Water as a Casualty of Conflict: Threats to Business and Society in High-Risk Areas

Published: June 13, 2013
Authors: Heather Cooley, Jason Morrison, Kristina Donnelly, Mai-Lan Ha
Pages: 24

While much research has been produced in recent years on how water use and pollution can exacerbate conflict, a new report focuses more broadly on the ways conflict and high-risk situations can affect water systems and resources directly – as well as on the planning, construction, operation, and management of water systems. The UN Global Compact and the Pacific Institute released the report Water as a Casualty of Conflict: Threats to Business and Society in High-Risk Areas, in advance of the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum, to be held June 15-17, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“To better understand how impacts on water systems will affect operations in high-risk or conflict-affected areas, companies need to proactively analyze the water system’s operating environment and how the company uses water directly and indirectly – and the source of that water,” said Jason Morrison, director of the Pacific Institute Globalization Program and co-author of the report. “Company responses to water-related risks can have a range of results, from exacerbating local conflict situations to positively addressing risks for the benefit of the company and the local community.”

The new research – which also brings together the work of the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, in collaboration with the UN Global Compact-Principles for Responsible Investment Expert Group on Responsible Business & Investment in High-Risk Areas – provides a framework for understanding the nature of water challenges in conflict and high-risk areas and how these, in turn, affect business operations and society. The framework looks at natural resources, physical infrastructure, human resources, and socio-political and financial systems.

The report provides examples of impacts on business operations, as well as anecdotal highlights of what companies are doing in response. For example, a large food and beverage company in the Occupied Palestinian Territories worked with local residents and government in the surrounding community to establish an independent wastewater treatment plant that would provide a reliable source of water to its plant, the local community, and to farmers. Varied cases from Peru, Papua New Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria are included, as well.

Water as a Casualty of Conflict: Threats to Business and Society in High-Risk Areas was officially introduced at the “Responsible Water Management Practices in Conflict Affected & High-Risk Areas” session at the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum, on 18 June, 2012.

Download the report.