Shift Happens

Partnering to protect water

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Most companies engaged in water stewardship find themselves seeking partners to help address water stress in shared watersheds. Historically, such engagement often has been coordinated at the local level after a production facility has conducted a detailed quantification of water stress and identified the associated risks to their business.

In an effort to get ahead of this need, Procter & Gamble decided to detail its highest water stress locations and openly invite others to partner with them during a session at Stockholm World Water Week.

P&G is on a three-part journey to address water stress and risk across its global manufacturing plant portfolio. In the first tier, P&G worked with the World Resources Institute to screen all of its facilities using four indicators to understand whether each site is located in an area of high water stress, how much water the site uses annually, the country’s degree of economic development and the total population with access to improved water (see graphic below). This screening process enabled P&G to efficiently and effectively prioritize 40 facilities exposed to high water risk.

After the first phase of the assessment, P&G worked with Environmental Resources Management to develop and launch a questionnaire to learn more about the individual water risks facing each of the 40 facilities and how stress affects their operations, the surrounding community and the local watershed. Questionnaire responses were reviewed and evaluated by ERM, incorporating water risk scores from public tools, including WRI’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas and World Wildlife Fund’s Water Risk Filter and ongoing management practices at the site.

WRI and WWF also reviewed and provided feedback on ERM’s methodology for assessing risk exposure and ranking facilities based on the questionnaire responses. ERM then prepared detailed site-level reports and a corporate report highlighting the key findings and site-level scores. The site-level report enabled each facility to better understand its current water risk exposure and raise awareness of the topic on the ground.

The second tier of the P&G Water Risk Assessment process resulted in the identification of 24 facilities facing the highest level of water risk. P&G is working with ERM to conduct detailed site assessments at each of the 24 facilities based on the Alliance for Water Stewardship International Water Stewardship Standard 1.0. The standard provides a globally applicable framework for major water users to understand their water use and impacts and to work collaboratively and transparently for sustainable water management within a basin context. The AWS standard will help each site create plans that address risks both internally and externally.

The results of the three-tiered water risk assessment process were overlaid with the results from similar data-based water risk assessments completed across key global markets and supplier locations to identify the company’s priority basins.

Extra steps

The process of focusing on facility and supplier locations within key markets exposed to the highest water risk is not unique and many corporations are following a similar journey. However, P&G is taking the extra steps to model transparency and encourage and inspire others through its open invitation for partnerships.

One can argue that in a world of increasing expectations from stakeholders for greater disclosure, public reporting of water risk is becoming commonplace, such as through annual water risk disclosure via CDP. To model such transparency, P&G selected Stockholm World Water Week to openly share its initial 18 priority basin locations and the data-based process they used to prioritize the basins.

If you are familiar with water stress and risk mitigation in the context of corporate water stewardship, you know that forming partnerships with other water users and stakeholders is necessary for anyone looking to effectively address such challenges. Water is shared, and while each user may face different levels of risk from such stress, it has proven beneficial to work together.

Even before detailed site assessments were conducted, P&G sought potential partnerships in its priority basins. Following P&G’s presentation in Stockholm, the audience self-selected country break-out groups based on the priority basins listed above. Then, P&G and its partners facilitated discussions about shared water challenges, actions already underway, additional data sources and identification of key stakeholders that can help in each region.

As each site completes their assessment and develops their action plan, they will have a head start in identifying and engaging partners in collective action. P&G looks forward to such partnerships as they advance their water stewardship program in an effort to protect one of the world’s most valuable resources.