Water Water Everywhere; Only If You Share

By China Water Risk 22 March, 2013

Happy World Water Day! In the spirit of cooperation, we share five ways of working together in water we like

CEO's from over 80 global companies lead by making a joint commitment to prioritise water
A bank in recognising water as a risk within its lending portfolio develops a risk assessment tool with an NGO
Grassroot group use social media to mobilise public opinion, threatening companies’ license to operate

Water is a shared resource, yet with water risk remaining in the top five global risks according to the World Economic Forum, it is clear stand alone action is not sufficient to address this growing global water problem.
Recognising the need for collaboration in addressing global water crises, the United Nations has designated 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation; making water cooperation the theme of this year’s World Water Day and World Water Week.
Water cooperation can take many forms, be large or small scale and include a variety of partners such as multinational corporations, NGO’s, local communities, trade associations etc. The idea is simply to join forces using organisations’ individual strengths to better manage water resources.
So on this World Water Day, in the spirit of cooperation, we  share five ways of working together in water we like :

1. UN CEO Water Mandate

Probably familiar to those corporates concerned about water resource management, the CEO Water Mandate represents a commitment from the CEOs of over 80 global companies, including Coca Cola, H&M, and Nestlé, to make water-resource management a priority for their business.

The initiative seeks to effect change, by mobilising a critical mass of business leaders to advance water solutions. In the face of insufficient regulation and / or enforcement, the business community can drive change. The Water Mandate thus acts as a unique platform for companies to share their water policies and strategies, as well as best practice, hopefully producing a cascade effect leading the corporate community towards better water management.

Our hope is that Asia’s forward thinking CEO’s will increasingly participate to become leaders in their sectors at least regionally and possibly globally.

To read more on UN CEO Water Mandate see here.

2. Aqueduct Alliance

The Aqueduct Alliance comprises 14 organisations representing a range of different sectors including financial services; utility companies; multinationals; media outlets; NGO’s and think tanks. The Alliance came together facilitated by the World Resources Institute (WRI) to assist in the development of an online tool which would enable companies to assess their exposure to a range of water related risks, quickly and effectively. The basis of the tool is the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas.

The tool itself is simple to use, by plugging in the address or longitude and latitude of your business operations Aqueduct is able to show your exposure to water risk.

Some major global companies including McDonald’s, Proctor and Gamble and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are already using the tool. Our wish is that other companies will make use of this tool to greater understand their exposure and map their water risk.

What makes Aqueduct interesting is not just the outputs from the tool, but the collaboration of leading companies from a variety of sectors, making the Alliance sufficiently diverse in its membership that the tool is applicable to organisations across a broad spectrum.

For more information on the Aqueduct Alliance, see here.

3. DEG Water Risk Filter

This is an interesting partnership led by the German Development Bank DEG. The core of the Risk Filter is that water is not just an environmental risk but importantly an economic one too. For those of you who know China Water Risk (CWR), you will know that this is very much in line with our thinking. DEG  recognising their exposure to water risk through their lending portfolio, developed the Water Risk Filter with WWF, to screen their portfolio for risk exposure. They then used the tool to support their clients in identifying and mitigating water related risks in their business. What makes this partnership appealing is that the tool is open source and offered free to enable other organisations to analyse their exposure to water risk.

A potentially powerful driver of change, we hope that other banks will follow DEG’s example in recognising water as a risk within lending portfolios. Some banks are already taking action on water, for example HSBC, with its US$100 million Water Partnership with WWF, WaterAid and the Earthwatch Institute. However, it remains to be seen whether they are also looking at their own risk.

To read more on DEG’s Water Risk Filter see here.

4. The Green Choice Alliance

Established by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), the Green Choice Alliance (GCA) is a coalition of 46 NGO’s working to drive large corporations to look at the environmental performance of their suppliers.

What we like about the GCA partnership is that it fills a ‘credibility’ gap in environmental auditing and compliance practice in China, where historically submission of false records had been prevalent. The partnership enables transparent audits by having an experienced NGO participate in the process, and by having the audit reports uploaded onto the IPE website. The partnership has been very successful, taking on the might of Apple, Zara, and H&M pushing them to conduct audits of their supply chain, and to correct any environmental violations.

For more on Green Choice Alliance see here.

5. Green Hunan – Grassroots Activism

Chinese citizens are increasingly expressing their anger over pollution of air and water, often by going online using social media tools such as Weibo (read about that here)

Green Hunan a grassroots environmental network has taken advantage of this by recruiting concerned citizens to become active watchdogs, training them to take samples, identify water pollution and use modern mapping technologies and social media for disclosure. This type of citizen partnership has begun to bear fruit. Polluting factories are being fined and/or closed, for example in Hunan, Zhejiang and Shandong provinces, as a direct result of the pressure brought to bear on local governments, forced to respond to online social movement.

We like this partnership as it clearly shows that citizens have an important role to play and can effect change. It shows the impact of social media; that community action to mobilise public opinion can threaten companies’ license to operate.

With Chinese NGO’s like Greenovation Hub developing handheld pollution testing kits to be distributed to concerned communities and Pacific Environment training on online water pollution mapping, we expect to see the level of grassroots activism continue to rise.


More on World Water Day

  • For more information on World Water Day, see here
  • Checkout the worldmap of events here

Further Reading

  • Not sure whats going on in the world of water? Want to get an aerial view of whose doing what from the Chinese government to global corporations? Check out Who’s Doing What


  • For more on tools or disclosure standards click on the water tool icon

China Water Risk
Author: China Water Risk
We believe regardless of whether we care for the environment that water risks affect us all – as investors, businesses and individuals. Water risks are fundamental to future decision making and growth patterns in global economies. Water scarcity has emerged as a critical sustainability issue for China's economy and since water powers the economy, we aim to highlight these risks inherent in each sector. In addition, we write about current trends in the global water industry, analyze changes occurring both regionally and globally, as well as providing explanations on the new technologies that are revolutionizing this industry.
Read more from China Water Risk →