Working with water - what should your business be doing?

May 29, 2018 Amanda Skeldon

 

 

Whatever your sector, whatever your product or service, or the day-to-day activities of your organisation, this uses water. Water is a national and international resource that is under pressure – your organisation has a water footprint that you need to understand, manage and reduce. There is lots of guidance and help available to enable your organisation to take action, and the actions you take will benefit your business as well as the environment – finding efficiencies, building resilience and working together with stakeholders. Here are the top-level steps you should consider and where you can find more help and information.

1. Understand your water use

Conduct a comprehensive water-use assessment. Whatever your organisation’s size or sector, your water use is an important part of the eco-system.  There are a number of tools to support this - Use the steps at http://environment.bitc.org.uk/change-maker to understand how your organisation uses water and where the key risks and opportunities are to make a difference. Use Rivers Trust data and maps to understand local risk to you and your stakeholders http://www.theriverstrust.org/what-we-do/data-evidence/ and WWF’s Water Risk Filter http://waterriskfilter.panda.org/

2. Set targets and make a plan

Make a plan to achieve your goals, ensure responsibility is identified for each action. Your plans may include – changing policy and procedures, engaging colleagues, looking for innovation and investing in new technologies.

To see real change happen, you need to set targets and create a plan of action. Use the information from Step 1 to prioritise areas where the best impact can be made and plan the actions you will take. To drive improvements, you need to set targets, ideally these should be long term and should reflect the progress that the environment needs your organisation to make – so use science to set targets that will make a difference to that local environment. For example, a general water use reduction target may seem achievable, but if your organisation is damaging an ecosystem through its supply chain (perhaps an agricultural product that is water intensive) – then this is where you need to focus. Understand what is needed to put that situation right and work towards achieving that as your target.

3. Build resilience

Water is a powerful force, too much or too little of it will cause your organisation problems. You should consider how you manage extreme weather events, recover from these and help mitigate against future occurrences. Ensure that your activities consider the needs of local stakeholders and eco-systems – don’t transfer your problem to further downstream whether dealing with flood or drought… And prioritise natural methods to limit the effects of extreme events – for example, Sustainable Urban Drainage using green infrastructure will protect your infrastructure and deal with floodwater on site (or nearby) so protecting local communities.

4. Consider water in your business decision-making.

Embed criteria that reduces resource use into your organisation’s decision-making processes. For example, decisions regarding facility siting, due diligence, production processes, and all decisions regarding product design and development and sourcing - should all include consideration of how water will be used and the future impact of water on your organisation.

5. Product design and development

Provide lower impact products - design products that use less resources to produce and use. Require that resource use reduction is built into product design and development processes. Educate your design and marketing teams to ensure this is a core part of how they design and redesign products and services.

6. Engage your supply chain 

Engage with suppliers regarding their water stewardship to better identify and address your indirect impacts on water. You should be particularly aware of these impacts where suppliers are operating in water vulnerable areas. Use Step 1 to assess your suppliers and where the water risks and opportunities are in your supply chain.

Encourage and facilitate suppliers to improve their water conservation, quality monitoring, waste-water treatment, and recycling practices. You can do this by sharing best practice, implementing standards for suppliers to meet and requesting reports on progress. 

7. Engage your agricultural supply chain

Agricultural suppliers can have a massive impact on the water catchment they operate in –  for example, through poor management leading to pollution down-steam, soil depletion caused by uninhibited run-off, or water use that reduces water available for ecosystems and other users. The benefits of using sustainable agricultural methods include – protect ecosystems, prevent flooding, retain soil. The long-term sustainability of your supply chain is essential to your organisation, as are the wider implications of farming practice on the environment, and the reputation of your business.

Work with agricultural suppliers to reduce water-related risks in your supply chain. Identify your key agricultural suppliers and ask about their water management. Provide advice, and incentives for action for example – procurement standards, premium prices and longer-term contracts. Encourage suppliers to sign up to farm assurance schemes – including Leaf Marque and Red Tractor. And support suppliers to implement capital-intensive mitigation measures (such as on-farm slurry storage) by providing longer-term contracts, low cost loans and signposting funding sources such as Countryside Stewardship Grants. More guidance and case studies in the BITC Smart Water Report www.bitc.org.uk/resources-training/toolkits/smart-water-prosperous-future-food-and-drink-supply-chain.

Farmers are now required to follow the New Farming rules for Water  www.gov.uk/government/news/new-farming-rules-for-water regarding the management of fertilisers and manures, and managing soils. Ensure your agricultural supply chain is managing their operations accordingly.

8. Use waste/surplus food

Reuse resources so further water isn’t used unnecessarily. Working internally and with suppliers, identify wastes and surpluses that are currently ignored, match them to end-uses which deliver higher value, and help broker links to innovative technologies and new market opportunities.  You can find guidance from WRAP www.wrap.org.uk/food-waste-reduction.

9. Collaborate

Collaborate with others on challenges that your organisation cannot tackle alone. Step beyond your own operations and those of your suppliers, to engage a variety of other stakeholders to improve the management of common water resources and to jointly advocate for improved governance.

This could be as part of an existing local group such as a CABA Group (Catchment Based Approach www.catchmentbasedapproach.org), working with suppliers, or setting up a new water stewardship partnership.

Use the guidelines from WWF http://wwfcocacolapartnership.com/building-partnerships/, to build successful partnerships and work together to achieve change at scale with a shared agenda. Key to successful working together is a clear goal, for example – to work with agricultural suppliers in a given catchment area to restore the local ecosystem - by working with the customers of the other farms in the catchment, the whole catchment can see real and transformative change. If this is widened again to include more stakeholders using the catchment, this change can be further embedded.

10. Engage your stakeholders

Raise awareness of water sustainability with internal stakeholders - be sure to engage the whole of your senior team, train operational staff, and keep management well-informed to ensure water stewardship is embedded in corporate culture.

Be active members of the community, for example – give support to government, community groups and initiatives working together to support a catchment or water course or develop its infrastructure. Undertake water-resource education and awareness campaigns in partnership with other stakeholders.

11. Change customer behaviour.

Engage customers to influence behaviour to reduce their water use and support excellent water quality – particularly in relation to your products and services. Consumers should also be supported to understand your corporate choices regarding water and to value these.

Where your organisation works with food and drink, engage customers initially on food waste – for example helping people get more value from the food and drink they buy. Where possible extend this work to link with complementary behaviours such as healthier sustainable food choices, and valuing where food comes from.

12. Be transparent 

Publish and share your water strategies and results to demonstrate your commitment, share best practice and promote engagement:

Sign up to a commitment relevant to your sector and organisation’s engagement (see the table), you can also report your results through the frameworks of The CEO water mandate www.ceowatermandate.org/files/CEO_Water_Mandate.pdf  (which feeds into Progress for the UN Global Compact), or the Carbon Disclosure Project www.cdp.net/en/companies-discloser.

Publish your water strategy and progress in relevant corporate reports, for guidance consult the water indicators in the GRI Guidelines.

Further help for each step

 

CEO water mandate

Courtauld 2025  

International Tourism Partnership water stewardship

WWF ladder

WWF Journey

CDP

BITC Smart Water steps

New rules for farming guidelines

1. Assess water use

Y

 

Y

 

 

 

Y

 

2. Make a plan and set targets

Y

 

Y

 

 

 

Y

 

3. Build resilience

 

 

Y

 

 

 

Y

 

4. Consider water in decision making

Y

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Product design and development

 

Y

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Engage stakeholders

Y

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.  Engage suppliers

Y

Y

Y

 

 

 

Y

 

8. Work with agricultural supply chain

 

 

 

 

 

 

Y

Y

9.  Collaborate

Y

Y

Y

Y

 

 

Y

 

10.  Customer behavior change

 

Y

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.  Use waste and surplus food

 

Y

 

 

 

 

 

 

12.  Be transparent

Y

 

 

 

 

Y

 

 

 

 

                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                 

 

 

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