Water issues covered by the regulations and policies in the city and state where a facility is located may not be the only water issues that a company faces, according to Nelson Switzer, chief sustainability officer of Nestle Waters NA. For example, regulations may cover water quality in terms of certain carcinogens, but a company needs to ask: are there other carcinogens that are not covered by any particular regulations? If so, the company needs to address those issues, as well, Switzer told an audience at the Environmental Leader 2017 Conference in Denver earlier this month.
And those water issues might not be the ones that immediately come to mind. In order to identify water issues facing a new project, a company first needs to identify its stakeholders related to that project: stakeholders, says Switzer, are the people whose actions or decisions affect a company’s ability to operate and create value as well as the people that your project affects. “What are their concerns and how can you work together to affect change?” he asked.
For example, he said, if a company is drawing water to cool a new server farm, stakeholders – beyond the obvious ones – might include the people who live in the neighborhoods near the facility. “Maybe there’s always been a stream in Mabel’s backyard, and now there isn’t. That gives you the opportunity to engage” and to create positive interactions, he said.
Building partnerships can be another way to engage stakeholders in positive interactions. “During your investigation, you look to see if your work will affect the natural area around a trout stream, and you find that it won’t,” he said. “But imagine you find that the stream is being affected by beavers upstream, or by another facility. You then have the opportunity to work with other stakeholders to improve that area,” thus improving relations with the community, as well.