Within the corporate water stewardship landscape, some companies are setting and pursuing “water balance” goals as part of their overall water strategies. What this concept means, and how companies are implementing it, can be confusing. To increase understanding around the evolving landscape of water balance goals and associated projects, this report will discuss where the concept of water balance came from, the motivations for balance initiatives, types of balance projects and benefits, important considerations, and emerging water stewardship trends in target setting.
Most businesses have a material interest in ensuring the consistent, long-term availability and sustainable management of water for their operations and, increasingly, in their supply chains, surrounding communities, and critical markets. Consequently, water targets must drive outcomes for a company that yield meaningful results, such as reducing material business risks while also serving the public interest.
The seeming simplicity of balance goals and projects can be attractive—“we will restore a volume of water equal to the amount our business consumes.” However, the implementation of a balance goal is anything but simple, requiring the development and application of appropriate quantification methodologies, corporate system guidelines, documentation procedures, data collection, and verification and reporting processes.
Ultimately, there is no silver bullet. Water is local and inherently complex. Addressing issues and implementing solutions is hard, and requires taking a long view and a basin-scale perspective. Continued investment and engagement by public and private stakeholders will be required to address our shared water challenges. One company, one agency, or one NGO cannot do it alone.