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Local sustainability champion: 'Water neutrality needs the support of the community'

By: Michael Dekker

The head of a nonprofit formerly known as Sustainable Tulsa was asked about a recent Associated Press story outlining how major corporations are not meeting their water goals.

The AP story said that of 72 companies ranked by a national sustainability nonprofit over the past year, few are close to achieving their 2030 targets of reducing water use.

Corey Wren Williams, executive director of The Sustainability Alliance, in an email, said this:

“Being water neutral is tied to several major factors — a company’s value chain, climate impact and sever weather events, and a watershed-local community.

“Every watershed is unique and we all play a role in the health of our watersheds. Point-source pollution and nonpoint source pollution determine the quality of our water,” Williams said.

“Unlike carbon neutrality that can be quantified and replicated across an industry, water neutrality needs the support of the community — the stakeholders in that watershed — to be informed and participate in those goals.”

The AP story said that last year, Ceres launched an effort to press companies with large water footprints to protect those resources and address related financial risks.

Last week, the group released an analysis that found most of the assessed companies — including Coca-Cola, General Mills and Amazon — have set targets but aren’t close to meeting them.

“There’s no doubt that companies need to do better,” said Kirsten James, senior program director for water at Ceres.

Ceres said the companies were chosen from the four sectors based on factors including size and their impact on water, the AP reported.

They were ranked based on a variety of factors, including commitments to protect the quantity and quality of the water they use, as well as the ecosystems that supply it.

They were also assessed on whether they helped improve access to water and sanitation in communities where they do business. Ceres drew on publicly available information, including the companies’ filings and other voluntary disclosures through March.

“Essentially the challenge with water neutrality is that it involves the community, to be outside the walls of the companies working to manage their resources,” Williams said.

“Sustainability is the intersection of people, profit and planet. We cannot work in silos to improve our communities.”

Williams said of watershed and planning issues:

  • Water quantity-related targets often fail to consider local watershed conditions

  • Water risk assessments often lack local context

  • Water quality is largely overlooked in setting corporate water stewardship targets

Few companies are furthering water stewardship through public policy advocacy related to water.

To understand there is a water plan and it is being updated in 2025 by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

She also said readers of the Tulsa World should participate in these two surveys:

  • Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan Public Outreach Survey.

  • 2025 Oklahoma Comprehensive Water Plan – Water Supply and Infrastructure Needs survey.


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