Corporate Water Stewardship


An acquaduct streaming water downhill from the Sierra de las Minas, a moutain range in eastern Guatemala.

Water is the ultimate shared resource and we can only manage it sustainably if all water users in a river basin work together. Businesses, every level of government, and local communities must collaborate to ensure water is responsibly governed and shared. To leverage the relative nimbleness and influence of the private sector, we challenge businesses to become water stewards—to go beyond water efficiency practices and lead collective action in river basins around the world.

For the private sector, water is both a risk and opportunity. Without it, businesses will fail. Water flows from corporate headquarters, through manufacturing facilities and complex supply chains, to the fields were raw materials are grown. But businesses are also uniquely positioned to champion innovative solutions to freshwater challenges, emerging as visionaries that secure water for profit, people and planet.

Why It Matters

  • All Businesses Need Water

    Most companies know that water will likely affect business growth and profitability in the near future. For a vast majority, water is already driving businesses decisions—particularly on where to locate facilities. Even shareholders and investors are increasingly interested in how companies are addressing water issues. Water is now recognized as a material risk, and stewardship is critical to long-term business growth.

  • Water Enables Economic Growth

    The productivity of the world's 10 most populous river basins will double by 2050—but only if water issues are addressed. If water is secured, the economic output of these basins will exceed that of the entire US, Japanese and German economies combined.

  • Water is a Shared Resource

    Because we all need water, the actions of all users in a river basin impact that basin’s health. Even if one user takes extra care to be efficient and innovative with water, thirsty neighbors may still run the resource dry and dirty ones will continue to pollute it. In other words, securing water for our future is dependent on our ability to collectively manage water.

  • Stewardship is Good for Business

    Water stewardship also benefits corporate reputations. A vast majority of consumers and employees care about the environmental responsibility of companies, and most are more likely to support sustainable businesses whenever possible.

What WWF Is Doing

Senior Freshwater scientest for WWF wears two hats at the ABASA Coca-Cola bottling company in Guatemala.

Because of the enormous influence the private sector has on natural resource management, we believe it is critical to work with businesses to tackle issues that impact fresh water. We need the private sector to act as agents of innovation and change that will help us meet the water challenges today and in the future. Our local-to-global approach enables us to partner with companies that are ready to become water stewards, while also advancing the global dialogue on freshwater issues. Together, we can create conditions for collaborative, sustainable management of freshwater resources.

Water Stewardship Ladder

WWF's work on water stewardship helps companies and investors understand their water footprints and risks. But awareness is only the first step of the water stewardship ladder. WWF helps companies take internal actions to address their impact and contribute to the responsible, sustainable management of freshwater resources that are critical to business operations. WWF also urges companies to look outside their own operations; support local watershed conservation; and, engage in collective efforts towards better basin governance. We seek transformative partnerships that protect and restore healthy, resilient river basins.

Water Risk

Waste water gets filtered and treated at the Agrocaribe palm oil plantation in Guatemala.

WWF has a long history of creating and supporting water footprinting and risk mapping tools. Currently, the WWF Water Risk Filter is used by more than 2,000 companies to map over 50,000 sites in supply chains, and it hosts the world’s largest database of water stewardship case studies and mitigation recommendations. In collaboration with United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), WWF leveraged data derived from the Water Risk Filter and related Supply Risk Analysis tool to help the PRI identify which companies’ agriculture supply chains face the highest levels of water risk. As a result, more than 35 investors have committed to engaging companies on investigating water risks and solutions. In conjunction with the White House Climate Data Initiative, WWF plans to expand, maintain and share this unique data set through with help and assistance from leading technology companies. Providing these types of analyses via easy-to-access online platforms will empower industry, investors and policymakers to identify and mitigate risks, strengthening global water stewardship, food security and climate resiliency. Visit WWF's Water Risk Filter website for more information.

Valuing Nature

The water treatment plant at Cervecería Hondureña, where Coca-Cola is bottled in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

As the field of water stewardship continues to evolve, WWF aspires to help companies recognize and embrace a pre-competitive approach to fresh water, and ultimately embed the value of nature into business planning. To advance this field, WWF is accessing the potential impacts of commodity standards with particular interest in how they benefit water yield and water quality.

Global Water Standard

Water Stewardship

In 2014, the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) launched the world’s first international standard to promote freshwater use in a way that is socially beneficial, environmentally responsible and economically sustainable. WWF, with multiple stakeholders, led the establishment of AWS and the creation of the standard with the vision of helping companies to become better stewards and demonstrate leadership in conserving the planet’s limited fresh water. WWF continues to support AWS and helps companies prepare for certification.