ISO Water Footprint Standard Crash Course, Part 2

by | Oct 20, 2014

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vionnet, samuel, quantisWater is certainly rising to the top of your sustainability agenda because the related risks and opportunities affect your supply chain and your operations. And you’re also getting pressure from stakeholders: NGOs keep watch and want transparency, engaged consumers want information and answers, and investors want reports on your water strategy, including a gauge of exposure to risks and opportunities.

The recently validated ISO 14’046 standard will help you navigate your water assessment process and solidify your strategy.

Part 1 introduced the new standard and the implications it will have on your measurement and reporting initiatives.

Part 2 now delves into the debate on the standard, the definition of a water footprint and seeks to answer your burning questions about water data and footprinting. 

The ISO 14’046 Debate and Definition

There are always critics. Especially in science. So, let’s start here. And then move on.

Recent criticshave said that this standard “killed the concept once and for all.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, more than 300 direct stakeholders carried out the ISO 14’046 work over a period of over 5 years, which, in my opinion, provides a solid, collaborative basis upon which this applicable standard was built.

This standard does not, however, provide a definitive definition for a water footprint. All ISO standards are updated regularly according to the latest knowledge and practices. That said, the ISO 14’046 provides a very good definition to use right now to have an understandable and standardized method for calculation.

A water footprint is not necessarily one single indicator Given the complexity of water-related issues, it’s no surprise that a water footprint should not be evaluated as a single number. (The standard does allow for the calculation of a single indicator, but this is not recommended because it will include subjective weighting of environmental issues, potentially hiding relevant impacts.)

The indicator that can be called a “water footprint” is a set of indicators measuring the reduced availability of water and the environmental impact due to its pollution (e.g. eutrophication, acidification and toxicity issues). Moreover, the ISO 14’046 provides a set of possible indicators to measure different issues, depending on your objective: water resources scarcity (indicator name: water scarcity footprint), and the reduction of available water due to pollution (indicator name: water availability footprint).

Some Water FAQs

I want to claim that my product’s water footprint is better than my competitor. Will the standard help me?

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