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aws forum 2024

On the 5th to the 6th of June, over 250 delegates gathered at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, Scotland to discuss water stewardship at the 2024 Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Forum. 

Among the attendees were 17 members of the Inogen Alliance Water Working Group, who gathered to discuss the pressing issue of water stewardship under the theme "Convergence." Inogen Alliance currently hosts a over 30 AWS Accredited consultants, from a total of 16 countries and speaking more than 10 languages. For the second year, Inogen Alliance was an official sponsor of the event with Associates Anew Global Consulting, Antea Group USA, Antea Brasil, Baden Consulting, Chola Risk MS, HPC Envirotec France, HPC Italy, Peter J. Ramsay & Associates and Tonkin + Taylor.

Below are some of their key takeaways from this year’s forum. 

Version 3.0 of AWS Standard

The forum kicked off with the announcement that version 3.0 of the AWS Standard is slated for release later this year for public consultation. This new version aims to streamline and simplify the standard. One of the key points frequently discussed was the urgent need for the AWS Standard to interconnect or overlap with other disclosure frameworks, both voluntary (CDP, TNFD) and mandatory (CSRD), or risk being overlooked by businesses.

CSRD was a particularly hot topic, given that it introduced mandatory water disclosure through the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) as of January 1st, 2024. This development makes it increasingly difficult for businesses to ignore water security issues. Since businesses must disclose through CSRD, aligning the AWS Standard with it is crucial. Without such alignment, companies might bypass the AWS Standard to meet CSRD requirements.

Alignment with voluntary disclosure frameworks is equally important for fostering better water stewardship. For instance, CDP drives water action across supply chains, promotes stewardship at the source, and encourages collective action between suppliers and buyers. This creates opportunities for businesses to proactively address water risk problems. A 2021 CDP report highlighted that "the cost of water risks to business could be over five times greater than the cost of taking action now to address those risks," underscoring the economic benefits of proactive water stewardship.

In summary, if the AWS Standard doesn’t offer alignment, many businesses may prefer using required disclosure frameworks or voluntary ones that offer long-term cost savings and risk mitigation. This makes the integration of the AWS Standard with these frameworks essential for its widespread adoption and effectiveness in promoting global water stewardship.

Connecting with Wider Communities

As mentioned, the central theme of the forum was convergence, with a strong emphasis on bringing more sectors outside of traditional water stewardship into the conversation. Engaging local policymakers, communities, and other authorities can significantly raise the visibility of water issues and climate change. Often, governments are absent from these discussions, but their involvement can enhance the visibility and impact of the water stewardship community. Additionally, promoting collective action and fostering more water stewardship champions is crucial to expanding the community's reach.

The goal is clear: responsible water stewardship must become a non-negotiable norm, as it is fundamentally linked to climate resilience. The water stewardship community must embrace the complexity of climate change and use it to understand interconnected challenges. Water can be both a solution and a medium for resilience. Technology, partnerships, and the convergence of diverse stakeholders are key to navigating this complexity and fostering resilience through innovative stewardship methods. By embracing these strategies, the water stewardship community can drive meaningful change and build a sustainable future

Collective Action and Community Convergence

The concept of collective action was also a recurring theme, stressing the importance of coordinated efforts in the same locations at the same time. By collecting and sharing data from these efforts, companies can direct their actions to complement and reinforce each other, thereby maximizing impact.

One example case of collective action discussed was the Charco Bendito project in Mexico. This is a highly water-stressed area that saw a successful reforestation program. This program successfully brought together diverse stakeholders from corporations and the local community. By working together, reforestation was possible, although their next goal is to scale up. The ambition for phase two is to develop a flexible model for nature-based solutions, engage policy makers, global corporations, and local communities to reforest even more extensively with proper financial planning in place. 

Beatrice Bizzaro, Water Working Group Lead of Inogen Alliance, facilitated a session dedicated to learnings and best practices from AWS Standard implementing Sites. 

“This was a very special session as Sites were able to share their hands-on experiences from water stewardship implementation journeys. Deploying a corporate commitment and making it become a local reality through specific actionable and tangible objectives is no easy task: you must set the context, prepare the minds, and make people understand that what they are doing really is in light of a more sustainable and secure future. However, the role of collective action and community convergence is fundamental for scaling up not only actions, but also best practices to create even greater success stories within a watershed context,” Beatrice Bizzaro.

The Impact Accelerator

The AWS Impact Accelerator was highlighted as the simplest way to scale the AWS standard. This initiative accelerates impact through a collective, place-based approach, involving companies in scoping locations, securing buy-in, and developing budgets. The ambition is to establish annually repeating impact accelerators in the same locations, fostering long-term water stewardship commitments. Check out more on this initiative in our on-demand webinar here.

Future Directions

In summary, the Forum was a convergence of ideas, strategies, and commitments to advance water stewardship globally. The path forward involves more alignment with existing reporting methods, collaboration with local policy makers and communities, and connecting the water stewardship community to broader audiences. With the upcoming release of AWS Standard 3.0 and a reinforced focus on collective action, the water stewardship community looks to continue tackling water-related challenges and promoting sustainable water management practices worldwide.


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