BY GRACE TATTER
Picking up on a thread started by Greg Koch of Coca-Cola in the first plenary, the second plenary focused on how businesses and entrepreneurs figure into nexus solutions.
Both panelists from NGOs and corporations avoided sentimentality when discussing why businesses should assert themselves in conversations about water, energy and climate. Although many corporations are concerned with human rights and the bigger picture, their sustainability efforts are grounded in sustaining their business. “No water, no beer,” said Kim Marotta, the director of sustainability at MillerCoors.
Dan Bena, Senior Director of Sustainability of PepsiCo, stated why his corporation is interested in Nexus bluntly. About fifty percent of Pepsi’s revenue comes from beverages, he said. He continued that most of the costs to produce those beverages are from agriculture. “So for us the nexus issues, the nexus risks, and certainly the nexus opportunities, come from sustainable agriculture,” he said. Of course, Pepsi has also made a commitment to human rights and the environment (here’s a video about their iCrop project), but the corporation recognizes that sustainable agriculture is necessary for their product.
And that’s ok, said Stuart Orr, the head of Water Stewardship at WWF International. Just because corporations like PepsiCo are focussed on running a business doesn’t mean their goals are counter to NGOs and advocacy groups. Orr suggested that businesses and NGOs increasingly understand that their needs are the same even if the reasons behind those needs are different. Governments should capitalize on that intersection of needs, and step up their part of the private-non-profit-governmental relationship.
“I suggest that what I want as an NGO at River Basin is completely different than what you want as a company,” Orr said to business leaders. “And I don’t expect you to care about fish. You’re not here to care about fish. I’m here to care about fish. You’re here to make money, right? And the government is here to do it’s job. Build institutions, deliver on the public good, make sure that people are delivered on their rights.We each have a different need out of a common resource.” He continued:
“Ninety to 100 percent of what I need as an environmental NGO to protect my universe that I care about, is exactly what business needs to mitigate business risks. They need institutions, they need coherent government, they need regulations…they need government to step up and allocate and properly permit and regulate water as if it matters. We need the same damn thing.”
Puvan Selvanathan, the head of sustainable agriculture at United Nations Global Compact, concluded the panel by highlighting a set of Sustainable Agriculture Business Principles he helped develop last year. The principles aim to fortify corporate responsibility to sustainable practices, but they require support from all stakeholders.
“Company action can only take you so far. Companies can say, ‘ok, we’re willing to make sure the codes are in place, we’re willing to make sure our food is safe.’ You can do all that stuff. But there’s other stuff you need to do, and that stuff requires partnership,” he said.