Resources Available to Business to Quantify and Reduce the Water Impacts of their Water Use (2012)

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This study was commissioned by Defra to inform businesses about resources to assess and understand the impacts of their water use. 34 resources such as risk assessments were identified through a literature review and expert comment, out of which ten were further investigated. The study is considered to provide a good insight into different available resources and help businesses to ask the right questions to identify the most appropriate resources for their purposes. Engaging more business users, stronger cooperation between stakeholders, and the development of a decision-support framework for selecting options were viewed as important for driving future water efficiency efforts by businesses.

Executive Summary

Water is increasingly recognised as a key global environmental issue. Water use by businesses is coming under increasing scrutiny and there are currently a large variety of resources available to help businesses understand water issues, including use, impacts and risks (a water-related“resource” refers to any initiative, strategy, guidance, methodology, model and data analysis toolthat helps businesses to target water management issues and include for example training modules, water footprinting, water stewardship and water accounting). However, identifying the resource which best suits the requirements of a particular business is not always straightforward. This study was commissioned by Defra to specifically inform businesses about the resources (including tools, risk assessment methods, stewardship programmes, etc.) that are available to them to assess and understand the impacts of their water use.

The study was divided into several steps. It first identified resources and drivers that lead businesses to engage with water issues. This led to a mapping exercise, where the identified resources were mapped against the drivers and the stakeholders they are targeted at if any (e.g. SMEs, specific sectors). Factsheets were also developed for each resource. Based on the mapping, ten resources were selected for further investigation, these were not deemed to be‘better’ than the other resources but provide a representative sample of the different types of resource currently available. The assessment was based on the feedback from business users. In addition to individual assessments, a transversal analysis was performed to identify gaps, and propose recommendations.

The study found four main drivers and scenarios that lead business to focus on water management issues:

Identify and assess water-related risks (physical or disruption risks, reputational risks, or environmental risks)

Measure water use and assess water-related impacts (for regulatory or operational reasons, or sustainability assessment)

Develop response options and/or risk mitigation strategies

Communicate water risk/performance (to their stakeholders, investors or the general public)

Building on these, six categories of more specific objectives are used in this study to characterise and map the resources identified:

High-level screening of corporate water impact Quantification of water use for corporate activities Quantification of water use in the supply chain Assessment of site-specific water impacts Assessment of product-based water impacts