Water poses one of the greatest sustainability challenges of the 21st century. On 14 October, businesses, government members and civil society met at the first "Oslo Water Initiative", to establish a better understanding and closer cooperation.
This year, the World Economic Forum has defined water as one of the top three risk factors in the world. More than 780 million people across the globe lack access to clean water and in 15 years time, more than 50 percent of the world's population will live in water stressed areas and over 50 countries will potentially be in conflict over the scarce water resources. To meet these challenges, collaboration between governments, industry and NGOs is crucial. Within this context, Oslo Water Initiative was established as a partnership between Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) and Global Compact Nordic Network.
First key note speaker at the conference was State Secretary Hans Brattskar from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), who underlined the role of industry in order to achieve sustainable development. Brattskar also referred in particular to the good partnership between MFA and NCA on water, sanitation and hygiene projects, especially in emergency situations.
Greatest need in rural areas
Mohamoud Duale, CEO of NCA partner RACIDA, added the important perspective from the African continent, and talked about the challenges of access to both clean water and water in general for people and livestock in Kenya and Ethiopia. "It is a problem that foreign investments in water related projects are mostly located in urban areas", Duale explained. "It is in the rural areas and within the pastoralist communities the need is the greatest".
Jason Morrison, Technical Director of CEO Water Mandate has over the last decade engaged on water issues directly with executive-level company officials, and presented an overview of the water related challenges and solutions companies are dealing with. He also briefly introduced The Water Action Hub, which is a tool developed for NGOs and companies. It is an online platform designed to assist stakeholders to efficiently identify potential collaborators and engage with them in water-related collective action to improve water management in regions of critical strategic interest.
Water scarcity is reality
"Water scarcity is a reality. By 2030 the world will have a fresh water availability gap of 40 percent", according to YARA International, at the conference represented by Hans Gossens, Downstream New Business Director. Gossens talked about how YARA International works to address future challenges related to water. YARA is the first and only Norwegian company to sign the CEO Water Mandate.
Panelists Einar Kilde Evensen from DNB, Jeanett Bergan from KLP, Matthew Smith from Storebrand and Tora Systad Tyssen from FIVAS discussed expectations and possible guidelines for future water challenges. Also Mohamoud Duale from RACIDA joined the discussion.
CDP, former Carbon Disclosure Project, was represented by Head of Water, Cate Lamb. Lamb raised the issue of an increasing demand for corporate water disclosure reporting in Europe and was followed by PwC Global Sustainability Network Director, Gary Sharkey who has been working with CDP on the Water Disclosure Guidelines.
Some companies have come quite a way with their water strategies, and business cases were shared from PepsiCo by Dan Bena, H&M by Felix Ockborn and Statoil by Anders Ystad.
With an ambition of several conferences in the coming years, Anne-Marie Helland summed up the day and encouraged all participating parties to keep up the very important work with water.
Quite a few participating companies have given a response: