Partner to Advance for Sustainable Water Management


The Guide to Water-Related Collective Action offers good practice to help companies establish enduring relationships with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, leaders, and individuals to advance sustainable water management.

Specifically, it:

  1. Identifies and characterizes various engagement methods and collective action models
  2. Describes how companies can understand the nature of such collaborations, and
  3. Provides recommendations for how they can best organize and execute these actions

Developed in partnership with:


Collective Action Basics

Collective action is coordinated engagement among interested parties within an
agreed-upon process in support of common objectives. Water-related collective action refers to efforts specifically to advance sustainably water management, whether through encouraging reduce water use, improved water governance, pollution reduction, river restoration, or other efforts. Collective action can take a variety of forms, ranging from a relatively informal exchange of perspectives to highly structured processes of joint decision making, implementation, and accountability. A successful collective action will typically build from a shared sense of risk, responsibility, and benefit among interested parties, and the collective action process will emphasize joint, two-way dialogue that leads to stronger outcomes than those achievable through unilateral action.More on this topic…

Companies that make the strategic decision to manage water-related risks or seek stewardship opportunities often do so to:

  • Ensure business viability by preventing or reacting to operational crises resulting from the inadequate availability, supply, or quality of water or water-dependent inputs in a specific location;
  • Retain their local legal or social license to operate, or gain competitive advantage, by demonstrating to interested parties and customers that they use and share a precious natural resource responsibly, with minimal impacts on communities or ecosystems;
  • Assure investors, financiers, and other stakeholders that water risks, particularly those occurring beyond the factory fence line, are adequately addressed; or
  • Uphold corporate values and commitments related to sustainable development by contributing to the well-being of communities and the health of ecosystems and catchments in which they operate.

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A company considering collective action as a pathway to addressing water-related risks or opportunities has several engagement options. Collective action will be most successful when tailored to the motivation and capacity of all engaged parties, as well as to the context in which the action occurs. This Guide presents four collective action engagement levels:

  1. Sharing information (informative);
  2. Seeking advice (consultative);
  3. Pursuing common objectives (collaborative)
  4. Integrating decisions, resources, and actions (integrative)

Three factors will influence your determination of which engagement level is best to pursue: the degree to which addressing challenges is dependent on the actions of external parties; the interest and capacity of those external parties to engage in the collective action; and the interest and capacity within your own organization to support a collective action.

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There are four considerations to keep in mind:

  • First, it is critical to understand their local capacity in the regions of your interest. An organization that might be relatively strong at facilitating collective action in one region might take years to build up the capacity, networks, and reputation necessary to effectively function in a new region.
  • Second, it is important to consider the level at which they implement. Some organizations specialize in delivering technological solutions or educational campaigns to communities. Others work on creating the institutional conditions for wider change—for example, through the reform of the water sector through all levels of governance.
  • Third, it is important to understand the mandate of the organization to work in that particular setting. Is it accepted by—or better still, working in partnership with—the government? Does it have an official mandate to be working on water?
  • Fourth, it is important to understand what type of organization it is, and therefore what type of relationship you might develop. Is the organization a contractor paid to provide advice and services that benefit the financer alone, or do they serve a common agenda? Does the organization come with not only its own financial resources, but also an expectation of equal partnership in decision making?

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Elements of Collective Action Preparation – Navigate this Tool

This Guide helps a business effectively connect the water resource management challenges of importance to multiple parties and develop a collective action engagement that will best suit particular circumstances. It is structured around five elements of collective action preparation.

Click on the boxes below to learn more about each of these five elements and to navigate this tool.

Elements of Collective Action Preparation Element 1 Element 2 Element 3 Element 4 Element 5


The Guidelines were developed in collaboration with:
pacinst_logo     Pegasys-logo.jpg     WFP-logo





What is the CEO Water Mandate?

The CEO Water Mandate seeks to mobilize a critical mass of business leaders to advance corporate water stewardship – in partnerships with the United Nations, civil society organizations, governments, and other stakeholders.

Launched in 2007 by the UN Secretary-General, the CEO Water Mandate is overseen by the UN Global Compact, and implemented in partnership with the Pacific Institute.

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