Activating world-class water stewardship at your organization

How to Activate a World Class Water Stewardship Strategy Within Your Company

June 21st, 2017

It’s no secret that water is absolutely paramount to the function and success of any business. But in an age where climate change is having a serious impact on water availability and quality, companies are under increasing business and stakeholder pressure to become better global water stewards.

The good news? Many companies are taking action by thinking holistically about the water needs across their organizations and supply chains, risks and opportunities their operations face, and crafting proactive water stewardship and security strategies to bolster the future of their business and reach “world class” water stewardship status.

The even better news? If your organization aspires to world class water stewardship, there’s a proven framework at your fingertips that can help guide your efforts.

While originally developed for the beverage sector, the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable’s (BIER) World Class Water Stewardship framework can provide the guidance and inspiration companies across an array of industries need to take their water stewardship efforts to the next level. (Learn more about Antea Group's work in forming and facilitating BIER here.)

Below we offer a few actionable steps for using the framework to guide and inspire your water stewardship strategy.

1. Conduct a gap analysis

Every water stewardship program is at a different level of maturity. As a result, a critical first step to becoming a world class water steward is taking stock of where you’re currently at.

The framework features six core principles—Direct Operations, Supply Chain, Watershed Context, Community & Collective Action, Advocacy, and Transparency & Disclosure—with detailed descriptions of what world class water stewardship actually looks like for each.

Assemble a water stewardship team and conduct a gap discovery and analysis session, using the six principles to guide the discussion. This will allow you to inventory all your water stewardship activities to determine what you’re doing well and what needs work, as well as document what needs to happen next in order to establish your future water security.

The framework outlines six leadership principles and the associated qualities that define water stewardship excellence:

Image of water stewardship plan graphic

2. Define your strategic objectives

In order to build or refine your current water stewardship strategy, you need to identify and document what you actually hope to accomplish—both short-term and long-term; set your aspirations and define a vision of success.

Use the insights you uncovered during your gap analysis to set specific, measurable goals that address risks or take advantage of opportunities for each principle. For example, improving wastewater management could be a big opportunity, and your goal could be to install wastewater recycling equipment in four high-priority facilities by the end of the year.

3. Lay out your strategy

Your water stewardship strategy provides the why, who, and how you’re going to achieve your short- and long-term objectives. It’s your infrastructure. Your game plan. Your roadmap.

Compile all your short- and long-term goals into a central document, and start crafting your plan for how you’ll reach each of them. For more robust programs, your strategy may tackle multiple risks and opportunities in tandem. For younger programs, you’ll likely be starting smaller.

Building off the previous example, if your goal is to install wastewater recycling equipment within four high-priority facilities by the end of the year, some items to include in your strategic plan could include:

  • A resource map outlining the roles and responsibilities—from implementation to monitoring to reporting—of team members at the corporate, facility and local government level.
  • A detailed budget.
  • A timeline for implementation that details contingencies such as equipment order time and installation, and on-site employee training.
  • A list of key stakeholders and roles they play in your initiatives.
  • How you’ll communicate wins, opportunities and other results to inform and engage stakeholders throughout the process. (i.e. creating tailored communication plans)
  • How you’ll measure and report on success. (i.e. KPIs, method of measurement, etc.)
  • How each of your short-term goals map to other long-term goals. In this case, that may be an increase in water use efficiency by 5% in year one and 15% in three years.

4. Activate your strategy

Now that you’ve identified key risks and opportunities, set goals, and created a plan to achieve those goals, it’s time to activate your strategy.

Before launch, circle up with key team members responsible for implementing, communicating, tracking, or reporting on your initiatives. Run through your timeline, their respective roles and responsibilities, and discuss potential roadblocks so you can address them early or create a contingency plan.

After your discussion, set a deploy date and launch your strategy. Be sure to engage stakeholder groups to keep them informed, and to ensure their continued commitment to your efforts.

5. Monitor, measure and report on performance

Once you launch your strategy, the real work begins. Use the intel you’re receiving in your status updates to compile short-term wins, as well as opportunities for improvement. In addition, review water data regularly to draw insights on how your initiatives are performing against both short- and long-term objectives. Do not hesitate to revisit the framework to refresh your perspective and implementation efforts.

Aspire to Achieve World Class Status

The World Class Water Stewardship framework was developed by industry leaders to be aspirational and actionable. While you may not be able to achieve world class water stewardship and long-term security tomorrow, this framework can be your scalable, inspirational, and aspirational guide.

We encourage you to download and read the framework. Then ask yourself: Is my current water stewardship strategy on the path to world class status? It is helping to ensure water access in the future?

Ready to take your water stewardship strategy to the next level? Let Antea Group help. Get in touch with us today.


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