Rewarding Water-Responsible Companies is Key to Success in Addressing Global Water Security
By Karin Krchnak, 2030 WRG Program Manager
Over the past fifteen years, I have seen a rapid evolution in corporate actors in recognizing water risks to their operations. In response, some have taken measures to ensure that all water is returned to its originating watershed while making sure that returned water is as clean or cleaner than it was before. But to keep the momentum going, we need to think about how we can encourage and motivate companies that will push them to collaborate more with governments, other companies, and civil society toward realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Equally as important, we need to bring forward those companies that unfortunately have yet to prioritize water.
The positive feelings that come from rewarding good behavior are natural in humans. In fact, such feelings can do wonders. I see it every day with my own daughter; when she does well and gets recognition, she feels like she wants to, and can, do more.
In 2016, the 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG) and its partners created the Blue Certificate, an initiative that is one of the workstreams of Peru 2030 WRG’s multi-stakeholder platform (MSP). Led by Peru’s National Water Authority (ANA), the program encourages companies in the private sector to assess the water footprint of their processes and become water-responsible companies.
Peru is a beautiful and amazing country with lush mountains and forests. But you do not have to go far out of Lima to see that it is water stressed. In fact, Peru ranks among the top 30 countries that suffer from chronic water stress. Approximately USD45.7 billion in investments are required by 2035 to meet Peru’s water needs. As is the case everywhere in the world, public finances can only do so much, and the private sector can play a transformational role in closing this infrastructure financing gap. It is therefore unsurprising that many governments stood up in 2015—when the SDGs were being adopted in New York City—and said that companies in the private sector are needed if we were to meet the SDGs by 2030.
It makes me so proud that in 2016 the Peruvian government and 2030 WRG co-developed the Blue Certificate program, whereby companies are awarded the Blue Certificate if they fulfill three criteria: (1) develop a Water Footprint Assessment following ISO 14046; (2) commit and accomplish water footprint reductions; and (3) set out and implement a program of shared value with the communities in the watersheds they work in.
I had the honor of joining the recent Award Ceremony in Lima, Peru, on 7th November when Compañía Eléctrica El Platanal S.A., Compañía Minera Coimolache S.A. (Buenaventura Group), Nestlé Perú, and Mexichem Perú were awarded the Blue Certificate. Four additional companies also received recognition for applying for the certification process. Fabiola Munoz Dodero, Peru’s Minister of Environment, spoke at the event, and highlighted the role the program plays in driving action for healthier watersheds in Peru. It is this kind of recognition by governments of the private sector’s role in improving water resources that gives me hope that we can make progress toward the SDGs.
But recognition must fundamentally be about results if we want to ensure that our water resources will, in fact, be better in 2030 in comparison with our current situation. To date, the Blue Certificate has resulted in a reduction of approximately 79 million liters of freshwater use per year and a reduction of approximately 137 million liters of non-treated wastewater discharge. Thirteen companies have already presented their Shared-Value Projects in: (i) efficient domestic water use; (ii) rural irrigation improvement; (iii) wastewater reuse in public spaces; (iv) and promoting a water conservation culture. The projects are expected to reach approximately 9,000 direct beneficiaries and 20,000 indirect beneficiaries. In addition to a focus on results, there needs to be a way for companies to keep active and motivate others. At the 7th November Awards Ceremony, Mexichem—the first company to be awarded the Certificate—renewed their commitment. Through this renewal process, I hope other companies will see that they too can make a difference in making their country more water secure and thereby their own operations more sustainable.
In the past, I have heard people say that there are too many competing initiatives in water. My first thought is often “really?” For a challenge as big and complex as water resources management, it makes sense to welcome the participation of every company—and other stakeholders—that wish to become better stewards of our shared water resources.
There is no silver bullet to solve our water problems. But if we can find a way to harness the passion and energy of everyone and bring together our efforts in true collaboration, we can create meaningful change. In closing, I would like to invite every company that wants to become more water responsible to learn more about what 2030 WRG can do to help them achieve that goal.
Photo credits: COSUDE