GEMI's Water Sustainability Tool contains
a matrix tool to help companies
develop a water strategy based on a continual improvement
approach. GEMI encourages companies to consider water
issues in the context of environmental management systems
and other continual improvement approaches. Since a
business' relationship to water can change over time,
it is important to establish systems and strategies
that enable the organization to identify and address
emerging water opportunities and risks while learning
from past performance.
The matrix tool provides suggestions
for ways that various business functions can support
continual improvement-based water sustainability strategies.
Suggestions are grouped into five continual improvement
Awareness Building. To effectively
identify emerging water trends, as well as water-related
business opportunities and risks, it is important to
build awareness of the ways water trends affect the
business and its critical customers. Awareness building
activities can focus on enhancing employee understanding
of water issues and needs, and educating them on steps
they can take to address opportunities and challenges.
Awareness building activities can also focus on educating
customers, neighbors, regulators, political leaders,
financial markets, and other external critical customers
about water trends, needs, and their implications for
business and society. Awareness building often involves
making the general "business case" for why
an individual or group should focus attention and/or
resources on water opportunities or challenges.
Issue Identification. While
raising awareness can ensure that organizations are
attentive to water-related opportunities and risks,
organizations must identify specific issues in order
to focus action. Issue identification focuses on determining
specific water uses, impacts, and source vulnerabilities,
as well as the resulting opportunities and risks that
they create. The Current State Assessment (Modules
1 and 2) in GEMI's
Water Sustainability Tool provides guidance for issue
identification. The matrix tool and Module
3 provide additional guidance on how to both identify
issues and translate them into opportunities for business.
Business Evaluation. Businesses
must evaluate water-related opportunities to establish
the business case. Even when potential initiatives or
projects are anticipated to have a positive return on
investment, they must often compete against a range
of other initiatives for organizational attention and
resources. Business evaluation activities help to ensure
that water-related opportunities are considered, and
that indirect and less tangible benefits are included
in these efforts to determine the business case for
Action Planning and Implementation.
Strategies come to life through action planning and
implementation. Some actions are intended to directly
address water risks and opportunities, such as the implementation
of water conservation measures. Module 3 in GEMI's Water
Sustainability Tool addresses these types of actions.
Other actions can establish continual improvement-based
management systems that enable the organization to identify
and address water risks and opportunities into the future.
The matrix tool highlights actions that various business
functions can take to incorporate continual improvement
systems targeting water issues.
Performance Measurement. Measuring
performance enables organizations to learn from experience
and to find opportunities for improvement. Quantitative
and qualitative metrics can provide critical feedback
on water use, impacts, and risk, as well as on progress
towards meeting the organization's water sustainability
goals. The matrix suggests performance measurement activities
that may be appropriate for various business functions
in the organization.
In recent years, a large body of literature
and resources has been developed to assist organizations
in implementing environmental management systems (EMSs)
and related continual improvement based management systems.
Organizations should consider ways in which to apply
EMS and continual improvement concepts to address water
risks and opportunities.
The International Standards Organization
(ISO) 14000 Series Standards on Environmental Management
provide a common framework for applying continual
improvement-based management systems to businesses'
environmental activities. Many concepts in the ISO
14001 standard can be applied specifically to address
water management issues. See http://www.iso.org for
GEMI. 1996. ISO
14001 Environmental Management System Self-Assessment
Checklist. Washington, DC.
GEMI. 1993. Total
Quality Environmental Management: The Primer.
to Module 5