Corporate Water Accounting - An analysis of methods and tools for measuring water use and its impacts
Analysis which assesses existing and emerging water accounting methods and tools being used in the private sector.
Water as a natural resource is facing many challenges at the local, regional, and global levels. Human water use is increasingly having negative impacts on human health, economic growth, the environment, and geopolitical stability. In recent years, concerns over growing water scarcity, lack of access to water to meet basic human needs, degraded ecosystem function, and the implications of climate change on the hydrologic cycle have brought water to the forefront as a strategic concern for companies around the world.
Companies’ ability to measure and account for their water use and wastewater discharges throughout the value chain is a critical component in their risk assessment and mitigation efforts, as well as their broader ambitions to become responsible water stewards. Corporate water accounting also allows consumers, civil society groups, and the investment community to compare different companies’ social and environmental impacts in order to inform their actions and decision making. In sum, the ability to effectively account for corporate water use and impacts is essential in helping companies drive improvement and become aligned with external stakeholders’ expectations, as well as their efforts to advance sustainable water management.
This stocktaking exercise aims to assess existing and emerging water accounting methods and tools being used in the private sector, with the goals of:
• Elucidating commonalities and differences among emerging methods and practice;
• Identifying gaps and challenges;
• Suggesting where accounting methodsmight benefit from harmonization and increased field testing.
The analysis focuses primarily on four main methods/tools:
• The Water Footprint Network’s “water footprint”: A method for measuring the volume of water used by any group of consumers (including a business or its products) that is intended to help those consumers better understand their relationship with watersheds, make informed management decisions, and spread awareness of water challenges.
• Life Cycle Assessment: A systems analysis tool designed specifically to measure the environmental sustainability of products (including water use/discharge and many other resource uses/emissions) through all components of the value chain.
• WBCSD Global Water Tool: A free online platform that couples corporate water use, discharge, and facility information input with watershed- and country-level data as a means of assessing water-related risk.
• GEMI Water Sustainability Planner/ Tool: Two free online tools meant to help companies better understand their waterrelated needs and circumstances. The Water Sustainability Tool assesses a company’s relationship to water, identifies associated risks, and describes the business case for action. The Water Sustainability Planner helps elucidate a facility’s dependence on water and the status of the local watershed.