On the 30th and 31st October, we held our third AWS Global Water Stewardship Forum in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Forum is the annual gathering of AWS members, partners and stakeholders, and one of the main opportunities for the global water stewardship community to come together to shape and develop the AWS Standard and its associated systems. We were joined by over 125 representatives from multiple sectors and geographies, demonstrating the global, multi-stakeholder nature of AWS. They came together to share knowledge and experience, and work collaboratively to drive increased water stewardship activity globally.
The Forum program was shaped around our new Global Strategy for 2019-2021 which was developed through an inclusive process with our members. Key pillars of that strategy are Influence, Inclusion and Impact. I was thrilled to see the program reflecting the fantastic growth in AWS water stewardship that we have seen over the last year via a wide-ranging focus incorporating updates on action across multiple sectors and covering diverse water-related thematic areas in catchments spanning the globe.
The Forum opened with a panel discussion on the intrinsic links between Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and water stewardship, and the strong contribution that greater interaction between the two approaches can make to achieving the SDGs. In line with our new strategy, representatives from food and beverage, agricultural supply chains, microelectronics and textiles companies all shared insight and learning from their supply chain approaches to engaging with AWS and applying the Standard. We heard stories of implementations and different uses of the AWS Standard from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, the United States, the UK and Zambia.
Turning to the development of the AWS System and scaling of participation and impacts, there was a great session on ‘interoperability’ which highlighted the many ways in which AWS is working with other sustainability standard systems to streamline activity on the ground, including our work with GlobalG.A.P., BCI and the Sustainable Rice Platform. Another session focused on social equity, covering the provision of WASH, the role of water stewardship in strengthening water governance, the cultural value of water and social inclusion. Discussions were underpinned by the theme of the SDGs and the role of water stewardship in supporting action. We closed the Forum with a look to the future through a discussion on how to link site-level water stewardship to activity at a landscape, city and basin level. You can read a full outline of all the sessions, discussions, recommendations and outcomes in the 2018 AWS Global Water Stewardship Forum Summary Report (available via our website here), as well as our Review of Progress and Learning 2017-2018 (downloadable here).
As we reach the end of 2018 and reflect on discussions held at the Forum, we are looking forward to 2019 and the launch of the AWS Standard V2.0. Over the last year, we have undertaken extensive consultation with users of the AWS Standard to gather feedback and revise the Standard, in line with best practice laid down by the ISEAL Alliance, of which AWS is a member. We have had lots of feedback and lessons learnt shared with us, ranging from discussions on the overarching outcomes of the Standard down to specific details behind key indicators. It has been great to hear so much knowledge and experience directly from those using the Standard, and when we publish the new version of the AWS Standard in early 2019, I hope to see even greater engagement with AWS.
Looking back from this year’s event to our first Global Water Stewardship Forum in 2016, it is inspiring to see accelerating use of the AWS Standard, the rapid growth in AWS membership and the broadening of participation in water stewardship by diverse stakeholders from across the public and private sectors and civil society that has emerged in major water risk hot spots globally. 2019 is going to be a busy year with the launch of the new Standard, and we already know of a significant number of sites going for certification early in the year, so keep in touch, and watch this space!
If you would like to find out more about AWS, the Standard or how AWS membership could benefit your water stewardship activity, please get in touch.