3. Prioritize Impacts for Attention

 

Where it is not possible to address all HRWS impacts at once, a company should prioritize impacts for attention based on their severity and likelihood, with severity being the dominant factor.

The water stewardship space lacks a well-defined, broadly accepted way for companies to prioritize action to address water-related social impacts. In contrast, the UN Guiding Principles offer a clear approach: where prioritization is necessary, companies should first seek to prevent and mitigate those impacts that may be the most severe from the perspective of affected stakeholders.

Having determined the severity and likelihood of HRWS impacts, a company can plot those impacts on a “heat map” like the illustration below. A “human rights heat map” for prioritizing action is distinct from traditional business risk prioritization: it shows that impacts that are high-severity still need to be prioritized, even if they are low-likelihood. In risk prioritization, low-severity–high-likelihood risks would have similar priority to high-severity–low-likelihood risks. However, bringing a human rights lens to prioritization means that the severity of the impact should drive the company’s approach.

Prioritize Impacts for Attention – Example

A mining company identifies impacts in its annual operational risk assessment process. The company is committed to addressing impacts from the perspective of local water users. The company reviews both the severity of an impact on the HRWS and the extent to which stakeholders perceive the company to be responsible for the impact, regardless of whether the company caused, contributed, or is linked to the impact. In using this information to devise action plans to address identified impacts, the company prioritizes the stakeholders who are or may be most significantly impacted

HeatMap

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