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European Companies Lead on Disclosure, but Overlook Critical Points of Water Stewardship

Mar 3rd, 2017 |

The 2017 edition of the CDP European Water Report was released this morning, shedding light on how European companies are matching up to their global counterparts in terms of water stewardship. According to CDP’s assessment, of the companies that responded to CDP’s request for disclosure on corporate water data, European companies lead in terms of performance. While this is undoubtedly an important achievement, when it comes to water stewardship there is still work to be done. A central element of water stewardship is how companies engage not only their operations on water management, but also their supply chain and other stakeholders in their river basin. The report states, however, that ”fewer than half of companies undertake a comprehensive company wide risk assessment that covers both direct operations and the supply chain. Similarly, only a third of companies carry out risk assessment at the river basin scale”.

As the European Union explores ways in which to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 6, which calls for the availability and the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, a clear role for the private sector is emerging. Demonstrating action towards the SDGs will help companies be at the forefront of responding to global water challenges and to investor’s desire for better risk management. According to the report, “A stewardship approach to water management is increasingly recognized as the most appropriate framework for meaningful action” and European Water Stewardship (EWS) provides a practical tool to do so. EWS helps companies to deliver their water management objectives by guiding the private sector to minimize their impact on water resources and enhance water governance.

Monica Lehmann, National Environmental Manager at CDP A-lister and EWS certified site of Coca-Cola HBC Switzerland in Vals stated, “Certifying against EWS has helped us to be more transparent, ensure that we have a sustainable system in place and are in compliance with all the Swiss and EU water-related legislation. Additionally, in terms of transparency and stakeholder engagement, going through the process of EWS certification has further improved our relationship with our water provider, treatment and local authorities. The opportunity to complete a systematic risk assessment with our water service providers has intensified our channel of communication where both parties were able to both give and receive input in an open manner, leading to a much easier and open feedback”.

A close liaison with local authorities is particularly important at the Vals mineral water plant, where the quality of the natural mineral water bottled there is dependent on the protection of the aquifer from where it is sourced. Improving the relationship with local authorities allowed the site to fully understand any risks to the sensitive source as well as their own role in doing so.

While the company has a history of water use in terms of quantity with programs like Near Loss, which identifies losses or over consumption of water, energy, waste, hazardous materials and other resources from within the bottling plants; going for EWS certification put a new focus on water in terms of quality where the topic of chemical use was reinforced. During the certification process, the site critically assessed the types of products used on-site in terms of their environmental impacts realized areas where they could both reduce their impact on wastewater while cutting costs.

Mrs. Lehmann concluded, “In total, EWS and its corresponding tools for analysis and risk assessment have helped us to pull the many elements of water management in place together and understand their correlation”.

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