A look at ‘Water Stewardship’ in supply chains

A number of high profile companies, including Nestlé and M&S, have thrown their not inconsiderable weight behind a new water stewardship standard that aims to promote responsible water usage further down the industrial supply chain.

Water Stewerdship - Founding partners logos

What is the Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard?

The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) is a multi-stakeholder organisation “dedicated to enhancing water stewardship capacity” that's guiding and incentivising sustainable water practices. After four years in the making, they officially launched the AWS Standard in Lima, Peru back in April.

According to their website, this international measure “defines a set of water stewardship criteria and indicators for how water should be stewarded at a site and catchment level in a way that is environmentally, socially, and economically beneficial.”

AWS say the standard will encourage, “The use of water that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial, achieved through a stakeholder-inclusive process that involves site and catchment-based actions.

“Good water stewards understand their own water use, catchment context and shared risk in terms of water governance, water balance, water quality and important water-related areas; and then engage in meaningful individual and collective actions that benefit people and nature,” they add.

water foam in a river


How does the AWS Standard work?

In plain terms they've developed a six-step framework for sites to better understand, plan, and implement robust water stewardship procedures that minimise risks that could ultimately effect the wider water supply of that area.

The AWS continues, “The AWS Standard can be implemented by any site, in any sector, in any catchment around the world. Furthermore, the Standard can be harnessed by others interested in mitigating corporate risks, such as water-related supply chain risks or investors, as well as public sector agencies as a framework to evaluate water stewardship practices.”
Companies using the standard receive a detailed analysis of their water impact. This can include withdrawals, discharges and community requirements. The Standard lays out actions to nullify risks and will go some way – the AWS hope at least – to prompting mutual stakeholder action.

How can I get involved?

The AWS Standard is free to download and will also soon be supported by an independent verification system which will recognise varying grades of compliance and performance, as well as enable companies to promote their ethical water management credentials with AWS verified logos. They plan to have the verification system up and running by the end of 2014.

Final words...

Blogging for the Guardian Sustainable Business microsite, WWF's Lead Advisor on Water Stewardship and Standards, Alexis Morgan spoke of his pride as a founding member of the alliance. He said, “As someone who has been involved from the beginning with AWS, I find the endorsements of early adopters like Nestlé and General Mills reassuring.

“We all know this tool isn't perfect – there's no panacea when it comes to a topic as complicated as water. But we also know we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We have to take action to safeguard the essential shared resource we cannot live without, and now there's one less excuse to sit on the sidelines.”

Video: What do sustainability leaders think of AWS?


For more information about the Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard please visit the AWS website.

What are you thoughts on the new standard - do you think this will make a difference to the water usage in industry?

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