Stakeholder engagement for restoration planning

Understanding and Engaging Water-Related Stakeholders

At LimnoTech, we believe that working with a diverse group of external and internal stakeholders is vital for effective water stewardship. For this reason, we encourage and support our clients in understanding and engaging stakeholders in the watersheds where they operate.

By Nate Jacobson, Environmental Scientist (Ann Arbor, MI) and Saloni Dagli, Environmental Engineer (Washington, DC)

July 6, 2022

The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) International Water Stewardship Standard defines water stewardship as “the use of water that is socially and culturally equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial, achieved through a stakeholder-inclusive process that involves site and catchment-based actions.” Corporate water stewardship cannot be done in a vacuum. Water transcends a company’s site boundaries and can impact and be impacted, both positively and negatively, by the types of activities upstream and downstream of a site. Additionally, many companies, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) reside in or have a connection to a single watershed (also referred to as a catchment or basin). The priorities and interests of each may align, compete, or oppose each other.

So what is a stakeholder? The AWS Standard defines a stakeholder as “any organization, group or individual that has some interest or ‘stake’ in the implementing organization’s activities (i.e., a company or business), and that can affect or be affected by them.” Further, stakeholders are grouped into four main categories:

  1. Those who impact the organization. For example, regulators, other water users, polluters, special interest groups, etc.
  2. Those the organization has an impact on. For example, other water users, neighbors, conservation management organizations, the environment, etc.
  3. Those who have a common interest. For example, similar business sectors.
  4. Those who have no specific link to the organization but with whom it is relevant to inform and to maintain a positive reputation and relationship.

Understanding and engaging water-related stakeholders is a crucial step in any organization’s water stewardship journey, including those implementing the AWS Standard process (see Indicator 1.2). Some of the benefits that can be realized through this process include:

  • Understanding the needs and interests of external stakeholders
  • Understanding shared water challenges from the perspective of others, including experts
  • Understanding and mitigating current or potential future risk and opposition
  • Brainstorming internal and external water stewardship opportunities, specifically opportunities that provide a win-win for multiple stakeholders
  • Building relationships with key stakeholders and potential project implementation partners
  • Supporting collective action and making a positive impact on the watershed

So how does LimnoTech support stakeholder engagement? As consultants with expertise in many sectors, LimnoTech has directly and indirectly worked and collaborated with many different types of water-related stakeholders. For example, we have worked with a range of business sectors (food and beverage, tech, hospitality, manufacturing, agriculture), NGOs (TNC, WWF, Ducks Unlimited, Land Trusts), government agencies (local and state water agencies, USDA, USEPA, USFWS), and local groups (river associations, watershed partnerships). Based on the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) stakeholder engagement approach (2011, 2019) and guidance from the AWS Standard, LimnoTech has developed ‘stakeholder mapping’ methods to support our clients in understanding and engaging key stakeholders. This process follows five stakeholder mapping phases, which include:

  1. Identifying: listing relevant groups, organizations, and people
  2. Analyzing: understanding stakeholder perspectives and interests
  3. Mapping: visualizing relationships to objectives and other stakeholders
  4. Prioritizing: ranking stakeholder relevance and identifying issues
  5. Engaging: developing an outreach and engagement plan for high-priority stakeholders

Stakeholder Mapping Process Diagram

At LimnoTech, we continue to adapt and customize these methods to meet the needs and objectives of our clients across different sectors (e.g., tech, food and beverage, hospitality). A few of the ways we have supported stakeholder engagement include:

  • Stakeholder mapping to support water risk assessments that help companies better understand water sources related to site operations, supply chain dependencies, and context-based risks within relevant watersheds.
  • AWS Standard Certification (i.e., stakeholder mapping and prioritization; planning and support for stakeholder outreach; helping our clients share continual progress and maintain long-term relationships with stakeholders).
  • Stakeholder outreach to support replenish (i.e., balance or restoration) project scoping so organizations can contribute to projects that provide benefits in the watersheds they rely upon.

If you would like to learn more or discuss how LimnoTech can support your organization’s needs related to water sustainability, corporate water stewardship, the AWS Standard, or water-related stakeholder engagement, please contact Nate Jacobson at njacobson@limno.com.

This article is the second in a series of articles authored by LimnoTech staff on water stewardship. Follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter (@LimnoTech), and check the Insights & Perspectives page on our website for more information and updates. Links to the other water stewardship articles in this series are provided below:

The Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard – Framing a Decade of Water Stewardship

Nate Jacobson is an Environmental Scientist with expertise in corporate water stewardship and sustainability, biological services, stormwater management, and data management and analysis. Since joining LimnoTech in 2015, Nate has worked on a wide variety of projects for many different client sectors, including project scoping and volumetric water benefit quantification, water risk assessments, water stewardship plan development, and stakeholder mapping. Nate is a Professionally Credentialed Specialist Consultant for applying the AWS Water Stewardship Standard and has worked both in implementing and auditing the standard.

Saloni Dagli, PE, is an Environmental Engineer with expertise in corporate water stewardship and sustainability, stormwater management, green infrastructure, integrated planning, data analysis and management, and environmental justice. Saloni has supported corporate water stewardship clients from a range of sectors (tech, hospitality, food and beverage) by conducting stakeholder mapping, project scoping, water risk assessments, and volumetric water benefit evaluations. Saloni is a Professional Credentialed Specialist Consultant for the application of the AWS Water Stewardship Standard. She has worked with the tech business sector in implementing and auditing the standard.

The content herein is the author’s opinion and not published on behalf of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS). The author holds an AWS Professional Credential and this piece of publishing helps fulfill their Continuing Contribution Units requirements. For more information about AWS or the AWS Professional Credentialing Program please visit https://a4ws.org/.

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