Water Stewardship: Ethics, business and responsible water management

This World Water Day, the Alliance for Water Stewardship is unveiling the new International Water Stewardship Standard (AWS Standard 2.0).

Water stewardship is a globally-endorsed, effective, consistent, and verifiable water management system that drives good site and catchment level actions. It is embodied in the AWS Standard and can be implemented by any site anywhere in the world. Implementers work progressively towards achieving the five outcomes of water stewardship. In the Indo-Pacific region, through support from the Australian Water Partnership, the system has been adopted by individual farm businesses to large corporations such as Cotton On, Apple, and Dell.

In Kunshan, one of China’s most economically developed cities, 30 companies are working together with the municipal government to minimise water impacts. These companies developed their water stewardship capabilities through technical training and demonstration delivered by AWS and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF). Bolstered by a $20,000 incentive offered by the Kunshan municipal government, seven factories in Kunshan have now achieved AWS certification.

Speaking on the benefits of collective action, AWS Asia-Pacific Regional Director Zhenzhen Xu says, “Kunshan has some unique factors in that both government and global brands have interest in developing together. Most single businesses cannot succeed on their own. Many companies are located in various forms of industrial parks or special economic zones in a cluster.”

Multi-stakeholder collaboration exemplified in the Kunshan story is instrumental to water stewardship. The global water stewardship community (comprising diverse organisations such as businesses, civil society organisations, governments and development agencies) define and set out the goals of water stewardship, creating and maintaining the robust and independently verifiable framework known as the AWS Standard.

In its 2019 update, the AWS Standard has been streamlined and redesigned for better user-friendliness and accessibility. A significant change, one that AWS is proud to announce this World Water Day, is the inclusion of “safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for all” as a fifth outcome for the AWS Standard. This new outcome signifies the global water stewardship community’s commitment to WASH and the sixth Sustainable Development Goal. It provides a pathway for businesses to contribute to this agenda.

Water stewardship is becoming increasingly prominent in the region. AWS is collaborating with the Australian fashion industry and its Asia-Pacific supply chains, as well as broadening its engagement with leading brands in the microelectronics sector. In the next four years, AWS will also initiate catchment and regional-level dialogues centring on water stewardship and WASH in Indonesia and the Greater Mekong Subregion. These dialogues aim to build and strengthen public-private partnerships to promote water stewardship knowledge and upskilling, leading to environmentally, socially, economically, and culturally responsible water use.

“Water stewardship engages people at the local level in water management, engages the private sector, responds to a growing consumer interest in sustainability and addresses pollution,” says Russell Rollason of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “Establishing good water stewardship is fundamental to sustainable business and economic growth.”

More information:

Download the AWS Standard 2.0: 
View webinar: Ethics, business and responsible water management (delivered by ICE WaRM).

Photo © Greg Headley
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