Energy management systems are now standard in many companies. This is correct and important, because the benefits for the wallet and the environment are tangible. However, the same is true for one of the most precious resources of all: water. The new ISO 46001 certification is now designed to enable organizations to use a management system to increase water efficiency.

Rising population pressure and the effects of climate change are driving water demand sharply higher in many places. Increasing demand is not only putting pressure on prices and, in turn, society. It also has a significant impact on local economies. Water scarcity is already threatening the survival of certain business sectors in some countries.

The ISO 46001 standard enables companies to align their water efficiency management system (WEMS) with an international standard and have it certified. The aim of the standard is to identify requirements for WEMS and to provide effective and flexible guidance on how to implement and maintain water efficiency management systems in companies. The introduction of such a WEMS should lead to efficient and sustainable use of water.

ISO 46001: Content and structure of the standard

The ISO 46001 standard describes the procedure in seven sections. This is roughly outlined below:

  • Section 4 starts by explaining the importance of aligning the WEMS with the context of the organization. This first step has a major impact on the WEMS, its scope and limitations.
  • Section 5 shows the influence of leadership behavior on the management system, which stakeholders need to be involved, and what needs to be considered when developing the WEMS strategy.
  • Section 6 concerns planning. Here, risks and opportunities of the WEMS have to be identified in order to be able to make well-founded decisions on this basis regarding objectives, implementation, data processing, etc., also with regard to compliance requirements.
  • Section 7 lists the support measures required for a functioning WEMS. This relates to investments in setting up, implementing, maintaining and continuously improving the WEMS. In addition, staff need to be trained in competencies and awareness. Decisions need to be made about the scope of communication and the documentation, updating, and control of the information collected.
  • The 8th section describes how the defined processes and measures must be implemented in accordance with ISO 46001.
  • The 9th section includes performance evaluation. Here, information is provided on data monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation. The functioning of the WEMS should be monitored in internal audits and by management.
  • Section 10 explains how deviations are to be dealt with in order to obtain continuous improvement of the WEMS from them.

This results in a cycle, which is shown in simplified form in the following illustration:


Who is ISO 46001 certification aimed at?

The implementation of the standard is useful for all companies and organizations that consume more than a small amount of water. On average in Europe, business and industry account for 52% of total water consumption. Figures that show - there is a need for action especially in these sectors of the economy.

Why is it worthwhile to implement ISO 46001 in practice?

ISO 46001 certification of water efficiency management systems ensures a functional and ambitious system behind the WEMS. The consistent application of the standard ensures that the following aspects are taken into account:

  • Meet social and corporate responsibility with respect to sustainable water use
  • Identify risks and opportunities in the area of water consumption, control them, continuously optimize them and thus improve the water balance
  • Ensure that the WEMS is tailored to the specific company and includes all important points
Constanze Illner

Constanze Illner (she/her) is Research and Communications Officer in the area of sustainability and food safety. In this position, she keeps an eye on all important developments in this context and informs our clientele in a monthly newsletter. She also moderates the annual Sustainability Heroes conference.