The Portuguese Corporate Manifest for Water Stewardship
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Water is a fundamental resource for our survival and well-being. The supply of water, and with adequate quality, is essential for the production of almost everything around us: from agriculture to industry, from energy production to the most diverse services, from health to technology, the availability of water is a factor which proves to be critical along the different value-chains.
Different regions need different approaches and, although Portugal is a small country, the situation in the southern region is very different from that in the north. Water management at the national scale requires supervising the origins, flows and uses of water, as well as the challenges in its storage and associated energy production. The main focus of PCMWS is on sustainable water management and how it is used today. One of the biggest challenges for the public sector is the fact that today around 30% of treated water is lost in its distribution (ERSAR, 2021). This in itself represents an important opportunity for improvement, has been the basis for several projects. On the other hand, the reuse of water from treated wastewater should be promoted as a way to meet the needs of some sectors, namely industry. In addition to the most obvious solutions, the desalination of seawater should also be part of the water sustainability plan, to address the issues of water scarcity, an increasingly present reality that will worsen in the next decades.
PCMWS is the main outcome of the Water Summit event that took place in July 2020, organized by the Católica – Lisbon School Center for Responsible Business & Leadership (CRB).
This forum discussed the importance of water in the world and, in particular, for companies with significant relevance for the Portuguese economy. The participating entities illustrated that the rapid changes that we are currently witnessing in terms of climate, supply networks, demography, and the environment, are rapidly contributing to the dangers of water scarcity and subsequent economic impacts. The European Green Deal is the context to amass the mitigation measures necessary to cope with climate change and establish subsequent adaptation actions.
Water Summit underlined the importance of an integrated water management perspective in which decision-making of any company, sector, or entity, whether at the local or national level should focus. Although this represents a global challenge, the Water Summit participants recognized that Portugal must be prepared to adapt to the various climate change scenarios and believed that water management has increased effectiveness starting at the local scale.
PCMWS initiative aims, accordingly to the Manifest itself, to amplify the dissemination, intensify awareness and expand knowledge of good practices in the following key areas:
- Water as a valuable resource in the country’s ecological transformation and its impact on health, economy and society.
- The need to adapt and accelerate mitigation measures in the context of climate change associated with the risk of scarcity and water pollution.
- The importance of water reuse in the sustainable development of industry and cities.
- Better practices for sustainable water management.
- Integration and cooperation strategy between the private sector and the public sector and authorities, the vision of the European Green Deal.
Evidence of benefits from implementation
The initiative is relatively recent; therefore, it is not yet possible to clearly evaluate the PCMWS benefits. Benefits are expected by integrating into the participating members’ value-chain innovative methods to maintain or increase competitiveness in climate change scenarios by adapting water usage.
Replication potential in SUDOE region
Due to SUDOE region exposure to climate change and water scarcity, initiatives like PCMWS have a high potential for implementation. Stress over natural resources is expected to compel the main sectors that rely on them to rethink management strategies to maintain or improve competitiveness in extreme scenarios of scarcity. The EU business environment may also provide the ideal framework for transnational companies to collaborate and exchange knowledge. IT and big tech may also facilitate similar agreements by providing technological support for participating companies.
Also, since one of the main objectives is to cope with water scarcity, such initiatives can be reproduced to other non-SUDOE regions which may already be facing the same problems.
In Portugal the National Program for Water Use Efficiency (Programa Nacional para o Uso Eficiente da Água – PNUEA) was established by the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA) and share similar objectives with PCMWS, having as action areas different level public institutions which in turn define efficiency indicators with urban supply, agriculture and industrial stakeholders, to help diagnose the water use efficiency. The program focused on the economic sectors that are the main water users/consumers (APA, 2012).
This program has as main strategic objectives the reduction of losses in water supply systems in the urban sector and irrigation systems in the agricultural sector, as well as optimizing the use of water in the industrial sector and limiting the impacts on the environment associated with discharges from industrial wastewater (Fig. 4).
The program draft was initially proposed in 2000, saw a parliamentary resolution being approved in 2005 to lay the basis of the legal framework of action, and the final version was published in 2012 with a period of 8 years to achieve the main targets. It is expected to go through a two-year revision and evaluation.
Water use efficiency measures the extent to which water abstracted from nature is optimally used to efficiently produce the desired service (whereas efficiency measures the extent to which defined objectives are effectively met). The useful consumption corresponds to the minimum consumption necessary in a certain sector to guarantee the efficiency of use, corresponding to a specific reference for that use. The effective demand corresponds to the volume used, being naturally equal to or greater than the useful consumption. The closer the effective demand for useful consumption is, the closer it is to 100% water use efficiency, a naturally desirable but unrealistic situation.
Another similar action to PCMWS is the European Water Association (EWA) Water Manifesto 2020. This document draws attention to current challenges in European water management and makes proposals for sustainable solutions to meet these challenges, calling upon civil society and all relevant stakeholders to contribute to the implementation of such solutions and encouraging the dialogue between the decision-makers and the national and regional authorities. It is divided into four main branches: (1) Nature-based Solutions to respond to Climate Change, (2) Financing Water Services Investments, (3) Asset Management and Digitalization of Water Infrastructure and (4) Boost water demand management.
The EWA is a non-governmental, non-profit organization that groups corporate and research associations involved in the water cycle. The main aim is to exchange and transfer information and know-how in the European Water landscape on a technical and scientific level, not only between the national member associations and with the corporate members but also for distribution of information from the EU to the members and from the members to EU. The manifesto resulted in several publications and ongoing collaborations both in the public and private sectors.
Manifesto for Water, an initiative promoted by Aqua Publica Europea, aims to push EU decision-makers to commit to making water a priority by underlining three main lines of action: (1) Guarantee safe, accessible, and affordable water for all, (2) A sustainable approach to protect finite resources and face climate change and (3) Support efficient, forward-looking water management contributing to sustainable economies.
Under each line of action, the Manifesto for Water defines clear milestones such as the creation of a European observatory on water poverty fostering improved access to water, the definition of strong environmental standards for natural water protection (plastics and pharmaceutical contamination), or facilitating smart investment in water management, that focuses on improving performance (based on “water pays for water” concept).
Aqua Publica Europea, created in 2009, is the European Association of Public Water Operators, uniting publicly owned water and sanitation services and other stakeholders, working to promote public water management at European and international levels. Is an operator-led association that looks for efficient solutions that serve the public rather than corporate interests. It represents over 60 institutions.
Several other similar manifestos and water stewardship manifestos aiming to improve were signed in several other regions (EU, UK, USA), including multi-level public and private entities looking into water resources management.
The United Nations World Water Development Report (UNESCO, UN-Water, 2020) clearly states climate change as the main challenge for water sustainability of water resources. Climate variability will decrease water sources and supply reliability, which will be particularly severe in already water-stressed regions (such is the case of southern Europe). It is therefore essential the adaptation and concrete action can be achieved by various water-related climate change initiatives that can also provide co-benefits such as job creation, improved public health, reduced poverty, the promotion of gender equality and enhanced livelihoods, among others, further strengthening their ’bankability’ in the eyes of financiers.Both private and public agreements, such as PCMWS, with clear lines of action, can be the first step to tackle the scarcity problem, involving the main stakeholders around a set of shared responsibilities and making the necessary know-how and expertise available.
The Portuguese Corporate Manifest for Water Stewardship (PCMWS) is an initiative of Católica – Lisbon School Center for Responsible Business & Leadership (CRB) (Fig. 1, Fig. 2).
CRB aims to become a European reference in corporate sustainability knowledge through research, teaching and consulting, acting as an agent of change amongst students and executives, helping them to understand the impact of Responsible Business and its value creation in corporate strategies.
CRB has been developing research to promote knowledge, tackling water management as a key value driver for sustainable growth (Pires de Almeida et al., 2021), with a robust analysis of how corporate value-chain can be affected in water-stress situations.
PCMWS governance model is comprised of a Steering Committee that manages the Working Groups with external Advisory Board guidance (Fig. 3). Decisions are made based on a consensus between members.
The founding members and the associated companies may integrate one or more Working Groups (Awareness and Reuse), reporting to the Steering Committee by a coordinator. The number of Working Groups may be expanded as necessary.
The composition of the Advisory Board is defined by the Steering Committee and may integrate representatives of other entities that share the interests and vision of different stakeholders (NGOs, research entities, government institutions and business associations). The Advisory Board act as a consultant on potential good practices or actions to be implemented, thus collaborating in the fulfilment of joint commitments. Its members may also contribute to the promotion and communication of this initiative.
Each of the founding members is expected to financially contribute yearly towards administrative expenses related to the launch and constitution of the PCMWS. The financing of the following budgets depends on the unanimous decision of all the members of the Steering Committee and is expected to be based on the use of European and national structural funds to support the activities that will be conducted by the PCMWS.
The PCMWS was originally signed by fourteen founding organizations, from different economic sectors, from food and beverage companies to textile industries (Tab. 1).
Since the signing of the agreement, more partners joined, such as Bondalti – Evolving Chemistry, which is actively participating in PCMWS’s Reuse Working Group given the robust expertise in this area.
There is no specific legislative framework for implementing this agreement. However, its implementation seeks to follow the general lines of the national and European framework for water management and protection of water resources established in the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/CE and Portuguese decree 58/2005). The main driver for de Manifesto development is the European Green Deal, which aims to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, ensuring zero net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 and economic growth decoupled from resource use. This includes the reduction of water pollution, increase of water reuse and aiding industries on green and digital transitions to achieve increased competitiveness.
The Manifest also states that aims to integrate the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 moto – “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.
The manifest participants defined the following lines of action:
- Save water, minimize losses and ensure its efficient use.
- Promote the circularity of water and its smart allocation, adapting its quality/source to its use
- Promote the proper treatment of wastewater throughout the production chains, taking into account the sustainability of the reuse of treated water as a measure to combat water scarcity. The reuse of treated water not only increases the amount of drinking water available but also has a double benefit for the environment by minimizing the use of natural resources and significantly reducing the discharge of pollutants into the environment.
- Investing in wastewater infrastructure and adapting water infrastructure to the challenge of climate change.
- Invest in rainwater harvesting for compatible non-potable uses, to alleviate pressure on water resources promoting a circular economy.
- Develop a long-term plan for seawater desalination.
- Investing in training and in innovation to cope with water challenges, enhancing recognition of the need to save and reuse water, particularly for large water consumers, which may include restrictions on the use of drinking water for activities that can be carried out with treated wastewater (watering green spaces, sanitary discharges, etc.).
- Raise awareness among the population, agriculture and industry on issues associated with water scarcity and on the implementation of more sustainable policies.
Key points of the innovative method
- The manifesto is comprised of private sector companies that acknowledge the importance of water management as a strategy to improve business competitiveness under climate change.
- Includes members from different economic sectors from textile to food and beverages production.
- Relevant presence of IT companies may allow taking advantage of technology for successful implementation.
- Aims to amplify the dissemination, intensify awareness, and expand knowledge of good practices in water management.
- Actions rely on national and European funding programs.
- Self-governance established model open to new members.
- External Advisory Board composed of NGOs, research entities, government institutions and business associations. May provide new ideas and perspectives to decision making within the Steering committee
- Rely on EU, national funding programs and member contributes to implementing working group initiatives.
- Early-stage project implementation does not allow to evaluate the success of the initiative.
This innovative practice was suggested by Cláudia Cordovil from Instituto Superior de Agronomia (ISA), School of Agriculture – Lisbon University.
APA, 2012. PNUEA – Programa Nacional para o Use Eficiente da Água – Implementação 2012-2020. https://www.apambiente.pt/index.php/agua/programa-nacional-para-o-uso-eficiente-da-agua
ERSAR, 2021. Relatório Anual dos Serviços de Águas e Resíduos em Portugal (2020) Volume 1 – Caraterização do setor de águas e resíduos. ISBN 978-989-8360-39-7. https://www.ersar.pt/pt/site-publicacoes/Paginas/edicoes-anuais-do-RASARP.aspx
Pires de Almeida, F., Cantarino, N., Barreiros, J.F., 2021. Water a Key Value Driver for Sustainable Growth Research Note # 5 Center For Responsible Business And Leadership (CRB). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351024552_WATER_A_KEY_VALUE_DRIVER_FOR_SUSTAINABLE_GROWTH_RESEARCH_NOTE_5_CENTER_FOR_RESPONSIBLE_BUSINESS_AND_LEADERSHIP
UNESCO, UN-Water, 2020. United Nations World Water Development Report 2020: Water and Climate Change, Paris, UNESCO. https://en.unesco.org/themes/water-security/wwap/wwdr/2020
Responsible Business & Leadership (CRB) of Católica-Lisbon (https://www.clsbe.lisboa.ucp.pt/pt-pt/docentes-conhecimento/investigacao/centros-de-conhecimento/center-responsible-business-leadership)
Portuguese National Water Plan (https://sniambgeoviewer.apambiente.pt/GeoDocs/geoportaldocs/APA/DL_76_2016_Plano_Nacional_Agua.pdf)
PNUEA ministry resolution (https://files.dre.pt/1s/2005/06/124b00/40594062.pdf)
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (https://sdgs.un.org/goals)
Water Summit 2020 (https://www.clsbe.lisboa.ucp.pt/pt-pt/water-summit-online-25-26-de-junho-de-2020)
Aqua Publica Europea Water Manifesto (https://www.aquapublica.eu/sites/default/files/article/file/Aqua%20Publica%20Europea%27s%20Manifesto%20for%20water.pdf)
European Union Green Deal (https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en)
PCMWS participating members:
BGI – building global innovators (https://www.bgi.pt/)
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (https://gulbenkian.pt/)
Católica-Lisbon School (https://www.clsbe.lisboa.ucp.pt/)
Pestana Hotel Group (https://www.pestanagroup.com/)
Jerónimo Martins (https://www.jeronimomartins.com/)
Sugal Group (https://sugal-group.com/)
Super Bock Group (https://www.superbockgroup.com/)
Tintex Textiles (https://tintextextiles.com/)
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