Guide to corruption-free water stewardship launched

A new UN-backed guide highlights the importance of integrity in water stewardship programmes.

wateris family
This portrait of a family in India documented by Unicef highlights how families around the world access and use water. Water initiatives - increasingly implemented by companies - must have three features: objectives and outcomes that support sustainable water management; participants or key players must show trustworthiness, credibility and accountability; and the processes are inclusive, transparent and responsive. Image: Ashley Gilbertson/ Unicef

The CEO Water Mandate, a United Nations-backed platform to guide water practices, has released a new guide to help firms and non-profit organisations integrate ethical practices into their water stewardship programmes.

Launched at the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden last month, the ‘Guide for Managing Integrity in Water Stewardship Initiatives: A Framework for Improving Effectiveness and Transparency’ aims to help ensure water projects are untainted with corruption.  

The CEO Water Mandate was launched by the UN in 2007, in partnership with the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and private think tank Pacific Institute, to help monitor and guide companies in their water practices. 

As businesses and non-profit organisations increasingly share the responsibility of tackling water challenges, the guide looks to address the risks that threaten the integrity of these water programmes and avoid the consequences of delivering solutions that benefit only a few stakeholders.

This guidance arrives at a pivotal moment to steer the development of local water collaborations that will help meet not only the dedicated UN goal on water, but also other cross-cutting goals…

Gavin Power, deputy director of UNGC and head of the CEO Water Mandate

Jason Morrison, technical director of the CEO Water Mandate and programme director of the Pacific Institute’s Corporate Sustainability Program, said there is growing interest among companies and governments to collaborate to address water challenges.

“However, lessons from early collective-action projects point to potential risks for all involved if they are not inclusive, do not address the issues of most importance for local stakeholders, and are not carried out in a way that contributes to sustainable water management,” he noted in a statement.

Multinational corporations that have established water stewardship programmes are beverage companies Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Diageo, among others. Some of these initiatives include providing local communities with access to water and sanitation, protecting watersheds, recycling wastewater and improving water efficiency.

Governance through collaboration

Developed in partnership with non-profit groups Water Integrity Network and Water Witness International, development firm Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), and consulting firms Partnerships in Practice and Pegasys, the guide presents a framework and set of tools that could help water initiatives become more inclusive, transparent and sustainable.

“Good water governance means that the actions (and inactions) of all parties are transparent and accountable so that undue influence is minimised, the views of minorities and the most vulnerable are heard in decision making, and the needs of the present and the future are taken into account,” the guide stated.

Water stewardship initiatives with integrity have three features: objectives and outcomes that support sustainable water management; participants or key players in the initiative show trustworthiness, credibility and accountability; and the processes that govern the initiative are inclusive, transparent and responsive.  

According to the new guide, the risks to an initiative’s integrity can be visible in public finances, regulatory action, policy making and access to water. For example, a firm or a non-profit group’s water sustainability programme may influence water governance towards interests which could affect other stakeholders and could even cause further damage to the environment. 

The guide is also seen to help companies engage with the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN is set to launch the SDGs this month and they include key targets for water such as sanitation, access for all, pollution reduction and protection of water-related ecosystems.  

Gavin Power, deputy director of the UNGC and head of the CEO Water Mandate, noted that collaboration and partnership among different stakeholders are important ways to achieve the SDGs. 

He commented: “This guidance arrives at a pivotal moment to steer the development of local water collaborations that will help meet not only the dedicated UN goal on water, but also other cross-cutting goals as well.”

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