NEWTON SIBANDA, Lusaka
SPIRALING water challenges have evoked awareness of the commercial imperative for sound management of water resources by companies, as the private sector recognises the opportunity in water stewardship.
To this end, an innovative initiative has been launched to promote the business case for involvement of companies in the prudent use of water resources.
Launched last week at Fringilla Lodge in Chisamba, the core goals of the Zambia National Water Stewardship Award are; to promote, incentivise and recognise good corporate water stewardship amongst water-using companies in Zambia.
The prestigious award is hosted by the Zambian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZACCI). It will be awarded annually starting in November this year to a leading company that demonstrates sustainable water use in line with international best practices.
The award is a project within the Lusaka Water Security Initiative (LuWSI), managed by a project task team led by the local non-governmental organisation (NGO) Action for Water.
To ensure fairness and multisectoral representation in deciding award recipients, a panel of judges will be appointed from Government, industry and civil society. Moreover, the judging criteria for the award are based on criteria of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) standard.
A globally-consistent framework, the AWS standard outlines the expectations of responsible private sector operators on water stewardship which is about taking care of something that you do not own.
Lemmy Namayanga, acting director general, Water Resources Management Authority (WARMA) explained at the launch of the award, that water stewardship is the “use of water that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial, achieved through a stakeholder-inclusive process that involves site and catchment-based actions.
“Currently, we all face significant water challenges in Lusaka. In the last few months, we have all experienced water challenges in one way or another. These challenges can worsen if we don’t take a proactive stance to address them,” said Mr Namayanga.
He added that sound water management goes hand in hand with doing business properly. “It is for this reason that I am excited to introduce and launch the 2018 Zambia Water Stewardship Award today,” he said.
The role of the private sector was underscored. Indeed, some companies have made strides towards water stewardship. “I would like to take this opportunity to recognise Fairy Bottling as the first company pioneering the implementation of the AWS standard in Lusaka.
“Such effort is inspiring and a best practice to be celebrated and followed by others,” said Mr Namayanga.
Fairy Bottling Chief Executive Officer Mohamed el Sahili stressed the business imperative for water stewardship.
“Companies worldwide are now increasingly appreciating that water is an essential raw material in their business operations and the lack of access to adequate or good quality water is posing a huge risk to a lot of businesses particularly those which are water reliant, Dr El Sahili said.
He added that without consistent access to clean water, businesses may face higher expenditure on water treatment as legislation and legal enforcement tighten; possible relocation of operations to sites where water is readily available; and increased operating costs..
Dr El Sahili observed that a balancing act to ensure equity in water use between business and social needs is urgently required.
“Increasing population, climate change, rapid industrialisation, deforestation and unsustainable water usage practices, coupled with declining water availability and quality, and weak water governance in many geographic regions are all leading to increased competition for water,” he stressed, especially in the business sector which is now conflicting with social water needs.
He noted that the emerging life threatening paradox calls for an immediate paradigm shift in the way businesses look at their water issues
Dr El Sahili noted that the water stewardship approach, unlike most conventional responses, allows companies to respond to water issues and to effectively understand their own water usage This propels them to proactively respond to water challenges within their operational context, influence and promote collaborative action and good water governance within its operations, community and supply chain.
On his part, Robin Farrington, the German Development Co-operation (GIZ), International Water Stewardship Programme (IWasp) Country Co-ordinator, while citing the case of Cape Town, South Africa, where acute shortage of the vital commodity has made its responsible use a necessity and not a voluntary option, summed up: “Water stewardship is going to be absolutely necessary.”
The launch was followed by the Zambia Water Stewardship Masterclass that ran from January 22- 24, 2018. The event is a catalyst for improved collaboration between business, Government and civil society to improve water security in Zambia and the region.
It brought leading experts on water stewardship together with business leaders and practitioners to learn how water can be better managed to secure inclusive economic growth, and the role of stewardship in business strategy and operations, through application of the AWS Standard.
The masterclass was convened by Action for Water, LuSWI, Water Witness International, Fairy Bottling, and the International Water Stewardship Partnership.
The participation of companies was to ensure that they receive context specific guidance, advice and support through the process on water stewardship. It was equally meant to; incentivise more efficient and economic use of water in operations; and profile and recognise companies as leading actors in water stewardship.
“WARMA supports initiatives such as the Zambia Water Stewardship Award, as they contribute to sustainable water resources management.
According to Mr Namayanga, the award will motivate businesses to comply with Zambian water and environmental regulations.
“In this way, both this training and the establishment of the award improve the alignment of sector activities with Zambia’s Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.
Additionally, he noted, the award demonstrates the effectiveness of partnerships in water governance.
Meanwhile, partnerships were identified as key to tackling water challenges. As Action for Water Director Monica Chundama observed, no one sector can solve major water challenges alone.
“Roles are increasingly carried out through engagement in partnerships and collaborative frameworks across civil society, and with stakeholders from business, Government and international organisations such as LuSWI,” she advised.