How can partnerships with business increase access to safe, clean water for all?

Photo: SABMiller

In many countries both the quantity and quality of water are in decline as populations – and associated demand from agriculture, energy generation, industry and households – grow. The Water Resources Group (WRG) estimates that the shortfall between freshwater supply and global demand could reach 40% by 2030, an average that conceals even more acute shortfalls in certain water-stressed countries.   Goal 6 of the proposed SDGs calls for the “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.

 

All those whose demand for water puts pressure on supply, and all those who feel the impact when supply falls short, share the same risks. It is now recognised that this interdependency requires a collaborative response.

 

As a result, partnerships are becoming increasingly central to strategies for delivering Goal 6 and securing shared water resources for business, local communities, and ecosystems.  Companies, governments, donors, and civil society organisations, often in multi-stakeholder alliances, are joining forces to increase water use efficiency, to improve water management and governance, and address the root causes of water risk. 

 

Questions:

  1. What are the most promising partnership models designed to tackle shared water risks, and what impacts are we starting to see on the ground?
  2. What are we learning about how to develop and sustain successful water partnerships on the ground, particularly the role of governments, and what are the greatest barriers to progress?
  3.  How can we build, strengthen and scale up partnerships that aim to tackle shared water risks?

 

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Hi Rachel - good question.  I think it depends on the existing level of motivation amongst stakeholders.  If it is already very high, then a simply "neutral broker" role can be quite effective in bringing the parties together, perhaps with some small seed funding to get the process started and make it easy for potential partners to join.  If motivation is one of the challenges then targeted advocacy might be the best starting point to raise awareness of the issues and potential solutions..  
 
Rachael Clay said:

Thanks for hosting this discussion.  

What kind of support and facilitation do essential partners (government, companies, donors and CSOs/NGOs) need to be able to develop and grow such partnerships around shared water risk?  Thank you!

Charlotte - thanks for sharing that.  Is there somewhere people can find out more?

Charlotte Minvielle said:

Looking forward to the discussion. Mercy Corps has partnered with Twinings in Darjeeling, India, to support tea growing communities in its supply chain through a water and sanitation project and we've seen waterborne diseases reduced by 66% and absenteeism at work reduced by 73%. I would love to hear of other examples from the sector. 

The Global Development Alliances (GDAs) are USAID’s premiere model for public-private partnerships, helping to improve the social and economic conditions in developing countries and deepen USAID’s development impact.  More than just philanthropy or corporate social responsibility, GDAs leverage market-based solutions to advance broader development objectives. When successful, the resulting alliances are both sustainable and have greater impact.  GDAs are co-designed, co-funded, and co-managed by all partners involved, so that the risks, responsibilities, and rewards of partnership are shared. They work best and have the greatest development impact when private sector business interests intersect with USAID’s strategic development objectives.  

 

The Water and Development Alliance is an example of a GDA that captures the commitment and reach of USAID and its missions and The Coca-Cola Company, its foundations, and bottling facilities with the support of the Global Environment & Technology Foundation.  Now in its tenth active year, WADA is having positive impact in more than 30 countries with cash investment by partners of over $37 million.  With current investments and contributions from each partner of expertise and unique global networks, the program expects to provide water supply access to more than 600,000 people, provide sanitation access to more than 250,000 people, and place more than 440,000 hectares of watersheds under sustainable management practices.

 

For an introductory video to USAID Partnerships and the Global Development Alliance Model, visit: http://www.usaidallnet.gov/training/ideagp/#91EEDA12-A48D-EF22-E02E...



Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Let's start with question 1:

What are the most promising partnership models designed to tackle shared water risks, and what impacts are we starting to see on the ground?

There are several good examples of partnership models. For example as part of WWF’s water stewardship work we have been working in a number of river basins demonstrating that by working with local government, the private sector and other stakeholders vital improvements in water resource management can be made.

Bilateral partnerships are unlikely to be able to deliver a significant reduction in water risks. Surface water sources and aquifers are connected, so the availability and use of water in one place will affect those in other areas. This reality forms the basis for the concept of shared water risks, which can only be effectively addressed by collective action.

Great question. From the research we've done on business engagement on water stewardship, as well as water supply, sanitation and hygiene, facilitation is really key. Often it's one of those groups (government, companies, donors or CSOs/NGOs) that takes the lead, in terms of bringing people together - so that institution will often be a de facto facilitator. But in terms of building trust, it seems very important to help all the different groups to transparent articulate their reasons for participating. For me that transparency is more evident in water resources management/ stewardship, where the companies involved are fairly clear about the impact on their bottom line from not addressing water risks. In water supply and sanitation, things are maybe a bit further behind, but there are really interesting partnerships developing where companies are clear that they have a core business reason to participate, that goes beyond the reputational benefits of getting involved in community projects.

Rachael Clay said:

Thanks for hosting this discussion.  

What kind of support and facilitation do essential partners (government, companies, donors and CSOs/NGOs) need to be able to develop and grow such partnerships around shared water risk?  Thank you!

Agree with David's comments.  To cite a few Africa examples, I think the case of Imarisha Naivasha in Kenya is one we can learn a lot from.  This is a case where quite diverse stakeholders within a specific, high stress watershed came together to collectively tackle water risks, mobilized to a large degree by the horticulture industry and European retailers, and facilitated by WWF and others. 

Within our own 2030 WRG network, the Strategic Water Partners Network in SA is a great example of a national multi-stakeholder water partnership.  Under the SWPN, a wide coalition from the private sector have come together with the public sector to try to tackle some of the most pressing water challenges in the country, across the municipal, mining and agriculture sectors.

 
David Grant said:

It all depends on the context of the water risk that you are seeking to address, but there are a variety of successful models that we are starting to see.

For example, if there is a need to address cross cutting water issues at a national or state level, then an initiative such as the Water Resource Group has been demonstrated to be successful due to the nature of partners they attract at both national government, private sector and civil society level.

In agriculture, we have made use of the “model farmer” partnership structure successfully for both commercial and smallholder farmers.

Partnerships around payment for ecosystem services are also proving to be successful, such as the Aqua Fund model which the nature Conservancy has been working on, particularly in Latin America.

Although one has to bear in mind that the broad frameworks of these models need to be considered as replicating them step by step is seldom going to work due to the very specific local dynamics that play out from one location to another.

In our experience developing and growing partnerships around shared water risks needs one or more organisations to take a lead in facilitating collective action.
 
Nathaniel Mason said:

Great question. From the research we've done on business engagement on water stewardship, as well as water supply, sanitation and hygiene, facilitation is really key. Often it's one of those groups (government, companies, donors or CSOs/NGOs) that takes the lead, in terms of bringing people together - so that institution will often be a de facto facilitator. But in terms of building trust, it seems very important to help all the different groups to transparent articulate their reasons for participating. For me that transparency is more evident in water resources management/ stewardship, where the companies involved are fairly clear about the impact on their bottom line from not addressing water risks. In water supply and sanitation, things are maybe a bit further behind, but there are really interesting partnerships developing where companies are clear that they have a core business reason to participate, that goes beyond the reputational benefits of getting involved in community projects.

Rachael Clay said:

Thanks for hosting this discussion.  

What kind of support and facilitation do essential partners (government, companies, donors and CSOs/NGOs) need to be able to develop and grow such partnerships around shared water risk?  Thank you!

The critical issue is how partnership models develop and enhance the capacity of service providers to respond successfully to specific consumer segments, particularly those that are traditionally not well served in emerging markets: the development of delegated management structures, for example in peri - urban areas in Lusaka or low income areas in Nairobi, have significantly improved the quality and reliability of service delivery for low income consumers, as a result of the 'last mile delivers' being closer to the reality to low income consumer need.

Partnership between governments, regulators & private sectors operators should seek to develop the skills of these key delivery agents in the supply chain, through appropriate contract management, improved institutional structures & capacity development.


 
Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Let's start with question 1:

What are the most promising partnership models designed to tackle shared water risks, and what impacts are we starting to see on the ground?

Hi Zahid, 

Sure you can find out more about Mercy Corps' partnership with Twinings on WASH here:

https://www.mercycorps.org.uk/renewed-partnership-twinings-brings-c...

I agree with Will.  At USAID, we have seen the most promising partnerships to be those where we can find shared value in a partnership opportunity.  We may partner to catalyze investment and mobilizing finance in the sector, harness expertise, assets, and resources, promote more inclusive and sustainable business practices, collaborate to tackle systemic challenges that impact business, improve the policy environment, and/or drive innovation at the intersection of business and development.  A variety of partners can help!



Will Davies said:

Hi Rachel - good question.  I think it depends on the existing level of motivation amongst stakeholders.  If it is already very high, then a simply "neutral broker" role can be quite effective in bringing the parties together, perhaps with some small seed funding to get the process started and make it easy for potential partners to join.  If motivation is one of the challenges then targeted advocacy might be the best starting point to raise awareness of the issues and potential solutions..  
 
Rachael Clay said:

Thanks for hosting this discussion.  

What kind of support and facilitation do essential partners (government, companies, donors and CSOs/NGOs) need to be able to develop and grow such partnerships around shared water risk?  Thank you!


Totally agree that Lake Naivasha still stands as one of the best examples of collective action on water.

We have been working on collective action project in a number of others basins, For example we have been working on water stewardship in the Breede basin in the Western Cape of South Africa  for a number of years, originally initiated by M&S, Woolworths, WWF, (The Alliance for Water Stewardship) AWS and a group of progressive fruit farmers. The farmers were part of a pilot to implement the AWS standard, helping to improve on farm water management practices. The project is now growing and WWF is leading initial collective action efforts in the Upper Breede with partners and other stakeholders including the Catchment Management Authority. Through collective action we have identified a number of key opportunities to mitigate water risks and the next phase of the project now explores how to address these issues.


 

Will Davies said:

Agree with David's comments.  To cite a few Africa examples, I think the case of Imarisha Naivasha in Kenya is one we can learn a lot from.  This is a case where quite diverse stakeholders within a specific, high stress watershed came together to collectively tackle water risks, mobilized to a large degree by the horticulture industry and European retailers, and facilitated by WWF and others. 

Within our own 2030 WRG network, the Strategic Water Partners Network in SA is a great example of a national multi-stakeholder water partnership.  Under the SWPN, a wide coalition from the private sector have come together with the public sector to try to tackle some of the most pressing water challenges in the country, across the municipal, mining and agriculture sectors.

 
David Grant said:

It all depends on the context of the water risk that you are seeking to address, but there are a variety of successful models that we are starting to see.

For example, if there is a need to address cross cutting water issues at a national or state level, then an initiative such as the Water Resource Group has been demonstrated to be successful due to the nature of partners they attract at both national government, private sector and civil society level.

In agriculture, we have made use of the “model farmer” partnership structure successfully for both commercial and smallholder farmers.

Partnerships around payment for ecosystem services are also proving to be successful, such as the Aqua Fund model which the nature Conservancy has been working on, particularly in Latin America.

Although one has to bear in mind that the broad frameworks of these models need to be considered as replicating them step by step is seldom going to work due to the very specific local dynamics that play out from one location to another.

Hi Rachel

In addition I would say that understanding the specific and complimentary roles of different players in the service delivery & supply chain is fundamental. Support that recognises the unique contribution of each partner is a really important component, and facilitation that ensures and enables a partner ( or set of partners) to reduce specific barriers to the benefit of the whole initiative will go a long way to improving practical outcomes.


 
Will Davies said:

Hi Rachel - good question.  I think it depends on the existing level of motivation amongst stakeholders.  If it is already very high, then a simply "neutral broker" role can be quite effective in bringing the parties together, perhaps with some small seed funding to get the process started and make it easy for potential partners to join.  If motivation is one of the challenges then targeted advocacy might be the best starting point to raise awareness of the issues and potential solutions..  
 
Rachael Clay said:

Thanks for hosting this discussion.  

What kind of support and facilitation do essential partners (government, companies, donors and CSOs/NGOs) need to be able to develop and grow such partnerships around shared water risk?  Thank you!

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