Linking water context and water stewardship: A natural fit
This week, Sustainable Brands will host its latest version of New Metrics, which brings together some of the world’s leading thinkers on sustainability metrics. Context-based water targets will be on the agenda there as well.
It’s not entirely surprising that these topics are now in vogue, considering the fact that water is consistently recognized by businesses and investors as one of their most material risks and the growing recognition that we are eclipsing planetary thresholds. Furthermore, the two concepts are intertwined.
Context (or the local nature of issues) is inherent when talking about water. The AWS Standard is explicit about the need to understand context and shared water challenges and then set targets. Where it is silent is around performance thresholds. The challenge of setting such performance thresholds, however, is that they vary by sector and geography.
To reconcile water stewardship and context-based water targets that are driven by local thresholds will require local data (or regional models at least). Conversely, AWS and water stewardship activities often gather such local data, so there begins to be a virtuous cycle. Furthermore, water stewardship and context-based water targets are also explicitly aimed to serve policy needs, giving water governance a much-needed boost.
As AWS refines its standard, it has a unique opportunity to help advance this link between water stewardship and threshold-based performance target setting.
It is our belief at WWF that such efforts, no matter how difficult, must be explored. Indeed many people said that an international water stewardship standard could not be done (but it was, back in 2014). Others said that nobody would use such a standard (but there are now over 50 sites certified or registered to certify, with hundreds more applying the standard). So what some see as impossible, others simply see as the next frontier.
WWF, like its partners CDP, The Nature Conservancy, CEO Water Mandate, UNEP-DHI, and World Resources Institute, has committed to advancing both water stewardship and context-based water targets forward. Not only will we continue to develop the concept, and popularize it, but more importantly, we’re learning by doing.
We’ve already started to test different, practical and applied approaches with large retailers like Edeka and their supply chains. We are working with major fashion brands, like H&M, to integrate the concept into how they think about performance. We’re pushing the envelope and staffing up with leading thinkers, and joining forces with those, like the Center for Sustainability, who have been trying to push this agenda for some time.
Like all innovation, developing both of these concepts comes with risk. We will “fail”. But “failure” is simply a synonym for learning. So, we will learn, adapt, refine and develop something that can work.
For those out there – be it companies, government agencies or our fellow non-governmental agencies, we encourage you to join us on our learning journey. We must establish more meaningful water targets that can help to help to achieve the SDGs. We must work together.