Speaking yesterday at the seventh World Water Forum in Washington, DC, Jason Morrison, technical director at CEO Water Mandate – a United Nations public-private initiative that helps companies implement sustainable water practices – said that water stewardship was not just about achieving operational efficiencies.

He argued that businesses needed to start socialising water stewardship issues within the communities they operate, by engaging ‘outside their factory fence lines to be part of the problem’.

“Companies will have to think about and where things play out at the watershed level – it’s new terrain, it requires unorthodox partnerships … when companies have a commercial interest, it evokes a lot of issues at a community level and we need to recognise this,” he told delegates.


In response to Morrison, Coca-Cola’s director of global water stewardship, Greg Koch, acknowledged that trust-building between corporation and community was essential. He talked about Coca-Cola’s ’emotional license to operate’, which recognises the deep connection society has with water.

“We have to seek that, to know its there and seek it out in talking with communities … that social acceptance of each other’s use of water, that’s how you build trust,” he said.

Morrison agreed that trust was a fundamental ingredient, but said it was being undermined by data transparency issues and a lack of publicly available information.

“It’s hard to build trust when the ways things operate are murky,” he observed, adding that any partnership working to foster stewardship must be fair and balanced.

“Who benefits from [such] collective action?” he questioned. “The business has a really clear area which it wants to address, that of improved water security … but communities and local governments have a plethora of needs around access [to water].”

Maxine Perella

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