Water Stewardship Standard Revision 2018

Consultation Closed: AWS Standard Version 2.0 Draft 1-1

Many thanks to all those who completed the Survey.  Your input is now being considered by the AWS Technical Committee and their decisions will be reflected in the AWS Standard Version 2-0 Draft 2-0.  There will be a further 30 day round of consultation in September 2018.

View the recent webinar on the Standards Revision Draft 1.

Closes for comment: Sunday 17th June

As Version 1.0 of the AWS Standard was launched in 2014 we are currently in a standard review and revision process that will lead to the launch of AWS Standard Version 2.0, on 1st January 2019.

Further information on the AWS Standard is available here.

The AWS Technical Committee, a multi-stakeholder body comprised of representatives from AWS Members, manages the AWS Standard review and revision. The end goal of this process is for the committee to provide recommendations on the new iteration of the standard for approval by AWS Members at the 2018 AWS AGM taking place in Edinburgh on Thursday November 1st.

The road to ‘AWS Standard Version 2.0 Draft 1.1’

The AWS Technical Committee met in Canada in March 2018 to consider feedback received from an initial public survey on v1.0 of the standard. The meeting came as the culmination of a year-long process, led by the AWS Director of Standards & Assurance, Richard Robertson, that saw members, partners and stakeholders from across the global AWS System identify the major issues which they thought should be considered during the revision process.

Over 300 comments were received for the Technical Committee to consider, from which 12 major themes emerged. A resolution for each theme was agreed by the committee, and a draft version of the revised standard has been produced from those recommendations.

The draft of the proposed new iteration of the standard is being issued today, Monday 23rd April for an open 8 week consultation that will conclude on Sunday 17th June. The Technical Committee will reconvene at the close of the 60-day period to consider comments submitted.

The draft Revised Standard can be downloaded here

How to provide feedback

A set of 12 Themes have been identified from your feedback during last years review consultation.  These are outlined below the list of webinars and workshops here.  Please read these and familiarise yourself with the revised standard prior to completing the survey, which is arranged by Theme.

It is important that the feedback we receive is structured in an appropriate way to extract information and contrast with feedback on a related issue from others. For this reason, we ask that members, partners and stakeholders provide their feedback through the Survey provided below:

The survey on the draft revisions can be accessed here

Workshops and Webinars

We also believe that it is important that your feedback on the draft should be informed by the experience of those who have worked through the process to create it. We therefore ask that those considering submitting feedback join us on one of the following learning sessions.


These are in person, day long events with informative presentations on the process, Themes and interactive group work; plus how to give your feedback on the proposals for improvements to the AWS Standard.  Outputs from the sessions will be fed back to the Technical Committee.

Friday 1st June
08:30 – 15:30 Eastern Standard Time
In person meeting at AWS Asia-Pacific, Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford, Victoria, Australia.
Registration details available on the AWS Asia-Pacific website.

Thursday 7th June
09:30 – 14:30 India Standard Time
Join in person at WBCSD India Office, Worldmark 2, Aerocity New Delhi, 110037 or via dial-in.
To register contact


These are in on-line, 2 hour sessions with informative presentations on the process, Themes and how to give your feedback on the proposals for improvements to the AWS Standard. Comments from the sessions will be fed back to the Technical Committee.

Tuesday 5th June
09:00 – 11:00 Pacific Daylight Time
12:00 – 14:00 Eastern Standard Time

16:00-18:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)

To register complete the Registration Form

Europe & Africa
Thursday 7th June
15:00 – 17:00 British Summer Time
16:00 – 18:00 Central European Summer time

15:00-17:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)

To register complete the Registration Form

Asia Pacific
Thursday 7th June
09:00 – 11:00 China Standard Time

11:00-13:00 Australia Eastern Standard Time (Melbourne)

01:00-03:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)

To register complete the Registration Form

Themes that we need your feedback on

The Technical Committee have considered feedback from the earlier consultation periods to produce the revised version of the standard. In producing this draft the committee considered the inter-connected feedback on the Standard, the Guidance and the AWS Assurance System, differentiating between those elements which can be incorporated into the Standard and those which need to be addressed in the Guidance and Assurance System post the final decision on the new Standard at the AGM.

Work that has been undertaken on the AWS Standard Version 2.0 Draft 1.0 is summarised in the first set of bullet points. Where stakeholder feedback ultimately relates to the Guidance and the AWS Assurance System they sit in the second group of bullet points.

1. Users of the Standard and suggested improvements to Guidance

Issues identified from Review
  • Users would like to AWS Standard ordered differently
  • These include small holders; sectors and regions
  • Steps make it too repetitive through planning cycle
  • Online version of the standard
  • Sector specific versions
  • Regional Guidance
  • Several new definitions are requested
  • These include: Theory of Change; AWS; policy –v- position (1.2); Catchment
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • A full re-working of the steps, criteria and indicators of the Standard has been completed
  • The number of concepts in criteria has been reduced to improve understanding and clarity
  • The language accompanying the indicators has been reviewed and simplified
  • An introductory text on how to use the Standard will be included
  • The language in the revised Guidance will be simplified.
  • Content in the Guidance will be accurately cross-referenced to criteria and indicators
  • The volume of content in the revised Guidance will be reduced
  • A worked example for Step 2 Guidance is included in the draft of the revised standard
  • A procedure on development of regional and sector specific Guidance will be produced
  • Fewer global examples will be referenced in the Guidance
  • Opportunities to include regional and sector specific Guidance will be highlighted
  • Review and improve the Glossary, maintaining consistency with other international definitions of such terms

2. Impacts and Theory of Change

Issues identified from Review
  • Suggest AWS set some examples of global goals/objectives
  • “Theory of Change” needs to take into consideration interested parties (stakeholders) and the context of the organization found in ISO 14001:2015, Section 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3.
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • Stronger links between the Theory of Change and the Standard has been forged
  • Icons from the Theory of Change have been incorporated into the Standard for consultation
  • A data template to support implementation and implementers will be developed
  • The data template will show requirements across all steps, criteria and indicators
  • A Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) template will be prepared for feedback
  • The M&E template will be available for the second consultation process Aug – Sept 2018

3. Step 1: Commitment

Issues identified from Review
  • Too long, too academic versus “should be more for this step”
  • Policy vs position—avoid legal hurdles with position language
  • “top level” w/in company vs w/in site—which would provide more weight?
  • “local community commitment” option
  • Clear distinction on what needs to be in the document rather than multiple documents
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • Include WASH in the supply chain
  • Include Water Stewardship within an organization’s sustainability program
  • Include commitment to indigenous  and cultural values
  • Strengthened stakeholder engagement components
  • Include Implementation commitments
  • Consider capacity/resourcing in commitment
  • Step 1 has been and integrated into Step’s 2, 3 and 6
  • Steps will be renumbered 1-5 if it is agreed to integrate Step 1 into the other Steps.

4. Stakeholder Engagement

Issues identified from Review
  • Guidance and requirements on Stakeholder engagement need improvement
  • 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.6 – The local community would need external support
  • Stakeholder consensus on sites water stewardship plan is again subjective and needs to be defined through smart target plans.
  • 3.1 – Would be helpful to simplify this and also bring in more clarity on how can this be fulfilled by local communities
  • Stakeholder consensus – not made explicitly clear in the guidance as to who the stakeholder group should comprise.
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • Improvements to Guidance on stakeholder engagement required
  • A Stakeholder Engagement Expert Group to be appointed to develop improvements
  • Improved Guidance should focus on principles, mapping stakeholders and priorities
  • Guidance to be integrated into criteria 2.2 as a recommended approach
  • Guidance to include examples from case studies

5. Catchments

Issues identified from Review
  • Definition of Catchment poorly understood and not workable in come contexts
  • As Sites allowed to identify their own catchment, lack of consistency and need for consistent approach.
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • Improved definition of terminology and of size and scale of catchment in production
  • Concept of Sphere of Influence eliminated as confusing when coupled with identification of Catchment
  • Recommendation for inclusion in Guidance that a site adopt the ‘Hydrobasin’ approach if no other information to support catchment analysis available

6. Agriculture: Smallholders and Group Certification

Issues identified from Review
  • Difficulty around specific criteria… for instance: 2.1 physical scope, 3.1 legal compliance, 4.7 WASH provision
  • Capacity of Smallholders to implement
  • Are there elements of the criteria and indicators that are prohibitive of smallholder implementation of the Standard?
  • Under existing group certification requirements enterprises which occupy more than one catchment are not eligible for AWS certification
  • Ambiguity of group certification requirements
  • Guidance is lacking for group implementation and integration of water stewardship into management frameworks
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • No changes to wording of criteria and indicators but proposed changes to Guidance below
  • Improvements to Guidance on smallholder agriculture and group certification required
  • An Agriculture Expert Group to be appointed to develop improvements

Terms of Reference for the Agriculture Expert Group are available here.

7. Important water-related areas to Water-related High Conservation Values

Issues identified from Review
  • Align IWRA fully with HCV, so as other users of HCV could better address water related HCVs in other Standards Systems.
  • HCV is defined in the Glossary but not fully integrated into IWRA concept
  • Cultural and Environmental aspects of HCV not included in IWRA.
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • Change of wording from ‘important water-related areas’ to ‘water-related high conservation values’
  • Expand IWRA definition to full Water Related HCV concept
  • Agreement not to consider non Water Related HCVs as felt too onerous for users of the AWS Standard

Briefing paper on Water-related High Conservation Values available here

8. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

Issues identified from Review
  • Requirements for WASH provision on-site are weak:
  • 4.7.1: List of actions taken to provide workers access to safe water, effective sanitation and protective hygiene (WASH) on-site – No minimum level of provision defined.
  • Opportunity is available to have AWS lead the world through thoughtful and effective handling of WASH.
  • Significance of WASH as an element of stewardship and priority for global development.  Consider adding ‘Progress towards universal and sustainable WASH provision’ as a 5th Outcome for AWS.
  • Alignment with SDGs – business priority and source of development funding.
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • Proposed change to include WASH as a 5th AWS Outcome rejected, since it is addressed through existing Outcomes
  • Where WASH is an internal or external challenge “it will be identified by current criteria”.  Evidence from several implementations of AWS Standard support this view
  • Improving impact against challenges better achieved by strengthening the Guidance
  • Complementary WASH sector guidance required to strengthen AWS Guidance to be identified
  • WASH Advisory Group to provide leadership on this

Terms of Reference for WASH Advisory Group are available here

9. Thresholds & Scoring

Issues identified from Review
  • Performance levels to achieve Outcomes are not specified
  • Unclear if full standard needs to be implemented before certification can take place?
  • Scoring not applied to all indicators.  Would be easier to assess overall compliance with Criteria level.
  • Advanced Criteria scoring complex and varies greatly
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • Generate rules for when a criteria is Advanced e.g. catchment level?
  • Develop and apply rules for scoring and consider incentives to drive uptake and continuous improvement
  • Revised wording of 4.1 to 4.6 including
  • Consider adding context based water targets
  • Clarification of performance level expected for full compliance
  • Improved wording on adequacy of targets and linkage between status of site in meeting a target and achieving certification
  • Improvements to Guidance regarding progress between Step 4 and Step 5 required
  • Improvement to Guidance on rate of improvement to maintain certification required
  • Options to address these are in progress

10. Indirect Water Use

Issues identified from Review
  • Emphasis on acting on indirect water use within the catchment is not meaningful, as indirect water use is not often related to the catchment of a site.
  • Standard does not require any meaningful action/improvement on indirect water use.
  • Indicator 4.6.1 – List of suppliers and service providers, along with the actions they have taken as a result of the site’s engagement relating to indirect water use
  • Ambiguity around what is ‘improved’ – no linkage to understanding of context and meaningful action.
  • Reputational risk for AWS: If we label a product whose primary components/indirect water use have a negative impact – the core criteria are very weak here.
  • No consideration of project life cycle – indirect water-related impact associated with use of the product.
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • Amend 2.5.1 to include understanding risk
  • Amend 4.6.1 to include measurable progress against targets
  • Amend 4.16 to improve language ‘reduced’
  • Amend 3.2 to make linkage explicit

11. Transparency

Issues identified from Review
  • Sharing water performance publicly is a huge concern
  • Disclosure requirements of the Standard could disqualify certain organisations from achieving even basic level compliance
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • Requirement to name employees replaced with requirement for a general company structure and at least one named point of contact
  • Criteria 6.2 amended to include public reference to targets in site’s Water Stewardship Plan
  • Revised Guidance to provide advice on what details should be disclosed.

12. Water-related Costs

Issues identified from Review
  • Identify methods for identifying and quantifying social, environmental and economic costs.  Certificate holders are struggling with this to date
Proposed revision to the Standard
  • No changes to wording of criteria and indicators but proposed changes to Guidance below
  • Revised Guidance to provide methodologies and examples about what is expected (quantitative vs qualitative) and how to calculate costs in production
  • Consideration to be given on how to deal with the financial assessment between Company Headquarter analysis and allocating to individual site level

Click here to complete the Survey

Next steps

The 8 week consultation period will conclude on 17th June. Following this the Technical Committee will reconvene to consider feedback and oversee finalisation of the revised Standard. This and supporting documentation will be circulated to AWS Members mid October 2018. The Technical Committee will present the proposed changes and formulate a recommendation to the Membership for approval at the AGM in Edinburgh on 1st November 2018.

Transition to the new Standard will occur during November and December 2018. Webinars and training for CABs, Trainers and Consultants will be held during this period. Tools and materials for Certificate Holders and Implementers will also be provided to assist transition to the new Standard. Implementation of the new Standard is from 1st January 2019

Any queries regarding the revision process and consultation can be directed to: Richard Robertson, AWS Standards and Assurance Director Email: