Sink or Swim: Cross-sector approaches to water sustainability

The Sink or Swim work places business in an excellent position to navigate the collective action that is required to address water resource management across sectors and alongside government. This innovative thinking has laid the groundwork for multi-sector plans and approaches to be implemented.

blogimage_sinkorswimIn certain cases, collaboration provides a better way of doing things, promotes innovation and allows partners to better adapt to the needs of their communities. In these situations, collaboration is an attractive option available to various stakeholders who share common interest in addressing a particular challenge. However, when it comes to issues such as shared resources, collaboration becomes a prerequisite and understanding how to navigate competing interests takes on a new importance.

When it comes to water, in particular, the need to collaboration is at its greatest. Water scarcity can have far reaching consequences that can affect the quality of life for citizens, and can also prevent businesses from providing goods or services to their customers. In these situations, the regulation and management of this resources requires a collaborative process that accounts for the short and long term interests of both the public and private sectors.

The Cambridge Institute of Sustainable Leadership recently tackled this topic in its “Sink or Swim” report, which was published as part of the Natural Capital Leaders Platform. The NCLP brings together leaders committed to the effectively management, and sustainability of natural resources. In addition to their efforts to account for their impact on the public and environment, leaders taking part in this initiative agree to “demonstrate their commitment” by engaging with their counterparts in the public sector.

This report brought together nine companies across sectors to develop new strategies and financial models for water management. While the report focused on the role of the private sector in promoting collaboration at the “project” level, it underscored the need for engagement between government and private actors.

The findings of the report focused specifically on the current water situation in the UK, however many of these conclusions and the recognition of the importance of cross-sector collaboration can be seen at various levels in our cases studies. From community focused projects to revitalize the Elizabeth River, to Coca Cola’s worldwide water stewardship initiative governments and businesses are working together to ensure the responsible use, and preservation of these natural resources.