Rising concerns on water can be mitigated through collaboration


By Neil Amato

Water scarcity and water quality are growing concerns for businesses, and many organisations are taking steps to make the best use of this resource. They’re doing it not only for financial reasons but also for reputational ones.

The World Economic Forum listed water crises as a top category of global risk in terms of impact, and a November 2014 survey by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) said that 68% of businesses report exposure to water risk that could generate a substantive change in their business, operations, or revenue.

Nearly half of CEOs in a 2014 global PwC survey listed resource scarcity and climate change in their top three megatrends that could transform business.

“Water is a strategic imperative that no board should ignore, and it needs to have a place on every risk agenda,” Malcolm Preston, PwC’s global sustainability leader, said in a video that accompanied a new PwC report.

The more recent report says that collaboration is critical for organisations to responsibly use water. No matter how well organisations manage their water use, they must understand that water is a resource they have to share.

Who are they to collaborate with, and how do they get started? The report lists four steps, using case studies from India and New Zealand to show how real-world problems were addressed:

Start off on the right foot. Getting the right partners to the table is essential, PwC said. Each stakeholder has something to gain by being part of finding a solution.

Get the system going. Setting priorities and establishing work streams and deadlines are critical, as are contingency plans in case disruptions occur. The PwC report used the example of a company in India that developed its own framework for watershed management.

Strengthen the glue of collaboration. PwC defined “glue” in this case to be principles of trust, mutual respect, and transparency. “Successful collaboration depends on equity and inclusiveness,” PwC said. “All voices should be heard and given equal weighting, all parties shown mutual respect, and asymmetry of power needs to be avoided.”

Maintain momentum through motivation and measurement. Hold stakeholders accountable and celebrate progress. Independent facilitation and governance can help keep projects moving in the right direction. The report used the example of a government meteorological department providing technical expertise to farmers in India trying to conserve water.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

3 Steps to a More Socially Responsible Supply Chain”: The study of best practices by leaders in the field of sustainability outlines processes that have proved to help companies achieve cost reductions, increased brand value, and greater revenue.

Why Natural Capital Should Be on Your Board’s Agenda”: A CGMA briefing calls on companies to measure their dependencies and impacts on critical natural resources and ecosystems to build more resilient, sustainable business models.

Neil Amato (namato@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

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