A framework for business action on wastewater

Taking action to improve industrial wastewater management will improve business performance. Supported by enabling factors, such as policy and regulation, finance and innovation, business can create partnerships, within and across sectors and value chains and engage with government and civil society to find solutions that address the social and environmental challenges posed by inadequate wastewater management. The wastewater zero action framework provides six areas of action.

Circularity: Incorporate principles of circularity throughout your organization

Business can incorporate circularity in water use through implementation of wastewater management strategies such as prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. Adoption of ‘fit-for-purpose’ wastewater recycling and reuse is an essential practice for incorporating circularity in water use.

Targets & Metrics – Establish targets and metrics based on science and context

Science-based targets (SBT) provide companies with a clearly defined pathway to future-proof growth by specifying how much and how quickly they need to reduce specific impacts and dependencies on the environment. At a site-level, water circularity metrics can measure the circularity of a facility’s water sourcing, use, and discharge as contributions to a net reduction in water demand within the watershed.

Partnerships – Invest in public-private partnerships

Some of the drivers for collaboration include enhanced access to technical knowledge, compliance, finance, and influence. Partnerships can range from sharing infrastructure to collaboration with industry peers to form a consortium for knowledge sharing. Partnerships can be formed using either a bilateral approach or a multilateral approach.

Value Chain – Incentivize and support value chain partners

Business should work across sectors and value chain partners to support capacity building efforts. This could include the development of standardized training material, certification programs and collaborating with consultants to deliver expertise training.

Valuing Water – Value water to minimize externalities and incentivize reuse

Valuing water can influence industrial wastewater management in two main ways: establishing a business case for a reduction in releasing hazardous substances to freshwater sources and incentivizing an increase in wastewater recycling and reuse. The natural capital protocol is a good starting point for understanding the value of water.

Disclosure – Improve disclosure beyond compliance

Business should understand the impact of freshwater pollution not just within their own operations and assets, but downstream and throughout their value chain. Such an approach may result in a risk profile that more fully captures freshwater water pollution impacts and ensures that water-related disclosure provides meaningful information for stakeholders.

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