Water from the Nexus

September 18 2015

Katherine Teh-White

Managing Director

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What is the importance of water in our society and why should it matter?

Dan Bena, Senior Director of Sustainability of PepsiCo, said his organisation focused on agriculture because 50 percent of Pepsi’s revenue comes from beverages. He said: “So for us the nexus issues, the nexus risks, and certainly the nexus opportunities, come from sustainable agriculture.”

The idea of the work at these beverage companies is that their enlightened self interest is to help farmers who use a lot of water and emit 30 per cent of the world’s greenhouse energy is to assist them to reduce their footprint the company can have access to the water.

The potential flaw in their argument is if the community does not agree with the trade off being a long term viable one for the community. As chair of the session, I argued for the trade off to be an open and transparent community impact and benefit negotiation. With an agreed social licence to move forward on these projects the corporation will be able to drive more engagement on these significant sustainable development issues.

Stuart Orr, the head of Water Stewardship at WWF International says the agenda for nexus has been pushed by corporations and that they have a vital role in driving for better use of resources. He said governments should build public private partnerships in improving the returns of these efforts. If its done right Bena argues 1+1 can equal 3.

“I suggest that what I want as an NGO at River Basin is completely different than what you want as a company,” Orr said describing the roles. “And I don’t expect you to care about fish. You’re not here to care about fish. I’m here to care about fish. You’re here to make money, right? And the government is here to do it’s job; build institutions, deliver on the public good, make sure that people are delivered on their rights.”

“We each have a different need out of a common resource; 90 to 100 percent of what I need as an environmental NGO to protect my universe that I care about, is exactly what business needs to mitigate business risks. They need institutions, they need coherent government, they need regulations…they need government to step up and allocate and properly permit and regulate water as if it matters. We need the same damn thing.”

The United Nations Global Compact has released its second round of consultation on its sustainable agriculture principles which Puvan Selvanathan, the head of sustainable agriculture at United Nations Global Compact said could guide the public private partnerships.

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