Ladies from all corners of the world dressed in a rainbow of colors of their national dress to create the most diverse modeling catwalk you’ve ever seen. On Wednesday morning, I walked with these women (and two gentlemen) down the “catwalk” at the Women for Water Partnership (WfWP) “Presenting New Thinking New Challenges” session of the World Water Forum. The room was packed with both genders and people from around the world, which was exciting. WfWP is a strategic “alliance of local, national and international women’s organizations and networks, active in the areas of sustainable development, water & sanitation, poverty, and gender”, chaired by Alice M. Bouman-Dentener. My University of Pennsylvania Master of Environmental Studies colleagues work with WfWP Communications and Advocacy Chair Kusum Athukorala on Penn’s new journal on women and water issues, wH2O.
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.
Have you ever heard about Game Theory, the Prisoner’s dilemma, or the Nash Equilibrium? Probably many of us, and –hopefully- the majority of the policy-makers around the world, studied this subject once. For me, the principle taught by this great subject is basically that if players of the game (namely policy-makers, CEOs, etc.) act in the interests of the group, they are better-off than if they acted in their interests alone (Nash equilibrium). But what happens if not all of those players act in the interests of the group? Then the ones who did, will presumably be worse-off than if they would’ve acted in their own interests.