Once water policy conditions have been assessed and engagement sufficiently planned, companies—in coordination with their respective partners—can implement engagement strategies. This implementation takes numerous forms, including direct engagement with communities, engagement with water management, sharing information, advocacy, raising awareness, and supporting the development of global standards. This section describes some of these core engagement strategies and identifies effective ways to implement them.
Using the CEO Water Mandate elements to organize policy engagement
All the information offered in this operational framework, and in particular the core engagement strategies described below, is conceptually and practically consistent with the six elements of the CEO Water Mandate.
Engage the local community
In many cases, water managers and other local authorities—“duty bearers”—are legitimate and effective representatives of nearby communities—the “rights holders,” meaning that engagement with water managers is often the most effective strategy for addressing community water issues. In some instances, however, companies can work directly with communities to support their efforts to improve water services. Examples of potential solutions include providing access to water services (e.g., drilling boreholes or installing pipelines), establishing or improving sanitation systems, cleaning waterways, and introducing technologies that promote efficient water use in the community.
Seek strategic partnerships
Companies typically seek out partnerships with other organizational actors (e.g., NGOs, intergovernmental agencies, universities, trade associations, and other businesses) to benefit from years of experience, gain other ideas and perspectives, enhance credibility and legitimacy, increase leverage, and pool resources to address shared risks. Partnerships bring multiple long- term benefits, and the Guide strongly recommends working in this manner as opposed to in isolation.
Partnerships also provide an effective way through which to prevent real and perceived policy capture and provide access to an intimate knowledge of local water realities and catchment conditions.
Support water policy implementation
Companies can find value in supporting better implementation of water policy. For example, they can work with municipalities, operators, farmers groups, and civil society groups on a range of operational issues. Potential outcomes include improved reliability and adequacy of local water services (e.g., infrastructure, community supply and sanitation, irrigation efficiency, water treatment, and environmental quality). These types of engagement typically occur at the local or catchment scale and must be underpinned by recognition of diverse stakeholder perspectives and interests in the wider context of “shared risk.”
Direct intervention with policy implementation or water management takes many different forms, depending on local conditions, but includes:
- Investing in public water infrastructure upgrades (e.g., fixing leaking pipes or extending sanitation provision).
- Using internal facilities to meet local water needs (e.g., on-site treatment system used to supplement public wastewater treatment capacity).
- Using financial and technical resources to support local government and catchment planning and management.
- Supplementing infrastructure to ensure local supply to communities and industry.
To be credible and legitimate in most circumstances, such assistance should be free of charge with the clear outcome of advancing SWM and meeting urgent community water service and sanitation needs.
Share information to improve management
Poor water management sometimes results from a lack of data, data acquisition, and analytical capacity within public entities charged with national, catchment, or local water management. At the same time, global companies often conduct substantial research and monitoring for their own internal purposes, to support investment decision- making or as part of statutory requirements such as Environmental Impact Assessments. Companies that enter into relationships with public entities to share data on water uses, catchment conditions, and research findings can supplement capacity and support a clearer understanding of needs and impacts leading to better water management planning and implementation. Engagement in this way can create less business risk than direct intervention because it does not typically engage the company in tasks that fall under public responsibility.
Practical examples of corporate-to-public-sector information sharing include:
- Sharing of data, database products, and research results, although care must be taken to ensure that the information is accessible and presented in a way that allows various stakeholders to make use of it.
- Sharing of best practice, such as good agricultural practices, innovations, and new or appropriate technology or methodologies.
- Sharing of expertise on process and organizational management.
- Support to specific investigations, such as work to explore the limits of sustainable abstraction in a basin or aquifer.
- Short- or long-term staff placements within public sector water management entities or with other stakeholders to provide mentoring and support capacity building.
Advocate for efficient, equitable, and ecologically sustainable water policies and practices
Companies can also advocate for policies that advance SWM at many different scales. Advocacy takes a variety of forms: it can take place at the national level to create improved water quality standards that ensure companies have reliable access to clean water or at the local or catchment level to advance specific conservation actions or better enforcement of existing requirements. In many instances, advocacy is most effective when coordinated across various scales. Advocacy can help governments make water issues a higher priority, coordinate policy implementation, build institutional capacity, promote democratic participation, and develop standards or regulations.
Raise awareness, advance global standards, and support research
Companies can engage with a range of national, international, or intergovernmental institutions to influence broad global policy goals and commitments; support the development of effective environmental, water, and social standards; invest in and guide innovation and research; advocate for progressive policy positions (e.g., the human right to water); and help raise awareness of water-related developmental issues.