Context is key to meaningful corporate water targets | WWF

Context is key to meaningful corporate water targets

Posted on
12 April 2017
With floods and droughts making headlines across the world and water risks rising rapidly up the global business agenda, more and more companies are setting water targets to help mitigate their risk and secure clean water supplies. But current methods for creating these targets are proving inadequate as they often ignore a critical element – the unique local context of water issues.

That’s why CDP, the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate, the Nature Conservancy (TNC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF have launched a joint paper calling for a new approach to setting corporate water targets – context-based water targets.

While companies are increasingly engaging with governments and other stakeholders in their basins to address shared challenges, linking their water use to a given basin’s water context remains a challenge. To overcome this, companies need to set “context-based” water targets that address the unique site-specific concerns in each river basin and include input from local stakeholders to ensure that their efforts meet the needs of the basins in which they operate.

“Water is a resource that depends upon local context for sustainable management,” said Kevin Rabinovich, Global Sustainability Director, Mars Inc. “That means corporate targets for water use must be based on science and understanding at the basin level, and not set arbitrarily.”

Context-based metrics and targets need to be informed by science and existing public water policy goals. Doing so offers companies a way to collaboratively align with other stakeholder efforts in implementing solutions that address the root causes of water risk. In particular, the Sustainable Development Goals, which are increasingly a part of how companies are tracking corporate impacts, provide an overarching, universal policy framework with which companies can align their water targets to help harmonize the efforts of actors, within and across basins and even countries. But there is a long way to go.

Launched in Washington at the Sustainability Consortium summit, the joint paper is the start of a broader project to develop a common approach to identifying context-based water targets. And subsequently guidance that companies around the world can employ to set meaningful and appropriate water targets: targets that will enable companies to tackle their own and shared water challenges.

“Context-based water targets will help to protect water resources for communities and nature that rely on freshwater ecosystems, as well as making sound business sense,” said Alexis Morgan, WWF Water Stewardship Specialist.
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