Submitted by guest blogger on Mon, 11/25/2013

By James Dalton of IUCN’s Global Water Programme. Version française

A year ago I wrote a blog post on a workshop that we jointly held with the Ramsar Secretariat in partnership with Danone Waters – the bottled water arm of the French multinational. It caught people’s attention, partly because of what we were doing, and partly because of who we were doing it with. We made a commitment at that workshop, with Danone Waters, to follow up on the workshop, and to report back to the participants about corporate changes in water management practices.

Last year’s workshop was designed to jointly review an internal water management tool Danone had developed. We brought together a diverse range of people to help us do this – a remarkable group in their openness and willingness to collaborate beyond ‘expert silos’. This year we re-convened the same group with the company to discuss progress in adopting the recommendations made a year ago.

We saw great change in the work that was presented to us by Danone Waters. The water management tool had been revised based on many of the recommendations made last year. It was one of those moments where you realise that working with the private sector can bring rapid change.

We had also identified the need for policy change within the company on water management. The company had clearly listened to this. We were presented with a draft outline of a new corporate water policy for the Danone Group (soon to be announced). Reviewing the technical nature of the work had clearly helped identify the need to expand groundwater policy into wider overall corporate water policy for the Danone Group.

Our role had been to create an opportunity for trusted dialogue and to broker the recommendations with the reality of what companies can do to improve water management practices while contributing to wider social and environmental benefits.

Working as a team with the company ensured that the recommendations made were technically robust and therefore had influence within the business. It takes time to create the momentum, but investment in the process from the company and the shared nature of the work over the last year and a half has created real collaborative engagement.

It had helped put water intelligence into business intelligence, and now into business operations. Connecting corporate policy into practice, built on technical knowledge from within the company demonstrated an ability to internally review and reform.

The challenge now is to mobilise the water management tool at the business unit level, learn from its application and initial results, and review and refine it. Setting high standards brings with it the challenge of maintaining them, but as before, the energy in the workshop, the open and honest critique and discussion, and the deep engagement from the company will contribute to the success of improving water management on the ground – for people and for nature.