Guidance for Companies on Respecting the Human Rights to Water and sanitation - Disclosure Guidelines

Companies are fundamentally changing the way they address water. Increasingly, they are investing in water efficient technologies, working with suppliers to encourage more responsible water use, designing cleaner and more efficient products (and thus helping consumers lower their water use), and seeking to advance sustainable water management outside their fence lines as a way to mitigate water-related risks and negative impacts. At the same time, corporate water disclosure—the act of reporting to stakeholders information related to the current state of a company’s water management, the implications of that state for the business and its stakeholders, and how

the company develops and implements strategic responses—has emerged as a key component of corporate water management practice.

In response to the growing importance to businesses of both water management generally and disclosure specifically, a number of initiatives are seeking to provide guidance on how companies can:

  • Measure their water performance
  • Assess conditions in the river basins where they operate
  • Understand their water-related challenges and opportunities
  • Develop effective water management strategies
  • Communicate these issues to stakeholders

These initiatives have catalysed significant progress toward more sustainable corporate water management. However, the proliferation of water assessment and disclosure tools and methodologies has also led to:

  • Companies diverting important resources to complete multiple water or sustainability surveys of varying content
  • Companies using a variety of metrics that are not easily comparable, thereby weakening the value of disclosure offerings

Beyond this, current practice in corporate water disclosure (even among the most advanced reporters) typically does not adequately capture the incredibly complex and location-specific nature of water resource dynamics and corporate action on water. Many companies are therefore looking for detailed guidance on how to more effectively disclose the many elements of corporate water management practice.

The CEO Water Mandate’s Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines offer a common approach to disclosure. They put forward metrics that can begin to harmonize practice and also provide guidance for defining what to report. It is our hope these Guidelines drive convergence and harmonization with respect to how companies report their water management practices while helping to minimize reporting burdens, thus allowing companies to allocate more time and resources to actively manage water.

The Pacific Institute (representing the Mandate Secretariat) led the development of the Guidelines, seeking input from organizations and initiatives with expertise in this area. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP served as a strategic adviser and provided input throughout this process. CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), World Resources Institute (WRI), and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) were project partners, offering insight regarding water disclosure practices and helping to ensure that the Guidelines built on existing approaches where possible and appropriate.