To facilitate knowledge-sharing among stakeholders interested in this subject, the project team has created this FAQ page in which we summarize key audience questions and takeaways. Going forward, this FAQ page will include insights from the various contextual target-setting projects around the world and will be regularly updated to reflect new findings and project learnings.

Stakeholder Engagement

In India, we did a thorough landscape assessment to understand who the relevant stakeholders are and worked with a local organization, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE) on identifying this stakeholder group. We ensured stakeholders encompassed a range of sectors, including brand representatives, facility managers, environmental NGOs, and social NGO.

In short, we sent a lot of emails and held a lot of discussions! We made sure to understand and appeal to each stakeholder’s interests and show how our project can contribute to these interests and add value to their work. For India specifically, we held an in-person workshop in Coimbatore, India early on in the project with the objective to ground truth the priority water challenges and discussed existing practices and potential solutions to address the priority challenges. This created a good foundation for the rest of the project. More information on the workshop and outcomes are located here.

Consistent and effective stakeholder engagement is crucial for this aspect. Understanding the needs and goals of the stakeholder and involving them in the analytical process will help ensure everyone is on the same page and feels ‘ownership’ of the project and resulting targets. In India, we validated the key challenges with our stakeholder group and discussed potential solutions, both within and external of the manufacturing site. The stakeholders were keen to work on collective action targets and solutions. In response, we developed a list of collective action targets addressing the shared water challenges and possible collective action projects. These targets could then be tailored to each company. It’s also important to bring internal alignment within the company. In the Santa Ana pilot, several companies included both their corporate team and site-level management team in the target setting process.

This would depend on the context of where you are situated. In South Africa for example, the role of government is very strong in terms of ensuring policy alignment. In many cases, the government requires support and often the collective work among the private sector can support that. But we imagine that in other countries, the role of the government could be different. Local water planning documents are critical information for understanding the catchment context and desired end state. So engaging water managers by inviting them to stakeholder convenings, sharing insights, and asking for their input in the site water targets setting process is important.

It depends on the national or regional context whether this is possible or not. For example, for India, we were not able to do this largely because of the governance structure. In California however, we did work with water utilities in the region so that companies could have direct dialogue with their public agencies, mostly focused around how to best make use of their programs for commercial customers.

Water Target Setting

We have multiple examples in our case studies, please refer to them here: A target is realistic if you can ensure it follows the SMART principles- ensuring it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. We also explain this further in the overall guidance, which can be found here.

We are currently at this stage in the process, where we are working with the participating companies to decide on what kinds of targets would be most effective. Overall, there is a strong interest in setting collective targets. In Santa Ana, the pilot led to the formation of a collective working group to address the prioritized challenges through the California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC). In South Africa, the water challenges are too large to manage alone, therefore companies are trying to work together and with the public sector to share the burden of reducing water risk. Choosing the type of target will ultimately depend on the company or companies involved, and project feasibility in the local context.

Yes, absolutely, broad water risk tools can help to focus basins to focus efforts but also what the major challenges might be, but local stakeholder engagement and specific detailed information in addition to the broader water risk tools will be needed to really evaluate what the targets could be.

There is currently a process underway called the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN), which is trying to develop a methodology to set integrated targets across water, biodiversity, marine, land, carbon and others and keeping within planetary boundaries. This project however only focused on SDG 6 on water, and so didn’t directly consider carbon emissions and other environmental impacts from SBTN. It did however consider the environmental and social aspects of water under SDG 6.

The companies were provided guidance on how to create their targets. The guidance was suggestive and not prescriptive. They were not told exactly what the targets should be. As long as companies set targets that were SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound), and took into account the local context, they were accepted.

Driving Action

In many of our pilots the cost of water use is low. However, despite the low cost, water security remains a challenge for business. This may be because of supply interruptions, quality issues, or perhaps access to WASH. If you are a company operating in a catchment in which water challenges are faced by others in the community, this can lead to reputational risks too.

The main point of target setting is to create an actionable plan for the company. This depends on company interest/ambition, governance structure and multiple other factors. In our work, there is already strong interest from companies. Having buy-in from companies at different levels is very important in ensuring that targets will become actionable plans. The second aspect is to provide resources and case studies for different industry sectors and in different basins showing the value-add of setting targets and creating action plans. For example, our pilots in India, South Africa, and the United States can help spur action in other basins. Being able to tie targets to existing water stewardship efforts can also help drive action. Throughout this process, it is also important to bring relevant internal and external stakeholders to the table; collective discussions can spur ideas on the best way to drive action and can also motivate effective action.

The first step is to highlight the water risks and impacts on the organization. Provide examples and specific business impacts. Thereafter, provide examples addressing water risks and the results for the company’s operations and supply chains and also for basins where they have operations. Usually, if you’re able to make a business case, you’re able to convince internal stakeholders. It’s also important to remember that some job descriptions are responsible for overall strategy versus site-specific operations, and therefore it’s important to engage the right people in the organization. Gaining buy-in will involve tailoring your pitch according to who you’re talking to and understanding what information they need to make an informed decision- this could be materials around financial information, stakeholder buy-in, reputational aspects, etc.

Guide to Setting Site Water Targets Informed by Catchment Context