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Common Business Function Roles for Pursuing Water Strategies

Environmental professionals cannot effectively address water-related business opportunities and risks alone. Numerous business functions can play valuable roles in creating business value by fostering more sustainable approaches to water management. The matrix tool in GEMI's Water Sustainability Tool provides suggestions of ways for multiple business functions to participate in an organization's water strategy development and implementation.

While each organization must determine the relevant business functions and roles for its water strategy development and implementation, several common business functions and roles include:

Corporate Management. Corporate management plays a critical role in setting organizational priorities and in making decisions to manage risks and pursue opportunities. Management support for the development and implementation of a business water sustainability strategy can create significant business value. Corporate leadership can rapidly propel an organization down the path toward a more sustainable and profitable relationship to water.

Plant Management. Plant managers have an important role in protecting operations from potential business constraints. Plant manager attentiveness to water issues and support for water initiatives can pave the way for numerous projects that reduce costs, lower business risks, enhance community relations, and create new business opportunities.

Operations. Operations personnel can affect many significant water uses and impacts through their activities, work practices, equipment management and maintenance, process design and operation, and other activities. Operations personnel are often the source of creative ideas for improving water efficiency and reducing water impacts, and they are often the first line of defense against water wasting leaks and problems. For water strategies to be effective, the involvement of operations personnel is often essential.

Marketing. Marketing personnel provide an important link to the organization's customers, enabling the business to understand customer water-related needs and expectations. Marketing activities can also be used to inform customers and others about the water-related attributes or products or services, as well as the proper use or disposal of products. Marketing personnel can also play a key role in assessing the viability of market opportunities to address the water-related needs of others.

Product Development. The design of new products and services can impact water in powerful ways throughout the value chain, from input selection to final product disposition. Involvement of product development personnel in water strategy development and implementation can help "design out" water-related risks and "design in" water-related opportunities.

Environmental Management. Environmental managers can often provide the cohesion and coordination that is necessary to get a business water sustainability strategy off the ground. Since organizational responsibilities for addressing water sustainability challenges and opportunities are often not well defined, environmental managers are frequently best positioned to launch and coordinate initial efforts to develop and implement a business water sustainability strategy.

Facilities and Engineering. Facilities and engineering personnel also can affect many significant water uses and impacts through their activities, work practices, equipment management and maintenance, equipment and process design and operation, and other activities. Facilities and engineering personnel can also often be the source of creative ideas for improving water efficiency and reducing water impacts.

Public and Government Relations. Public relations personnel play a critical role in creating channels for communication between the organization and its neighbors, local communities, and the broader public. They enable the company to understand the water-related concerns and needs of these groups, while facilitating opportunities to engage the public in water-related activities. Government relations personnel provide a similar critical link to local, state, national governments and international organizations that can influence water-related policies and keep the organization abreast of water and regulatory trends.


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