Water Stewards Ensure Continuous Improvement with the EWS standard
Apr 25th, 2016 |
One of the key added-benefits of the EWS system is that the certification process pushes companies to demonstrate their continuous improvement. How does the recipient of a EWS certificate show that water continues to be priority in their planning and investment?
The annual surveillance audit is a compulsory step to assure that EWS certified sites retain their gold, silver or bronze certificate. Every year, an auditor reviews the level of compliance with all major and minor indicators and areas of improvement. If a company fails to address all major areas of the standard, they could risk losing their certificate status.
What does continuous improvement mean in practice for EWS certified sites? Recognizing that all companies have different starting points, auditors noted in the 2015 surveillance audits that some companies chose to focus on improving their best management practices and plans for water reduction while others developed plans to invest in technologies or processes to reuse and recycle water used on-site. For other sites continuous improvement meant expanding the scope of their certificate by applying the assessment to guest operations on their site to confirm that they too were acting as good water stewards.
Whether improvement was made by innovative efforts to minimize the water ratio (total water per unit of product); investing in new technical improvements for one specific area, such as steam management or; improving their data management with the purchase and installation of new flow meters to ensure the most accurate water measurements possible, companies are required to regularly monitor newly implanted innovations in order to calculate their actual benefit.
EWS certified sites demonstrated considerable improvement from the time of their initial audit particularly when it came to engaging external stakeholders. A number of EWS certified sites initiated new campaigns or partnerships on water-related issues as a result of their initial certification. For several certified operations, the EWS certificate itself was an opportunity to be more transparent with members of their communities, sector organizations and river basin authorities by communicating their achievements. Their efforts to decrease water use, improve monitoring and reporting and invest in infrastructures are all exemplary actions for other sector organizations looking to address their own water management hot spots.
Beyond acknowledging the achievements of successfully certified companies, sustainability standards face a challenge in ensuring that the companies are continuously improving. For EWS, annual surveillance audit has been an important and verifiable way to confirm the progress that water stewards make over time.