3 ways the upgraded Water Risk Filter can add context into your water stewardship

By Rylan Dobson, Water Stewardship Manager, WWF Germany & Alexis Morgan, WWF Global Water Stewardship Lead

Water is critical to the textile industry © Justin Jin / WWF-US

Too often we read that “water is local” within business sustainability literature. However, it is not uncommon to find that the principles of this statement don’t extend further than this and are not meaningfully reflected within both the strategy and the targets of that business. The water risk narrative is well embedded within water stewardship and this has helped businesses and investors better understand that the phrase “water is local” means that the water-related issues impacting each operational asset will be different.

Yet the CDP Global Water Report 2017 showed that only 56% of responding businesses had set water targets across a range of water issues and that — more importantly — many of these targets did not account for shared basin challenges (i.e., local context).

In 2018, WWF published a report entitled Water Stewardship Revisited,which outlined a revised value-driven narrative that the water stewardship community would need to adopt if we are to scale water stewardship to address growing freshwater challenges. One of the future water stewardship opportunities that we identified within this paper was to build from the basin context to create more meaningful responses. WWF recently announced the launch of the new Respond section within the Water Risk Filter – the first of several efforts WWF is working on to support this new, more meaningful and value-driven, water stewardship narrative.

The water stewardship community now possesses a powerful new tool, which translates water risk assessment outputs into contextual relevant operational insights — enabling a business to more meaningful and efficiently integrate “water is local” into the core of its strategies, risk responses and targets. In short, it gives business a tool to develop contextual responses to water.

Simply put, taking a contextual approachmeans doing the right things in the right places. More specifically, it is about ensuring that the business has a strategy in place that can enable each of its operational assets to set itself actions and targets, which directly respond to the water challenges that surround that specific asset. Until now, operationalising such an individualised site-by-site approach to defining water risk responses and target setting may have presented businesses with a large portfolio of operational assets with a significant logistical challenge. Not anymore!

New Respond section of the Water Risk Filter © WWF

Since late 2016, we have been working to curate a library of over 150 possible water risk response actions (50 of these are freely accessible in the online version of the tool, while WWF can support users to access the other 100+) using leading water stewardship guidance and literature. A sub-set of these 150+ actions are then recommended back to the user based a unique combination of the outputs from the basin and operational water risk indicators from the Assess section of the Water Risk Filter. The tool further refines these recommendations by accounting for the current level of water stewardship maturity of the user (user input) — meaning advanced water stewards will only see more advanced water risk response recommendations.

Operationalising a “local” approach to water (especially with large operational portfolios) has presented business with an efficiency challenge up until this point — it is time consuming to go site-by-site to develop response plans. However, the new Respond section of the Water Risk Filter can help business enable “water is local” solutions in 3 different ways:

1. Corporate water stewardship strategy:Enables users to efficiently generate corporate-level responses that can be taken to better respond to the unique and variable water risks impacting its portfolio. Accordingly, the new Respond section can not only enable strategy review or development, but also review proposed water stewardship plans by sites or suppliers to see if they are fit for purpose and aligned to corporate strategy. This enables corporate staff to harness the Water Risk Filter to work from global to support local water efforts.

2. Contextual Water targets: Efficiently help a business to prioritise what types of water targets each of its operational assets should be setting, or even at a holistic, corporate level. By drawing on the indicators from the Water Risk Filter and links to external global initiatives (such as the UN SDGs) a business can now create a suite of targets that now help it focus on the right things in the right places. For example, a site facing water scarcity challenges in a basin should set water efficiency targets that might be more stringent compared to other sites (in basins where scarcity is not an issue).Furthermore, a contextual water target approach also sets the stage to move on to Science-Based Targets for Water when a methodology is more widely available and implementable.

3. Water risk response: Efficiently provides a tailored set of recommended response actions for any given site or portfolio of sites — regardless of the size of the portfolio. At its most basic level, the new Respond section can create a bespoke list of water risk responses for each operational unit within a portfolio (regardless of the size of the portfolio) instantly. However, if a water stewardship programme is managed at a country level then with just a few clicks the new Respond section is able to create a bespoke list of water risk responses for that country — again based entirely on basin and operational risks sites within that country are facing. Want to split out a customized water stewardship plan for suppliers versus operating sites? No problem! With easy-to-use filters, users can meet their specific water risk response needs.

The new Respond section helps users do the right things in the right places © Global Warming Images / WWF

The new Respond section of the Water Risk Filter better enables businesses to build strategies and targets from a basin context to create more meaningful water stewardship programmes that generate greater value for businesses and the basins in which they operate.

The shift towards greater contextualisation has already begun. With CDP, GRI and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board all now requesting contextual disclosure and reporting when it comes to freshwater, the Water Risk Filter helps ease the reporting burden as well.

For more information on the new Respond section or to access the full library of water risk responses, contact Ariane Laporte-Bisquit (ariane.laporte-bisquit@wwf.de) or visit http://waterriskfilter.org.