Optimize water efficiency, wastewater treatment, and WASH services in your owned-and-operated sites.
Operations activities refer to improving water management practices at your 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
- Ensure clean and sufficient drinking water
- Maintain clean and sufficient toilets or other sanitation services
- Provide handwashing supplies and promote good hygiene
- Boost productivity
- Maintain license to operate
Providing consistent access to clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene in the workplace is a key obligation in water stewardship. Companies that fail to do so hinder their productivity and reputation and infringe upon their employees’ human rights. Though many in the Global North may take such services for granted, more than 700 million people worldwide are without access to improved drinking water and approximately 2.5 billion people are without stable access to a toilet or other form of sanitation (UNICEF and WHO 2014). This crisis has led to disastrous human health outcomes, a perpetual cycle of poverty, and polluted rivers and water sources. Global economic losses associated with inadequate sanitation alone are estimated at US$260 billion per year (WSP 2005, Sanitation Drive 2015 2014a).
Providing WASH services in the workplace is not just about building toilets or drinking fountains; it requires ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure adequate services over the long term. This includes:
- Regularly cleaning toilets and fountains
- Testing drinking water for contaminants
- Maintaining toiletry and other sanitary supplies
- Installing bathing facilities
- Providing soap and other disinfectants
- Offering awareness and training to encourage healthy behaviors
WBCSD’s WASH in the Workplace Self-Assessment Tool is a good reference for providing safe and sufficient access to WASH services for employees.
Measure and monitor water practices
- Use water meters to detect leaks and eliminate wasteful uses
- Regularly test wastewater quality
- Develop KPIs related to water use and pollution
- Track water performance over time
- Gather data that inform strategic decisions
- Demonstrate progress to stakeholders
In order to drive efficiency and pollution reduction, facilities and entire companies alike must first understand how they use water and what contaminants are in their wastewater. Such measurement and analysis allows you to assess where action is needed most, and thus invest strategically and track your progress over time. What gets measured gets managed.
For facilities, measurement and monitoring involves:
- Installing water meters
- Regularly testing and analyzing wastewater quality
- Understanding the results of efficiency and pollution reduction efforts
For entire companies, measurement and monitoring involves gathering such information across facilities to get a big picture view of your company’s water use and wastewater discharge. These practices also offer a starting point from which to understand how your water management practice affects human rights.
Critical to effective measuring and monitoring is developing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or metrics that allow you to know when you are making genuine progress in using water more efficiently and reducing your pollution. The Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelinesoffer a variety of helpful KPIs that are applicable to a wide range of companies.
Drive efficiency and pollution reduction
- Develop water management plans for every operation
- Implement water-efficient processes, technologies, and behaviors
- Manage chemical inputs and treat and reuse wastewater
- Reduce operational costs
- Maintain license to operate
- Build resilience to water stress
Measuring and monitoring water practices is meaningless unless it drives actual actions that reduce your water use and improve water quality. Such actions reduce your company’s contribution to water stress and therefore reduce perceptions that the company is irresponsible. They also make you more resilient; if you can produce more goods with less water, then you will be much better prepared to operate in the face of ensuing water stress. Finally, these practices simply save money. By using less water, you pay less for water. In 2014, UK drinks company Diageo Plc has reduced the volume of its water withdrawals by nearly 1 million cubic meters and estimates the cost savings associated with this reduction to be approximately US$3.2 million (CDP’s Global Water Report 2014).
You can achieve greater water use efficiency and reduce pollution through many different means. You can invest in major water recycling systems that radically reduce their water use by recirculating the same water through their facility over and over. However, you can also simply form water management committees tasked with identifying leaks and identify innovative ways to save water without investing in any new equipment. Many irrigators, for example, save incredible amounts of water simply by irrigating at cooler times of day. The most efficient facilities adopt an ethos of continuous improvement whereby they constantly look for ways to improve their game.
Pollution reduction is often a more costly endeavor requiring the construction of new wastewater treatment facilities. However, many companies have made great strides in water quality simply by shifting to less toxic production materials.