"The Certified Water Stewardship programme is the first of its kind globally - building on industry expertise and the strategic input from Irish Water to deliver a world class programme of learning."
Ken Stockil, Network Promoter of the Lean & Green Skillnet and CEO of Central Solutions
As global water demand intensifies, water is becoming an increasingly dominant part of the climate challenge. Stewardship and conservation efforts are critical in combatting this challenge. This is brought into focus by the United Nations, who have highlighted the role of businesses in promoting better water management in their Sustainable Development Goals.
In Ireland, The Large Water Users Community of Practice Group have identified skills and workforce development as critical to tackling the water challenges facing our businesses. Lean & Green Skillnet, Irish Water, and Central Solutions are among those creating models for businesses to improve their performance in water management, including the Certified Water Steward Training Programme.
Solution: Businesses turning the tide
The Certified Water Steward Training Programme supports businesses aiming to improve their water usage and practices with an accredited qualification. Run by Lean & Green Skillnet in partnership with Irish Water and Central Solutions, the programme offers 6-8 weeks of self-paced learning and is currently completed online.
Participants undertake modules and webinars focused on the tenets of water stewardship and conservation, water mapping of their business, developing a strategy and Water Charter for their business, all with regular mentoring and peer-to-peer support. To achieve certification, participants present the Water Charter they have developed through the programme to their business’ leadership team and receive approval for implementation.
The benefits for participating businesses can be considerable – including water savings and increased efficiencies achieved through improved environmental performance. The programme is co-funded by Lean & Green Skillnet and Irish Water, meaning companies can nominate one member of staff to be trained as their Certified Water Steward without incurring a cost. The reputational advantage is also noteworthy as having a Certified Water Steward and approved water action plan strongly signals a company’s commitment to action and climate leadership.
Outcome: Platinum Achievements
The first programme of its kind globally to marry expert-driven content with industry input, the offering has been embraced by Irish businesses. Over the past 18 months, more than 300 of Ireland’s leading industrial and service sites have graduated from the programme. Participating enterprises come from a variety of industries and include Intel, Microsoft, Green Isle Foods, Irish Distillers and Musgraves. SME participation is also gathering pace, which will have a significant impact on establishing Ireland as a leader in addressing water challenges across the business sector.
The positive outcomes are being felt in participating businesses as well as in the broader landscape of Irish industry. Collectively, participants have undertaken over 800 water improvement projects within their workplaces.
One standout achievement belongs to Nestle Wyeth Askeaton in Limerick who, following participation, became the first site in Ireland to achieve Platinum certification under the rigorous global Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard. The highest attainable rating, a Platinum rating requires a business to move beyond the AWS’ core requirements and make significant positive impacts in their region. Factory manager Antonio Prochilo affirmed the benefits of a collaborative approach with community stakeholders to augment the company’s internal water stewardship goals:
“This ensured we could identify shared water challenges and collaborative responses so that a comprehensive programme leading to water improvement and reduction opportunities across everything we do here was achieved. The result is a more efficient and more sustainable facility, which now uses close to one-third less water in 2019 than we did in 2013.”
The climate crisis remains a seismic challenge for our society and economy, which will require collective responsiveness in order to achieve the necessary targets. Initiatives such as the Certified Water Steward Programme comprise just one element of a larger movement. Ken Stockil, Network Promoter of the Lean & Green Skillnet and CEO of Central Solutions highlights the motivations behind the programme and impact it has achieved.
“The Certified Water Stewardship programme is the first of its kind globally in terms of the content and levels of industry engagement achieved nationwide since the launch. Recognised internationally, it builds on the industry expertise and shared best practices accessible through the member firms, and the strategic input and support from Irish Water, to deliver a world class programme of learning to Irish businesses.”
Successes such as Nestle Wyeth Askeaton’s Platinum rating highlight the business and climate impact that can be achieved by focusing on skills development. By working in partnership with industry to develop tailored and flexible learning, the results can move beyond simply compliance to achieving global leadership in the climate action for Irish firms