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Pacific Institute Insights is the staff blog of the Pacific Institute, one of the world’s leading nonprofit research groups on sustainable and equitable management of natural resources. For more about what we do, click here.

  • The Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines – A common and meaningful way for companies to track and communicate their water performance, risks, and impacts

    by Peter Schulte, Research Associate

    October 7, 2014

    The Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines are available as a PDF report and web-based tool.

    disclosure-guidelines-cover-2014This week, the CEO Water Mandate launched its finalized Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines – a common approach for companies to effectively and intelligibly disclose the many elements of their corporate water management practice to key stakeholders. The Guidelines present an important step in corporate water stewardship that can help companies communicate with their stakeholders, and better understand themselves in the process. Here are a few (of many!) ways in which the Guidelines can benefit a company.

    Demonstrating good practice

    By providing meaningful quantitative metrics and qualitative approaches that describe corporate water practice, the Guidelines help companies demonstrate good performance and reduced risks and impacts to investors, consumers, communities, suppliers, their own employees, and others. This is particularly important as, in the past, many companies have used water-related metrics that are at best of only limited use, and at worse quite misleading! For example, traditional globally-aggregated water use metrics inherently hide and undervalue the local nature of water resource challenges. Perhaps a company’s global water use has decreased, but has it decreased in the places that are facing the most urgent water shortages?

    …»

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  • GreenBiz Blog: The Three Questions You Need To Ask about Assessing Water Risk

    by Jason Morrison, director of the Pacific Institute Corporate Sustainability Program, and Sissel Waage, Director of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at BSR (Business for Social Responsibility)

    July 28, 2014

    Q-markDo your company’s risk assessment processes consider water risk for every major capital decision, as well as operational management and supply chain partner screening? If not, it is time to call a meeting to revise business risk assessment and management procedures.

    The business case is now clear. For example, as quoted in the Ceres report “Murky Waters? Corporate Reporting on Water Risk” (PDF), the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission homes in on material risks as: “Changes in the availability or quality of water … can have material effects on companies.” JPMorgan’s “Watching Water” report (PDF) states: “In many situations, the risk of business interruption due to water scarcity appears to be on the rise, making contingency planning more important.”

    A UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate report explains that “inside the fence-line” approaches are inadequate: “The simple measurement of corporate water use and discharge does not provide a complete picture of a company’s water risks or impacts. … As such, understanding and managing water risks requires companies to assess watershed conditions” (emphasis added)…

    Read the full blog at GreenBiz.

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  • Can We Reasonably Expect the Private Sector to Advance Sustainable Water Management? Should We?

    By Peter Schulte, Research Associate

    June 16, 2014

    Over the past several years, the CEO Water Mandate has articulated to businesses why and how they can advance sustainable water management by making their own operations more efficient and by contributing to watershed efforts to promote sustainability. This is a proposition that some, especially a segment of the NGO community, are skeptical of. Many of these concerns are outlined in a paper from the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) entitled Conflicts, Companies, Human Rights and Water—A Critical Review of Local Corporate Practices and Global Corporate Initiatives.

    This week, the Mandate released a discussion paper – in collaboration with WWF International – that tackles these claims and shines a light on why we believe they are largely not true.

    Let’s go through these contentions one-by-one: …»

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  • Do Businesses in the U.S. Have an Enlightened Self-Interest in Sustainable Water Management?

    By Jason Morrison, Corporate Sustainability Program Director

    April 8, 2014

    Water challenges are not just an issue for companies with operations and/or suppliers in developing countries; they are confronting businesses here and now in the United States. And while the current drought in California and the Southwest or the one in the Midwest last year get considerable attention, many regions in the US face a chronic imbalance between water supply and demand. These regional imbalances, coupled with a variety of other water-related concerns nationally, present current and future water risks for US business.

    looming-water-challenges-infographicThis of one of the key findings of a new study released by the Pacific Institute and VOX Global, titled “Bridging Concern and Action: Are US Companies Prepared for Looming Water Challenges?” Based on a survey of over 50 companies, it reveals that most of participating companies believe water challenges will significantly worsen in the next five years. More specifically, 60% of companies indicate water is poised to affect business growth and profitability within five years, and more than 80% say it will affect their decisions on where to locate facilities. …»

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  • Defining Water Scarcity, Water Stress, and Water Risk: It’s Not Just Semantics

    By Peter Schulte, Research Associate

    February 4, 2014

    Over the past couple years, the Pacific Institute’s Corporate Sustainability Program, in its role with the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, has been developing the Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines, which provide a common framework for how companies can report water-related information to stakeholders in a meaningful manner. One of the core goals of this effort is to encourage companies to report their water-related information in a more harmonized way, so that companies are thinking and talking about water in a similar, more comparable way.

    One obstacle to more harmonized water reporting is the fact that many companies, stakeholders, and corporate water assessment tools do not have a shared understanding of key water-related terms used in disclosure. In particular, many companies and others use the terms “water scarcity,” “water stress,” and “water risk” (often used to indicate geographic areas where water challenges are more pronounced) in a variety of ways and often interchangeably. For example, some companies report water use reduction specifically in areas of water “scarcity,” while others report water use reductions in areas of water “stress.” In other cases, many companies refer to areas facing water stress, but actually mean different things. …»

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  • Sustainability Standards Systems

    Voluntary Sustainability Standards and Public Policy – Where Is It Headed?

    By Mai-Lan Ha, Corporate Sustainability Research Associate

    July 1, 2013

    Today, when you enter a supermarket, hardware store, or shop online you are besieged by a variety of labels and stamps claiming products are Fair Trade Certified, certified by the Rainforest Alliance Network, Utz Certified, SA8000 certified, FSC certified amongst many others. The proliferation of voluntary sustainability standards systems has led to questions about their tangible impacts and how to eliminate some of the “noise” of overlapping standards. Yet, a more fundamental question needs to be answered: what should be the role or relationship of voluntary sustainability standards systems to public policy processes toward meeting sustainability objectives? …»

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  • Shared Risk, Shared Interest: Corporates and Their Role in Sustainable Water Management

    By Peter Schulte, Research Associate

    June 18, 2013 

    Businesses around the world are making the strategic decision to invest in water-use efficiency and wastewater treatment in their operations. From a business perspective, these efforts reduce operational costs, help alleviate reputational damage due to harmful impacts on ecosystems and communities, and manage risks related to insufficient water supplies. However, many businesses are increasingly going beyond these “inside the fencelines” efforts to encourage more sustainable water management throughout their supply chain and the watersheds outside their factory gates.  They do so by facilitating water-use efficiency and pollution reduction measures of other actors in their watersheds; advocating for efficient, equitable, and ecologically sustainable water policies and practices at the local, national, and international scales; investing in public water infrastructure expansions or upgrades; and a variety of other approaches. …»

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  • Can Business Help Achieve Water-Related Sustainable Development Goals In a Post-2015 World?

    By Jason Morrison, Corporate Sustainability Program Director

    May 30, 2013

    The answer is an emphatic, YES! In fact, given that the private sector accounts for the majority of global water use (when including both industrial water use and companies’ agriculture-based supply chains), one could argue that achieving such goals without direct business involvement and support will be near impossible. The good news is that many in the business community share an interest in achieving more sustainable water management, as there’s a growing understanding within companies that such an outcome is perhaps the most viable long-term strategy for addressing water-related business risk. …»

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