Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines: Towards a Common Approach to Report Water Issues

Published: August 27, 2012
Authors: Jason Morrison, Peter Schulte, Lauren Koopman, Natalie Allan
Pages: 108

Providing a Common Approach to Water Disclosure Supports More Sustainable and Equitable Management of Water Resources

Companies are fundamentally changing the way they address water. Increasingly, they are investing in water-efficient technologies, working with suppliers to encourage more responsible water use, introducing cleaner and more efficient products, and seeking to advance sustainable water management outside their fencelines as a way to mitigate water-related risks and impacts.

Corporate water disclosure is a critical component of a company’s water management efforts and water sustainability more generally. The UN CEO Water Mandate has released Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines to help advance a common approach to corporate water disclosure that addresses the complexity of water resources in a comprehensive yet concise and practical manner. The Guidelines suggest that companies offer several types of water-related information, which are captured in the Guidelines’ Corporate Water Disclosure Framework.

Corporate water disclosure involves collecting data on the current state of a company’s water management, assessing the implications of this information for the business, developing a strategic response, and ultimately reporting this information to stakeholders (investors, NGOs, consumers, communities, suppliers, employees, and others). With a proliferation of different water assessment and disclosure metrics and tools available, the results are not easily comparable and companies may divert unnecessary resources to complete an array of water or sustainability surveys. The new Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines, developed in collaboration with the Pacific Institute, Carbon Disclosure Project, PricewaterhouseCoopers, World Resources Institute, and Global Reporting Initiative, offer a common approach to disclosure, putting forward metrics that can begin to harmonize practice and also providing guidance to help companies define report content.

The CEO Water Mandate Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines support business viability in many ways, from improving a company’s understanding of its water challenges and effective responses, to providing an opportunity to demonstrate progress and good practice to external stakeholders and investors, to establishing a dialog and building credibility with key stakeholders – paving the way for future partnerships and achievement of shared water-related goals.

The Corporate Water Disclosure Framework builds on three areas:

  1. Company Water Profile – an overview of the company’s relationship with water resources, offering a snapshot of water performance, risks, impacts, and response strategies that nontechnical audiences can easily understand.
  2. Defining Report Content – a description of the process by which a company determines which water-related content to include in its report. The company assesses the significance of different water topics to the company and its stakeholders, and the extent to which those topics cause, or may in the future cause, adverse impacts to ecosystems and communities.
  3. Detailed Disclosure – specific, detailed metrics and qualitative information related to the company’s water management as well as to the specific water management programs and projects it implements.

The Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines are designed to be applicable to a broad range of corporate water users, to capture the complex and location-specific nature of water resource dynamics and corporate action. Companies that are looking for detailed guidance on how to more effectively disclose the many elements of corporate water management will also find in the new Guidelines response strategies they can take to address the risks, opportunities, and impacts that come to light in their assessment.

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