Water – it may well be the most underrated resource in the world. Whereas many companies have implemented management systems to improve energy-efficiency, it is far less common to see effective water management systems. The new standard ISO 46001 for water-efficiency management systems addresses this void and helps organizations to increase efficiency, save costs and protect the environment.
Population pressure and the effects of climate change raise the global demand for water significantly. This growing demand does not only lead to increased costs, it also affects local ecosystems and threatens the long-term viability of certain business models and industry sectors. More than a resource, water is a risk that deserves to be managed.
The new standard ISO 46001 enables companies to implement a water efficiency management system (WEMS) in accordance with international standards and to seek third-party certification. The aim of the standard is to provide an effective and flexible approach for the implementation and maintenance of water efficiency management systems in organizations of all kinds and sizes.
ISO 46001: Content and structure
ISO 46001 describes the approach in seven sections, which can be summarized as follows:
- Section 4 describes how important it is to match the WEMS with the company’s context. This first step has an important influence on the WEMS, its scope and its limits.
- Section 5 shows the importance of leadership behaviour when establishing a WEMS. It also explains which roles need to be incorporated and what has to be considered while preparing the WEMS strategy.
- Section 6 concerns the planning. Risks and opportunities need to be identified to be able to take well-founded decisions in terms of objectives, execution and data processing, including compliance obligations.
- Section 7 specifies what kind of support a well-functioning WEMS needs. This regards providing resources needed for establishment, implementation, maintenance and continual improvement. Apart from this, employees need to be trained to raise competence and awareness. Decisions must be taken regarding the scope of communication and the documentation, updating and control of the collected information.
- Section 8 specifies how to implement processes and measures in accordance with ISO 46001.
- Section 9 is about performance evaluation. Specific information regarding data surveillance, measurement, analysis and assessment is included. The WEMS‘s functionality shall be monitored by first party audits and by management.
- Section 10 explains how to handle non-conformities to achieve a continual improvement of the WEMS.
The following graphic shows this cycle in a simplified way:
Which companies will benefit from ISO 46001?
Every company that uses significant amounts of water will benefit by implementing the standard. On average, 52% of the European water consumption is used by commerce and industry. This number illustrates the huge impact that water-efficiency management systems can have.
Why implementing ISO 46001 helps Businesses
Implementing ISO 46001 helps organizations to:
- cope with the societal and entrepreneurial responsibilities regarding sustainable water consumption
- identify and manage risks and opportunities to improve water balance
- make sure that the WEMS is adapted to the companies context and includes all important topics.