The Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy provides a way for companies to address risk and capture opportunities stemming from external conditions that cannot be achieved through changes in internal management alone. The goal of this Guide is to make a compelling case for responsible water policy engagement and to support it with insights, strategies, and tactics needed to do so effectively. In this context, the Guide equates effective water policy engagement— that which integrates environmentally sustainable, economically viable, and socially equitable water management approaches—with responsible engagement.
This web-based version is an abbreviated version of a full report, which you can download here.
What is responsible corporate engagement in water policy?
This Guide takes a more holistic view of water policy that encompasses all government efforts to define the rules, intent, research, and instruments for managing water resources.
Corporate engagement with public policy has traditionally been understood as direct policy advocacy and lobbying. This Guide, however, defines it more broadly, as initiatives that involve interaction with government entities, local communities, and/or civil society organizations with the goal of advancing two objectives:1) responsible internal management of water resources within direct operations and supply chains in line with policy imperatives (i.e., legal compliance) and 2) the sustainable and equitable management of the catchment in which companies and their suppliers operate
This Guide also promotes the belief that, in many parts of the world, sustainable water management efforts will benefit from corporate engagement, provided that this involvement is grounded in the concepts of equity and accountability and the principles elaborated in this document.
Effective and equitable approaches to engagement
Not all companies have a clear approach to responsible business engagement with water policy and management, and many companies would benefit from practical guidance on possible entry points for engagement, how to set clear boundaries, and how to avoid pitfalls. The purpose of this Guide is to offer engagement principles, strategies, and tactics that will help companies navigate these challenges.
Tailored to both large- and small-scale commercial water users, this Guide emphasizes that the management of water remains a governmental mandate and that responsible engagement requires that private-sector actions align with public policy objectives. The Guide further recognizes that companies will face water management regimes along a broad continuum from highly functional to dysfunctional and that company decisions related to the scope, nature, and degree of engagement must vary accordingly. Finally, this Guide addresses common pitfalls of water policy engagement, such as avoiding inappropriate monopolization of policy discussions.
This Guide identifies five primary scales for water policy engagement.
- Internal operational or supply chain management: Companies facilitate internal and supplier actions that comply with regulatory specifications (e.g., permits for discharges and abstractions) and are in line with broader water policy objectives (progressive demand, pollution-load reduction, proactive pollution control, and environmental improvement).
- Local engagement: Companies can work with municipalities, communities, and other stakeholders to make operational improvements to preserve environmental quality and ensure the reliability and adequacy of local water supplies and sanitation.
- Regional, catchment-scale integrated water resource management: Engaging with water management authorities and other stakeholders to support effective water allocation, pollution control, environmental protection, flood and drought management, planning, and development control at both strategic and operational levels has multiple benefits.
- National dialogues and policy advocacy: In collaboration with other stakeholders, companies can become involved with water and related policy development, implementation, and oversight to ensure that appropriate legislative and institutional arrangements are in place and functional.
- Global initiatives: Business can engage with government, bilateral and multilateral development agencies, international finance institutions, and NGOs on international advocacy and research and development toward best practice in water management.
Principles for Responsible Water Policy Engagement
Responsible corporate engagement in water policy must be motivated by a genuine interest in furthering efficient, equitable, and ecologically sustainable water management.
Responsible corporate engagement in water policy entails ensuring that activities do not infringe upon, but rather support, the government’s mandate and responsibilities to develop and implement water policy. Acting consistently with this principle includes business commitment to work within a well-regulated (and enforced) environment.
Responsible engagement in water policy promotes inclusiveness and equitable, genuine, and meaningful partnerships across a wide range of interests.
Responsible engagement in water policy proceeds in a coherent manner that recognizes the interconnectedness between water and many other policy arenas. It is a proactive approach, rather than responsive to events, and is cognizant of, and sensitive to, the environmental, social, cultural, and political contexts within which it takes place.
Companies engaged in responsible water policy are fully transparent and accountable for their role in a way that ensures alignment with sustainable water management and promotes trust among stakeholders.