How can businesses develop products that are both environmentally and economically sustainable? Many company executives see green initiatives as a financial burden that are only pursued out of good will. Some environmental projects require large initial investments or involve changing the structure of an operation. However, many initiatives that reduce the environmental impacts of products also reduce costs for businesses and improve their bottom line. At the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) conference titled “Greening the Supply Chain: Best Business Practices and Future Trends” on Thursday, April 26, many strategies were presented by various companies that have improved both their environmental and economic sustainability. (more…)
Food production uses large amounts of water. To be more precise, agriculture accounts for 70 percent of global water use. As the world’s population grows, increasing amounts of food, and therefore increasing amounts of water, are needed. At the same time, there are growing concerns about global and regional water scarcity. The question arises then: how can we use water optimally to help ensure food security? There are a variety of technologies that can improve the situation and provide sufficient food for growing populations. Chen Lei, from the Ministry of Water Resources in China, spoke at the WWF about some of the technological solutions that China has utilized. These solutions have enabled his country to feed 21% of the population with only 6% of the world’s land. China promotes the use of improved seeds, improved fertilizers, dry farming, and drip irrigation. While these are valuable technological tools, there are a multitude of other non-technological tools that can be used to address broader issues through institutional or political change. At the World Water Forum in Marseille France, a session on Wednesday, March 14 discussed this topic in a panel titled, “Contributing to food security by optimal use of water”. Speakers from China, Mali, France, India, Nestle, among others, contributed their own experiences and ideas to the discussion. Growing Demand For Food
There is a growing demand for food globally. Alexander Muller from the Natural Resources and Environment department at FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) set the scene for the discussion. The global population is growing, he said. It is expected that 60 percent more food will be needed to feed the additional three billion people that will exist by the end of the century. In order to produce this food, increasing amounts of water will need to be consumed. However, the barriers to producing greater amounts of food continue to grow. One barrier is decreasing resources in the face of a growing population.
Water, food, and energy are fundamentally inter-connected. Before I began learning more about this water, food, and energy nexus leading up to the World Water Forum, I didn’t understand the full implications of this. Water is necessary for providing food and energy to populations in modern societies. Water is used to grow vegetables and grains that we consume and to feed animals that we consume. Water is used to cool power plants that produce our electricity and to process the gasoline used in our vehicles. Have you considered how much virtual water you “consume” through the food you eat and the electricity you use? The impacts also occur in other directions: access to energy allows easier transportation of food to those in need and the ability to utilize effective water-purification technologies. In a world increasingly concerned about water, food and energy security, it is important to understand the connections between them all. A threat to any one of them would impact the other two. While much of the World Water Forum focused on those lacking access to water and sanitation, there are 1.3 billion people lacking access to electricity and 1 billion people undernourished worldwide. Because water, food, and energy issues affect and are affected by one another so much, it is important to consider than together rather than in isolation. The High Level Panel: Water, Food, and Energy Nexus on Friday, March 16 discussed these interactions and proposed solutions.
The speakers at the high level panel included individuals from a range of countries and backgrounds: Uschi Eid (UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water, Gérard Wolf (Electricité de France), Rodney Cooke (International Fund for Agricultural Development), Dilip Kulkarni (JAIN Irrigation Systems, India), Yasar Yakis (Turkish Parliament), Diego Bravo (Columbia), Jane Madgwick (Wetlands International), Thomas Chiramba (United Nations Environment Programme), Rhoda Tumusiime (African Union), Alain Vidal (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, Challenge Program on Water and Food), and Lee Yangho (Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Korea).
What is the Key to ensuring that we can continue to have access to water, food, and energy in the future?
The World Water Forum 6 took place from March 12-17th, 2012 in Marseille, France. The Forum aimed at bring people together, allowing for conversation, presenting solutions, spreading awareness, solving challenges, and making commitments. The Forum, according to the event’s website,
“…mobilises creativity, innovation, competence and know-how in favour of water. It gathers all stakeholders around today’s local, regional and global issues that cannot be undertaken without all stakeholders into a common framework of goals and concrete targets to reach. The goal of the 6th World Water Forum is to tackle the challenges our world is facing and to bring water high on all political agendas.”
Take a Tour of the WWF6
Take a tour of the World Water Forum 6 by watching the video below. The opening ceremony featured a song by The Marseille Rêve Choir, which felt optimistic and inspirational. This optimism continued throughout the Forum as individuals from diverse backgrounds, numerous countries, and varying opinions discussed important issues related to water. The twelve thematic targets organized discussions to focus on certain key issues in water governance, energy, food, access and others. It wasn’t only talk, however – the Village of Solutions presented concrete and unique solutions addressing a variety of problems.
How Successful was the Forum?
Some may argue that the Forum lacked conflict, which is explored in this post. I think determining the success of the Forum depends on what outcome is considered success. One thing that the Forum successfully accomplished was to initiate dialogue between individuals, groups, and countries that may not have otherwise interacted with one another. The ability to communicate between so many languages with the use of live translation was fascinating. Second, the Forum increased awareness of water challenges, both in Marseille (which had signs advertising the event at many bus stops) and around the world (through articles published in newspapers and blogs). I now intend to share the knowledge I learned from others at the Forum with my own friends and family at home. Finally, many connections were forged between water professionals. The Forum was an open space for meeting like-minded individuals who are passionate about water. Personally, I met youth from around the world and spoke with experienced professionals working in the field of water who I will stay in touch with. These connections lead to research and solutions: for example, a classmate found the inspiration for a master’s capstone project through a Forum panel discussion and interview. However, I wonder how many concrete changes will result from the Forum and if the solutions and commitments made were enough. On Friday, the second to last day of the Forum, I attended a high level panel that I expected might end in a series of clear steps to take in the coming months or years. But much of the time was spent sharing perspectives from different individuals on the panel. It is valuable to share these experiences, but I did not expect this to still be the focus so far into the Forum. Because of a lack of concrete next steps in some of the panel discussions I attended, I left finding it difficult to explain to others specific steps that will be taken as a result of the Forum.
Did you attend the World Water Forum? As the largest global meeting for water, do you think it addressed appropriate issues? What impact has or will the WWF6 have on water issues globally?
A company or a water service provider may claim to be good stewards of water resources, but how can we know that they are doing what they claim? There is no international standard to verify those claims, although The Alliance for Water Stewardship is working on an international standard (the International Water Stewardship Standard), as discussed in my earlier post. Alexis Morgan, who leads the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s Water Roundtable on behalf of World Wildlife Fund (WWF), has brought together various stakeholders in the formation of the standard. He explains in this interview how businesses can no longer focus only on what happens in water use on a specific site. Their view must extend beyond the site’s borders and include the watershed and whole supply chain. He hopes that this standard will influence supply chains and investments, verify claims by companies and water service providers, and mitigate risks in both within and outside the borders of facilities. Watch the full interview below.
Would you rather listen? The audio is available as well:
Businesses must be actively involved in the management of water resources. Businesses depend on quality and reliable supplies of water for direct and indirect uses including drinking, agricultural production, energy production, transportation, cleaning, resource extraction, processing, and so on. Many businesses use a significant amount of water in comparison to other users, so it is vital that they properly manage water resources in order to ensure the future supply. However, there currently is no standard framework for planning, classifying, and documenting the water stewardship efforts by businesses. It is in the interest of businesses to invest in sustainable water use because water scarcity affects the ability to produce and transport goods, which affects investments and business risk. The Alliance for Water Stewardship, formed in 2008 by a variety of organizations including World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy, is in the process of creating an International Water Stewardship Standard. This proposed standard was presented at the session titled “Corporate Water Stewardship: Moving Toward Verifiable Sustainable Water Management” at the World Water Forum 6. This standard focuses on the industrial site, watershed, and supply chain. It will certify specific industrial sites on their water stewardship at three levels – Certified, Gold Certified, and Platinum Certified. The session was led by Alexis Morgan, the Global Water Roundtable Coordinator on behalf of WWF, and the panel including Karen Golmer from Sealed Air, Romit Sen from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry(FICCI), Geoff Townsend from Nalco, and Jason Morrison from UN CEO Water Mandate.
Current Business Practices
Although the relationship between water and the success of businesses may not initially be obvious, many businesses acknowledge the relevance of sustainable water supply. Romit Sen of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry shared the results of a survey that found 60% of businesses reported being impacted by water availability today and 78% of businesses reported expecting to be impacted by water availability in the future.
It is valuable to be multi-lingual, not just in formal languages but in the “languages” of different categories of people. In the field of water, which by nature requires the collaboration of scientists (whose language is Science Speak), policy-makers (whose language is Policy Speak), the public, and other stakeholders, it is necessary to translate information between different audiences. Dr. Alex T. Bielak, who has a wide range of educational and professional experiences beginning in science and evolving into policy, spoke of the importance of this communication at his session, “From Salmon Biologist to the United Nations: A Journey in Science-Policy Bridging” on Tuesday, March 13 at the World Water Forum 6.
The Language Gap between Scientists and Others
Scientists, decision-makers, and the public use different languages and terminology. Scientists are most familiar with scientific writing, which has a specific format that includes an introduction, materials and methods section, results, and conclusions. However, this format is often not valuable to decision-makers who prefer direct facts that in support of one policy or another. The public also has its preferred ways of receiving scientific information that uses more simple language and covers the basic ‘who’ and ‘what’ of the topic. In order to move toward more effective water policies, it is vital for scientists to communicate their research to decision-makers directly so decisions are based on sound scientific evidence. It is also valuable for scientists to communicate their research to the public who also influence decision-makers less directly. By ‘translating’ knowledge into a form that is appropriate and engaging for non-scientific audiences, positive change can be achieved.
At a Forum that brings together so many knowledgeable and experienced individuals from around the world, how can youth contribute? Because they represent the next generation of leaders, it is vital to involve youth in decision-making processes. Youth also offer a valuable perspective to water-related issues through general openness to learning, collaborating, and developing innovative ideas. The Youth Opening Session on Monday March 12th in Marseille, France introduced the youth groups present at the Forum, presented the schedule of youth events for the week, and outlined the contributions of youth toward water issues beyond this Forum. Around 100 young people were present at the opening session for youth. The setup of the session itself reflected the potential of youth to collaborate and to produce solutions for water-related issues.
The Youth Vision
The Water Youth Movement, a recently-formed network for youth interested in solving water-related issues, presented ideas for their “Youth Vision” to be presented later this week at the Forum. In its current structure, it consists of three “pillars” that are the foundation of the Youth Vision because they both affect youth and can be influenced by youth. They are:
Following an outline of the Water Youth Movement’s ideas, the audience broke out into small groups to discuss these “pillars” and how youth can contribute to each. This brainstorming session allowed youth from around the world to meet, share ideas, and make connections. The attendees were diverse in countries of origin (including the United States, India, Japan, France, Netherlands, etc.), area of study or work (including students in engineering and environmental studies, members of non-governmental organizations, etc), and experience with water.