Launched by the UN Secretary-General in July 2007, the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate (Mandate) is a public-private initiative designed to assist companies in the development, implementation, and disclosure of water sustainability policies and practices. The Mandate recognizes that the business sector, through the production of goods and services, significantly impacts water resources—both directly and through supply chains. Mandate-endorsing CEOs acknowledge that to operate in a more sustainable manner and contribute to the vision of the Global Compact and the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, they have a responsibility to make water resource management a priority and to work with governments, UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), local communities, and other interested parties to address global water challenges.
In November 2010, the Mandate released the Guide to Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy (Guide to Responsible Engagement). The publication defines responsible engagement as “corporate water management initiatives that involve interaction with government entities; local communities; and/or civil society organizations with the goal of advancing: 1) responsible internal company management of water resources within direct operations and supply chains in line with policy imperatives and 2) the sustainable and equitable management of the catchment in which companies and their suppliers operate.” The case for responsible engagement is built on the premise that water-related risks are shared among government entities, businesses, communities, and the environment, and the Guide to Responsible Engagement reflects the belief that facilitating equitable processes through which all affected parties can come together to mitigate these shared risks or pursue improvement opportunities is a powerful tool for combating this century’s mounting water challenges. Success in responsible engagement is thus critically tied to effective collective action among all parties with a stake in sustainable water management at the relevant scale—local, regional, national, or international.
The Guide to Responsible Engagement presents five principles (see text box below) that foster effective, sustainable, and equitable external engagements related to water. These principles, which apply equally to water-related collective actions, will bolster the credibility and effectiveness of a company’s collective action engagements, and should thus frame the use of this Guide and the implementation of related engagements. Appendix E, “Considering the Five Principles of Responsible Business Engagement with Water Policy,” provides a detailed articulation of these principles as first presented in the Guide to Responsible Engagement.