Background and Challenge

This is an age of drought and fear about the future of water resources, and attention is increasingly drawn to the massive water use of companies like Coca-Cola, which used 289 billion liters of water in 2017, and Google, whose data centers used over 16 billion liters of water globally in 2021. Such companies now face growing pressure to conserve water, minimize effects on water quality, and contribute to the health of the watersheds in which they operate. Adopting science-based water targets, within a broader corporate sustainability framework, can help corporations define and be held accountable to these strategic objectives. While non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Water Resources International, Alliance for Water Stewardship, Pacific Institute, and others have issued a variety of guidance documents to support this target-setting, the lack of streamlined, consistent messaging has been a hindrance to corporate adoption of these targets.

Our Approach

To bring clarity and coordination to this challenge on a planetary scale, CBI worked with the Science-Based Targets Freshwater Hub, including water stewardship organizations operating around the world, to articulate a common framework for corporate water target-setting, with collective guidance that each organization could support. Participants included experts on the reality of imperiled water resources and what it takes for corporations to mitigate the impacts and increase the sustainability of their entire value chains. Over two days, NGO participants from several different countries shared their interests and perspectives, agreed on collective priorities and strategies, and integrated their various approaches into a shared overall roadmap for corporations to follow in order to develop and implement science-based water targets.


After agreeing on a common, high-level approach for companies to follow, the NGO participants moved toward a consensus guidance document to advise companies in their analysis and adoption of science-based water targets. This will include a detailed roadmap with guidance on collecting data, monitoring basin health and water quality, prioritizing different environmental factors, and applying these factors throughout each corporation’s value chain to reduce water extraction, preserve watershed health, and contribute to a water-secure future. The guidance document will be endorsed and promoted by each organization, thereby streamlining information, creating clearer mandates, and ultimately leading to stronger corporate action to protect our collective water future.