Corporate action as a catalyst for water quality watersheds 

Launching a wastewater Impact assessment tool and business guidance to support the corporate journey to water quality watersheds

Published: 23 Mar 2023
Type: News

New York, 23 March 2023: At the UN Water Conference, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) announced its Wastewater Impact Assessment Tool (WIAT) and Business guidance on the assessment of wastewater-related impacts, with the inputs of the Wastewater Zero (WWZ) Collective of companies. To further support the business’ journey to impact-driven action for water quality, WBCSD is also forming the Watershed Quality Promoters group; this is a group of global companies that will continue the development of the WIAT, the guidance and the WWZ commitments.  

Currently, we are not on track to meet SDG 6.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals, since 80% of wastewater is discharged directly into the environment without any prior treatment. As a result, this is detrimental to business, nature, climate change, and society. The cost of inaction far outweighs the investment required to fix the wastewater problem.  

Business has a catalyst role to play in raising the ambition of SDG 6.3 by treating all industrial wastewater and increasing the amount of water they reuse and recycle while ensuring that low-carbon treatment processes are used. Action is already taking place, but much more is needed. WBCSD’s Wastewater Zero initiative is supporting business on their journey to impact-driven action for water quality through three interconnected mechanisms:  

  •  The Wastewater Impact Assessment Tool (WIAT) allows users to understand which aspects of wastewater treatment within a facility cause major changes in terms of water quality, water availability and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The tool displays the local water security context on maps and uses some of these global indicators, together with local data on industrial withdrawals, discharge and pollution load, to assess the changes caused by the facility’s wastewater management and point to possible interventions. Version 1 of this tool is now freely available to all businesses. A future version 2 will support a watershed approach to assess the share of responsibility of each stakeholder.  
  • The Wastewater Impact Guidance for Business provides an approach for measuring the impacts of wastewater on climate, biodiversity and water security. Three sets of independent metrics are proposed for the calculation of impact. The metrics are there to guide the evaluation of the impact of action in facilities and supply chains as well as to monitor progress on Wastewater Zero commitments.   
  • The Wastewater Zero Commitment, was launched in 2021 with the support of CDP and UN-Habitat. In 2023, it was adapted to provide a flexible, yet ambitious framework for business to demonstrate leadership and eliminate wastewater pollution by 2030. The goal is to start treating all wastewater with a compliance approach and continue with more ambitious actions to improve water quality through facility-level targets based on data, science, and other stakeholders’ activities at watershed scale.  H&M Group and UPL have announced enhanced commitments while Danone and Cargill have shared their existing commitments. The CDP water questionnaire is used to report on the Wastewater Zero commitments. WBCSD will report back to the Water Action Agenda on the Wastewater Zero commitments made by companies.  

Seizing the opportunity of collective discussions on the margins of the UN Water Conference in NY, the Watershed Quality Promoters group created by WBCSD will contribute to further developing these tools to support business’ journey to impact-driven action for water quality.   

To take part in this progressive work, contact Una Harcinovic.  

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