The business benefits of including water footprinting in your environmental KPIs
A water footprint is a measure of how much water your business uses and which direct and indirect environmental impacts result from this. It can help you understand and manage your water use and even protect your company from physical, regulatory and reputation risks, adding a valuable and actionable dimension to your environmental KPIs.
How does setting water-related environmental KPIs help my company?
Water is crucial. It is an essential resource for almost every business, from food to clothing to consumer products. Our collective demand is gradually outstripping local supply. Freshwater is a scarce resource with limited annual availability and an unequal distribution. Water scarcity is quickly becoming one of the most important sources of stress on the environment and human health, causing an increase in diseases and malnutrition in communities and reducing biodiversity.
For companies, there are two reasons why water use is an interesting environmental KPI: you contribute to a healthier environment (including social impacts such as health); and you also can prevent large risks to your operations. In other words, understanding your water footprint means understand where the water is being used, where its use can be reduced, and where the risks in the supply chain are.
Since water is an essential resource, it is important to reduce dependency and detect potential risks related to access as much as possible. In addition, governments worldwide are poised to take regulatory action to manage water quality, distribution and scarcity, and it is important to prevent risks that arise from this. Furthermore, water-related crises tend to be very visible, and you want to prevent any reputational damage from customers or investors who disagree with your decisions about water resources and communities. Without a water footprint, it is difficult to know the extent of the water-related risks you face. Furthermore, as we all know, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.
Getting started with water footprinting
Conducting a water footprint is a great way to set a baseline for your water-related environmental KPIs. Unlike carbon footprinting, for which there is a single, accepted methodology, several water footprinting methods exist side by side, to account for supply, regionality and water quality. The first step, however, is always to inventory the total water volume of water used in the supply chain to produce your product.
The next step is determining the methodology you want to use for impact assessment. Our LCA software SimaPro contains 10 water footprinting methodologies for you to choose from, and our consultants are available to provide you with advice about which one would best suit your needs. The methodologies we propose are all accordance with ISO 14046: Water Footprint; an international standard that defines the principles, requirements and guidelines for LCA-based water footprinting for products, processes, or organizations. In this article, you can read more about how to calculate a Water Footprint with LCA.