All the water on the earth is near 70% but there are only 2.5% of fresh water that we can drink and the other is saline and ocean. Even then, there is only 1% of fresh water that we can easily find and use, the other is stuck in glaciers and snowfields. However, in the fact that 0.007% of the water in the earth is available for humans.
Water use is considered a basic human right. Therefore, companies must be responsible for activities that affect the use of water as polluting water. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has a major impact on the sustainability of clean water supply for weak governance regimes. Moreover, according to the WHO, one in three people in the world faces the problem of drinking water. This is becoming more worrying due to the globalization and population boom. Sustainable water use is becoming more important in CSR, as companies recognize their potential for both negative and positive impacts on water.
There are various issues that are caused by corporations that negatively affect civilians, the environment, or the economy in general. And that is when Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is needed in order to regulate and control the activities of businesses. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a self-regulating business practice that helps companies be accountable by participating in initiatives that are beneficial for society. In order to gain profit, companies conduct many CSR issues that affect both internal and external stakeholders such as over-exploitation of human labor, violating human rights, poor working conditions, corruption, tax evasion, or pollution which damages the environment and affect people’s health.
Pollution is one of the most prominent and dangerous issues that society is now facing. There are different kinds of pollution like air, land, noise, or water pollution which are not only caused by the lack of awareness of the people but also by the harmful conduct on the environment of many companies and corporations. Industrial activities can bring profit to corporations and businesses, help improve the economy but it also pollutes the water. The cause of water pollution is when chemicals or hazardous substances are disposed into the water from agricultural waste like pesticides, fertilizers, or industrial materials like oil, lead, or mercury. Toxic waste is created by companies to create their products or it can come from the production process which is then being dumped into rivers, oceans, or the water systems. Some of the main industries that cause water pollution are agriculture, mining, the nuclear industry which create radioactive substances like strontium and cesium, fuel industry which mainly focused on exploiting fossil fuel like oil or gasoline, and also there are many shipwreck accidents that caused oil to leak into the ocean, textile manufacturing which creates dangerous byproduct like Asbestos and then dumped it into the lakes or rivers causing serious pollution, auto manufacturing which used chemicals and metals like leads or mercury during the production process and then dumping them into the water systems.
Water pollution not only damages the marine ecosystem but also affect the life quality of the people. United Nation points out that there are 783 million people do not have access to sanitary water and about 2.5 million people do not have access to proper sanitation. Moreover, water pollution is the cause of death of 1.8 million people in 2019 and every year, about 1 billion people are sick because of unsafe water. Based on the statistics, it is clear that the conduct of many companies that cause water pollution is a CSR issue since it damages the environment, the marine ecosystem and also affect human life and it needs to be dealt with.
Companies nowadays concern CSR as a crucial part of their business plan to increase their profit. The aim of the company with a CSR strategy is to make a huge contribution to sustainable development. In addition, a good CSR strategy not only can reduce the risk but also control the symmetric information of the company.
There are 3 types of risk that can occur for the business including physical, reputational, and regulatory risk. Physical risk is mostly about the quantity and quality of the water in that area. It can cause conflict between the company and society when both need to use a huge amount of clean water. Moreover, this may lead to the reputational risk for the business, which affects directly the brand image, and their stakeholders. As for the regulatory risk, when water scarcity along with the local conflict arise, the government concern restricts the water regulations and raise the standard of water quality.
After looking at some research about CSR, there is a five-step process for sustainable water management based on ISO 26000 to support the company set up the strategy. The process including measure water footprint and assess risk, develop a data-driven plan, internalize and disseminate, engage others, and promote Public Disclosure. In the first step, the company needs to identify its current situation, and investigate the risk that may occur. After that, the business needs to create effective planning for future risks by considering the importance of company reputation and external stakeholders such as consumers, the media, and NGOs. Next, in order to prevent future water-related risks, businesses need to gain support from external stakeholders such as government, NGOs, community, and so on. Lastly is to provide some innovative solutions, reports, and also some standard measurements to boost the effectiveness of your contributions.
Although there is a lot of case about CSR water pollution, the case of Coca-Cola in India is the most interesting case. Coca-Cola conflict arises when the NGOs claim that their product contains a huge amount of polluted groundwater (Utrecht law review). Due to that situation, Coca-Cola decided to change its water policies with the comment of using “water-neutral”. Their framework focusing mostly on cut down, recycle and replenish. First, they increased 20 percent of water efficiency to lower the amount of water used. Moreover, the company also recycling water by using wastewater treatment and bring back all the water used in the manufactory. Plus, they also partner with World Wildlife Fund conservation of freshwater on a large-scale.
At present, many countries are still investing and improving water quality every year. To repair the quality facilities of water treatment facilities that help improve water quality, the United States needs to spend approximately $130 billion. Businesses are also trying every day to tackle the problem of water pollution with the government. However, in the process of remediation, businesses are aware that there are still some problems that are obstructing.
The initial drawback for business in dealing with CSR issue which is the water quantity is now being overexploited. Due to this exploitation act caused by various businesses, it leads to a decoupling of the groundwater and surface water system, moreover, the business has to incurred higher costs for water pumping while the water is scarred and creates the difficulty in supplying borehole and saline water intrusion in coastal zones. These adverse consequences can be worse caused by other external factors including global population growth, agriculture practices, more considerably, the business now has more power to intervene in these aspects.
The second major difficulty that business is confronting which is about the quality of water. The water quality is contaminated by business activities, especially by the mining corporations. To specify, they have discharged the bad liquid substance into the groundwater which negatively affects the people who lived near that polluted area and damaging the overall ecosystem. About 1 billion people are sick because of unsafe water each year, 783 million people don’t have access to clean water and about 2.5 million people don’t have access to proper sanitation. India is a concrete example. Almost all water sources in India contain pollutants. Three major rivers (Yamuna, Kaveri, and Ganges) are severely polluted due to the presence of untreated sewage and domestic waste that is dumped directly into these rivers. Moreover, in rural areas, pollution levels are at an alarming level as India's agricultural activities depend too much on pesticides. Although India has invested to build more waste treatment plants but is not enough. People still need to spend 1-2 hours each day to go to distant water sources which are used for daily living.
The third major difficulty is poverty and inequality in society. That poverty and inequality are considered as a major obstacle for businesses in the process of solving water pollution. The rural areas in Africa are the best example. While investors or the government tried to install factories to treat wastewater or public faucets which help improve water quality daily, after five to six hours, public faucets were stolen or some machines in the plant also evaporate in less than a week. The main reason for these thefts is due to the low quality of life and the monopoly of rich people who own clean water. Constant theft has unintentionally created a major obstacle not only for the government but also for businesses that try to improve the quality of water better day by day.
(End of part I)
Complied by Vietnam Credit