a third party to cause a negative impact, or where a company’s contribution to a negative impact occurs in parallel with one or more other parties’ contributions, leading to a cumulative impact.
Corporate water stewardship: Water use that is socially equitable, environmental sustainable, and economically beneficial, achieved through a stakeholder-inclusive process that involves site- and catchment-level actions. It involves organizations taking shared responsibility to pursue meaningful individual and collective actions that benefit people and nature.
Cross-functional collaboration: Bringing together different departments within the company to create shared responsibility for, and leadership on, a particular issue.
Cumulative impact: Where a company’s activities, which by themselves may not result in a negative human rights impact, in combination with the activities of one or more other parties lead to a negative impact.
Effluent: A subset of discharge, effluent is the wastewater (treated or untreated) from a production process that is discharged.
Embedding: The macro-level process of ensuring that the company’s responsibility to respect human rights is driven across the organization and into its business values and culture. It requires that all personnel are aware of the enterprise’s human rights commitment, understand its implications for how they conduct their work, are trained, empowered, and incentivized to act in ways that support the commitment, and regard it as intrinsic to the core values of the workplace. Embedding is one continual process, generally driven from
the top of the company.
Environmental flows: The quantity, quality, and timing of water required to sustain freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and the human livelihoods and well-being that depend on these ecosystems.
Grievance mechanism: A formal channel for individuals or groups to raise concerns about and seek remedy for impacts a company has had on them, including on their human rights. It may be state-based (such as judicial processes or labor tribunals) or not state-based (such as the mechanisms established by some international financial institutions or by the UN or regional organizations).
Human rights risk: Any risk that a company’s operations may lead to one or more negative human rights impacts. It therefore relates to the company’s potential human rights impact. Importantly, a company’s human rights risks are the risks that its operations pose to human rights. This is separate from any risks that involvement in human rights impact may pose to the business, although the two are increasingly related.
Human rights to water and sanitation: The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible, and affordable water for personal and domestic (household) use. Sanitation is defined as a system for the collection, transport, treatment, disposal, or reuse of human excreta and associated hygiene. The human right to sanitation entitles everyone to sanitation services that are safe, socially and culturally acceptable, secure, hygienic, physically accessible and affordable, and that provide privacy and ensure dignity.
Impact owners: Individuals within a company with responsibility for activities (e.g., human resources, communication relations, operations) or business relationships (e.g., purchasing and supply chain management) that may lead to negative human rights impacts. Legal and compliance functions may be important to include in any effort related to respecting human rights.
Indirect water use: Total water used in the production or supply of inputs used at a site. Indirect use includes water used to produce raw materials or parts and supplies as inputs for a manufacturing process, as well as water used in the generation of energy for a process. It does not include water used in the transport, use, or disposal of a product.
Integrating: The micro-level process of taking findings about a particular potential impact, identifying who in the enterprise needs to be involved in addressing the impact, and securing effective action to prevent or mitigate the impact.
Leading (or salient) human right risks: Are the ones that stand out for a company as being most at risk from the company’s operations (including its own activities and business relationships), when considered from the perspective of potentially affected stakeholders.
Legacy impacts: Impacts caused by previous operations or activities.
Legitimate process (Remedy): A fair and independent process for remedy that is accountable and produces outcomes that are consistent with human rights.
Leverage: A company’s ability to influence the behaviors and actions of others toward addressing identified
potential and actual negative impacts, usually those others with which it has business relationships.
Linkage: Actions of a business partner or another entity in a company’s value chain that cause an impact directly linked to the company’s own operations, product, or services, which the company itself did not cause or contribute to.
Mitigate: Actions taken to reduce the likelihood or extent of negative human rights impacts, with any residual impact then requiring remediation.
Policy commitment: A statement approved at the highest level of a company that shows it is committed to respecting human rights, including the HRWS, and is communicated internally and externally.
Remediation: The process of providing a remedy for a harm.
Remedy: Actions to restore individuals or groups that have been harmed to a situation the same as or equivalent to their situation had the impact not occurred. Remedy can take a variety of different forms, including apologies, restitution, rehabilitation, financial and nonfinancial compensation, and punitive sanctions (whether criminal or administrative), as well as the prevention of harm through, for example, injunctions or guarantees of non-repetition. Whereas some forms of remedy are more likely in a judicial mechanism (such as fines), many are possible through non-judicial processes as well.
Relevant business activities: Everything a business does in connection with the life cycle of a product or service, from the sourcing of components or commodities that constitute it, to its design, production, delivery, and after-service. This includes hiring and/or contracting staff, contractors, suppliers, customers, government, or others.
Sanitation: A system for the collection, transport, treatment, disposal, or reuse of human excreta and associated hygiene. See also “human rights to water and sanitation.”
Severity (of impacts): A severe human rights impact is understood with reference to its scale (how grave it is), scope (how many people are affected), and irremediable character (whether it is possible to restore those affected to a situation at least the same as, or equivalent to, their situation before the impact).
Stakeholder: Any individual, group of individuals, or organizations who may affect or be affected by an organization’s activities, products, or services. See also “affected stakeholder” and “vulnerable or marginalized individuals or groups.”
Stakeholder engagement: An ongoing process of interaction and dialogue between a company and one or more of its stakeholders that enables the company to hear, understand, and respond to the stakeholder’s interests and concerns.
Supply chain: A system of organizations, people, technology, activities, information, and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer.
Supplier: A distinct entity that provides goods and/or services to another company.
Supporting human rights: Supporting human rights involves making a positive contribution to promote or advance human rights.
Tipping point or threshold: Many natural systems can withstand disruption only up to a certain level, the tipping point or threshold, beyond which ecological discontinuities are likely to occur, with socially, economically,and environmentally unacceptable and possibly irreversible consequences.
Tracking performance: The process by which a company monitors and evaluates whether it has responded effectively to human rights risks and impacts.
Value chain: A company’s value chain encompasses the activities that convert input into output by adding value. It includes entities with which the company has a direct or indirect business relationship and which either supply products or services that contributes to the enterprise’s own products or services, or receive products or services from the enterprise.
Vulnerable or marginalized individuals or groups: Vulnerability can stem from an individual’s status or characteristics (e.g., race, color, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property, disability birth, age, or other status) or from their circumstances (e.g., poverty or economic disadvantage, dependence on unique natural resources, illiteracy, ill health). Those vulnerabilities may be reinforced through norms, societal practices, or legal barriers. Vulnerable or marginalized individuals typically experience negative impacts more severely than others. The UN Guiding Principles refer to the need for companies to pay attention to those standards when their operations may impact individuals or groups that have special protections under international human rights law. This applies to racial and ethnic groups, women, children, persons with disabilities, migrant workers, indigenous peoples, and linguistic, religious, and other minorities.
WASH: This acronym refers to access to water, sanitation, and hygiene. It is often used to describe interventions aimed at promoting access to adequate clean water and sanitation services for all, and the implementation of good hygiene education and practice.
Water availability: Refers to the amount of water available for human purposes. Functionally it is calculated as the volume of water resources in a given area minus the volume of water needed to fulfill environmental water requirements.
Wastewater discharge: The sum of water effluents discharged to subsurface waters, surface waters, and sewers either through a defined discharge point (point source discharge), over land in a dispersed or undefined manner (non-point source discharge), or wastewater removed via truck. Discharge of collected rainwater and domestic sewage is not regarded as water discharge.
Water consumption: Volume of water that is extracted from a freshwater source and not returned to that source after use. Water is consumed due to evaporation or incorporation into a product.
Water governance: The political, social, economic, and administrative systems that are in place, and that directly or indirectly affect the use, development, and management of water resources and the delivery of water service at all levels of society.
Water quality: The chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, relevant to its suitability for a particular purpose. It is a measure of the condition of water relative to the requirements of one or more species, or to any human need or purpose.
Water risks: The possibility of an entity experiencing a water-related hazard (e.g., flooding, infrastructure decay, drought). The extent of risk is a function of the likelihood of a specific hazard occurring and the severity of the hazard’s impact. Severity of impact depends on the intensity of the hazard, as well as the vulnerability of the entity. Water risk is felt differently by every sector of society and the organizations within them, and thus is defined and interpreted differently.
Water risk assessments: A formal or informal evaluation that considers the water risk that the company itself faces through its reliance on water in the production of its goods and services.
Water scarcity: The volumetric abundance, or lack thereof, of freshwater resources. Scarcity is human driven; it is a function of the volume of human water consumption relative to the volume of water resources in a given area. As such, a region with very little water but no human water consumption would not be considered scarce, but rather arid. Water scarcity is a physical, objective reality that can be measured consistently across regions and over time. Water scarcity reflects the physical abundance of freshwater rather than whether that water is suitable for use. For instance, a region may have abundant water resources (and thus not be considered water scarce), but have such severe pollution that those supplies are unfit for human or ecological uses.
Water stress: The ability, or lack thereof, to meet the human and ecological demand for freshwater. Compared to scarcity, water stress is a more inclusive and broader concept. It considers several physical aspects related to water resources, including water availability, water quality, and the accessibility of water (i.e., whether people are able to make use of physically available water supplies), which is often a function of the sufficiency of infrastructure and the affordability of water, among other things. Both water consumption and water withdrawals provide useful information about relative water stress. A variety of physical pressures related to water, such as flooding and drought, are not included in the notion of water stress. Water stress has subjective elements and is assessed differently depending on societal values. For example, societies may have different thresholds for what constitutes sufficiently clean drinking water or the appropriate level of environmental water requirements to be afforded to freshwater ecosystems, and thus assess stress differently.
Water use: The total amount of water withdrawn or diverted by an operation to produce products or provide a service. Water use includes the sum of total water consumption, withdrawals, and water pollution, regardless of whether the water is returned to the local water resource or not.
Water withdrawals: The volume of freshwater extracted from a surface or groundwater source, without accounting for how much is returned to the freshwater source after use.