The CEO Water Mandate: Fifth Working Conference

The CEO Water Mandate
Fifth Working Conference
April 14-16, 2010
New York City

Key Learnings and Outcomes

The working conference set out to garner an array of perspectives and opinions on material, water-related issues as a way to build companies’ understanding and determine how the Mandate can best promote good practice. There were many concepts and sentiments for which where there was widespread agreement amongst different endorsers, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders. At the same time, many of the discussions revealed emerging or controversial issues for which there is a need for further discussion. Below is a summary of the key learnings as well as the major outcomes and next steps that resulted from the meeting. A more detailed description of outcomes and next steps can be found in the Endorser-only Meeting Proceedings section.

Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy

The primary goal of the one-day discussion on policy engagement was to garner feedback on the nearfinal draft of the Mandate’s upcoming Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy that could inform the final product. While reception to the draft was quite positive, there were many (sometimes conflicting) suggestions on how to strengthen the Guide. Some participants believed that the Guide must be more succinct in order to be palatable to upper-level corporate executives, while others felt that it should provide more specific tools and mechanisms (in addition to the conceptual underpinnings) to operationalize engagement on the ground. A number of participants expressed their desire to include case studies throughout the document, while others wanted a tool or set of metrics that allowed companies to assess their performance with respect to engagement. More specific recommendations are provided later in this summary.

The Mandate Secretariat clarified that while the Guide hopes to be applicable to many types of private actors (e.g.; private water service providers, investors) and even provide some value for public and civil society entities, it is primarily intended for private water users and wastewater dischargers.

Outcomes and Next steps

• The Guide will be broken into two products: 1) a short “Framework” (5-10 pages) that outlines the business case, key concepts, and principles to be completed in advance of the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in June 2010, and 2) the full length Guide (~50 pages) where the framework is explained in greater detail.
• The full-length document will incorporate many of the “practical how to” suggestions heard during the New York meetings and add a number of case studies to illustrate the concepts and best practice highlighted in the Guide.
• The Mandate Secretariat will work with the Policy Engagement Working Group (PEWG) to determine which suggestions to address and how. Any and all endorsers are welcome to participate in the PEWG meetings held by teleconference.

Water and Human Rights

Discussions at the HRWG meeting and multi-stakeholder conference indicated that a majority of companies are only beginning to explore explicitly the full implications of a human right to water for corporate policy and operations. Many companies expressed a need to better clarify what specifically is expected of them on this front and how they might follow through with those expectations on the ground. These meetings demonstrated a wide range of ways in which companies publicly express their position on this issue and of how they in practice address the issue. Companies also provided a range of perspectives on the nature of an appropriate corporate commitment and obligation in this arena.

Stakeholders noted that many countries have formally established a human right to water and expect private businesses operating within their jurisdictions to respond accordingly. For this reason, many see operational guidance as a timely, valuable, and necessary tool for business. Stakeholders, however, also expressed the belief that social expectations, rather than legally derived obligations, are the primary driver compelling business attention to this need.

The discussion suggested that the Mandate can provide value in this space by exploring current corporate practice and determining the state of play with respect to emerging frameworks and guidance (e.g., the Ruggie Framework). Such an analysis would inform where the Mandate can provide the most value in terms of operational guidance and whether it collectively takes a public position on a human right to water.

Outcomes and Next steps
• The Mandate Secretariat will draft a white paper with background information that will inform both how individual companies and the Mandate itself can advance action on the human right to water. […]

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