In a first for India, ITC commits to AWS certification

ITC becomes the first company in India to commit to Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) certification for all its facilities in high water-stress areas by 2035.

08 Nov 2021 | By Aultrin Vijay

Multi business conglomerate ITC claimed that it is the first company in India to announce its ambitious target for 2035 to certify all its owned factories and hotels operating in areas of high-water stress to the International Water Stewardship Standard (AWS Standard).

Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) certification is considered as the global benchmark for water stewardship. The international standard acknowledges companies for responsible water use, leading to positive environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts.

AWS is a global membership collaboration including businesses, NGOs and the public sector. Its members contribute to the sustainability of local water-resources through their adoption and promotion of a universal framework for the sustainable use of water – the International Water Stewardship Standard, or AWS Standard – that drives, recognises and rewards good water stewardship performance.

In 2019, ITC’s paperboards factory in Tamil Nadu earned the distinction of being the only facility in India to be awarded the AWS Platinum-level certification – the highest level for AWS certification. The facility is said to be the first site in India to achieve this AWS recognition. ITC has now committed itself to achieve AWS certification for eight of its sites by 2023 and all its sites in high water stressed areas by 2035. The company has so far identified 30 such sites spread across the country.

Commenting on the development, Sanjiv Rangrass, group head - life sciences and technology, Central Projects, EHS and Quality Assurance, ITC said, “The Platinum-level AWS certification of our Kovai unit in 2019 was indeed a source of encouragement for all at ITC and it inspired us to step up our water stewardship efforts and commit the highest global certification targets for all our water stressed sites by 2035. The certifications will be an international level validation of our holistic water stewardship initiatives and will provide a further boost to our efforts in years to come.”

With water stress increasingly becoming an area of serious concern, ITC continues to focus on an integrated water stewardship programme that includes water conservation and harvesting initiatives at its units – while at the same time working towards meeting the water security needs of stakeholders through supply-side as well as demand-side measures.

Besides ensuring water security of dependents in the factory catchment, ITC’s water stewardship programme aims to drought-proof the agri-catchments to minimise risks to agricultural livelihoods arising from drought and moisture stress. The programme promotes the development and management of local water resources in moisture-stressed areas by facilitating community participation in planning and implementing such measures, whilst building, reviving and maintaining water-harvesting structures.

The coverage of this programme currently extends to 38 districts of 14 states in India. So far, the company has created over 21,990 water harvesting structures and developed net water storage of 41.95 million cubic meters. The company’s extensive watershed development initiative has cumulatively brought soil and moisture conservation to 1.2 million acres.

ITC’s focussed initiative for demand-side management has also led to water savings of 25-40% for seven crops, contributing meaningfully to the Government’s vision in promoting 'More crop per drop'. In addition, ITC continues to work with farmers by promoting agronomic practices and micro irrigation techniques targeted towards saving water in cultivation and improving farmer incomes. Around 0.3 million acres have been covered till date across 6 states under this initiative. According to various studies, potential water savings with the help of these practices are to the tune of 208 million cubic metres in a year.

As the world prepares for a post-pandemic future, ITC is actively working towards Sustainability 2.0, an agenda, which reimagines sustainability under the pressing challenges of climate change. With a view to ‘Building Back Better’, Sustainability 2.0 calls for inclusive strategies that can support sustainable livelihoods and pursue newer ways to fight climate change.

As a part of the new Sustainability 2.0 goals for 2030, ITC has set augmented targets for itself across all social and environmental initiatives including water stewardship. Besides the AWS certification commitment, the Company also aims to achieve 40% reduction in specific water consumption by 2030 as compared to a FY 2018-19 baseline as well as creation of rainwater harvesting potential equivalent to over 5 times the net water consumption by 2030. ITC also aims at improving crop water use efficiency in agri value chains by augmenting demand side management interventions and enabling savings of 2,000 million kilolitres of water by 2030.

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