Corporate water disclosure guidelines launched by UN

Via: GLOBE-Net, August 30, 2012

‘Water should be more highly valued to reflect its worth and reduce its waste.’

Those words by Paul Bulcke, chief executive officer at Nestle SA (NESN), the world’s biggest food company, at a World Water Week seminar in Stockholm this week, reflect growing corporate awareness of the importance of water to business survival.
‘If something isn’t given a value, people tend to waste it,’ Bulcke said . ‘Water is our most useful resource but those using it often don’t even cover the costs of its infrastructure.’
To give greater awareness of the importance of water, the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate initiative released its Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines – the first ever common approach to corporate water disclosure.

The release of the Guidelines took place at the CEO Water Mandate’s ninth working conference during World Water Week in Stockholm.

The UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate initiative also announced the launch of a global Water Action Hub – the world’s first on-line platform to unite companies, governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders on a range of critical water projects in specific river basins around the planet.

The launch of the Water Action Hub was accompanied by the release of a beta version of the CEO Water Mandate’s Guide to Water-Related Collective Action, which provides a step-by-step approach to water-resource-related collective action.

Corporate water disclosure is a critical component of a company’s water management efforts and water sustainability more generally.

The Guidelines suggest that companies can offer several types of water-related information, which are captured in the Guidelines’ Corporate Water Disclosure Framework.

The new Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines [pdf], 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.

‘It is our hope these Guidelines drive convergence with respect to how companies report their water management efforts while helping to minimize reporting burdens, thus allowing companies to allocate more time and resources to actively managing water,’ said Gavin Power, Deputy Director the UN Global Compact and Head of the CEO Water Mandate.

‘Disclosure also supports more sustainable and equitable management of water resources by improving the ability of stakeholder audiences to evaluate a company’s water practices and make comparisons across companies – which fosters greater corporate accountability,’ he added.

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.
‘Following this process, whether basic or advanced, companies can make connections among the sections of the Framework, explaining how, for example, business risks and impacts result from specific basin conditions and how response strategies address and mitigate certain risks and impacts,’ said co-author Jason Morrison of the Pacific Institute, which serves as part of the CEO Water Mandate Secretariat.

‘With their disclosure reporting, companies also have the potential to make linkages among water and other sustainability topics, shedding light on how their water management efforts address other sustainability concerns, and conversely how other issues like climate change and energy use contribute to the companies’ water-related challenges.’

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