By James Dalton. Corporate partnerships are big news nowadays – especially on water. The resource that many of them need or impact upon is fast becoming a focal point for discussions around sustainability.
Water footprinting, stewardship, and the ‘nexus’ issues – the complex way water flows through the energy and food/agriculture sectors are just some of the subjects of many networks, blogs, articles and platforms.
And here is another one! But hopefully with a difference. The IUCN Water Programme, in partnership with the Ramsar Secretariat and DANONE Waters, recently held a workshop to review an internal water management tool developed by DANONE to help them manage the groundwater resources they bottle and sell – water which becomes iconic brands like Evian.
I’ll admit to being a little nervous on the first morning of the workshop – we had brought together a really diverse range of people. From water safety planners, water quality gurus, business sustainability thinkers, experts in finance, wetland ecology, corporate water stewardship, and biodiversity. They were members of IUCN Commissions, the Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel, independent experts, colleagues, and contacts through networks. Would they find common points to discuss given the wide range of specialities in the room – had we got the balance of minds right? Would we all benefit from this exchange of experience?
My fears were allayed about two hours into the workshop. There were some strong viewpoints and perspectives in the room, but they were open to friendly and constructive discussion. Experience brings with it quicker, more decisive thinking, but good facilitation steered us to listen to the many different perspectives present. Everyone benefited from having Danone Waters experts in the room who were able to respond to questions and provide more detail on the water management tool.
So what made it work – good facilitation, the openness (and presence!) of the company, willingness to openly discuss amongst all participants, and the wide and varied backgrounds of the participants. What had concerned me at first was actually a key factor of success in the workshop – when working on water management issues with business, gather a diverse group of people. For a company such as Danone Waters, water is their business – it is not just the product, or just a resource – it is everything they do – so experts who know about business and finance have value to add to the discussion and in our case, review of the water management methodology, just as much as water quality experts.
It showed me the power of the network – and the need to be open in selecting participants to help you go through these types of exercises. I will certainly be looking for more diversity in participants at workshops in the future.
And above all – it was fun. So much fun that Danone Waters want to talk to us again…
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