Our key takeaway: Managing wastewater may seem old hat. After all, haven’t we been looking at ways to reduce pollution and contamination of our natural environment for decades? Aren’t there countless regulations and standards in place across the globe requiring companies to manage these risks? All true. But what we’re seeing now is a new lens to the conversation we’re used to: companies’ role in using due diligence to address issues at the nexus of people and planet, including environment-related human rights impacts. WBCSD has put forward new guidance for companies on managing their wastewater, with consideration for the many ways in which water intersects with other aspects of social and environmental challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss, impacts on human health and livelihoods, and beyond. The framework is designed to address gaps in companies’ current approach to wastewater and to prepare them for emerging imperatives to disclose not only their impacts, but also their due diligence processes. There are five steps to the framework: (1) Identify the impact of companies’ wastewater on climate change, biodiversity and human health and livelihoods; (2) Measure how company activities are creating change in the state of natural capital, including by engaging closely with local stakeholders; (3) Quantify impacts; (4) Set robust, science-based targets to address impacts; and (5) Manage impacts through a mitigation hierarchy that prioritises avoidance of impact after which come, in order of priority, reduction, regeneration and remediation, and leveraging collaborative transformative action.
The Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has released new Business Guidance on the Assessment of Wastewater-Related Impacts (April 2023):