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University of the Witwatersrand (2019)

Thirsty for change : water challenges and opportunities in South African businesses

Jeram, Dyani

Titre : Thirsty for change : water challenges and opportunities in South African businesses

Auteur : Jeram, Dyani

Université de soutenance : University of the Witwatersrand

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2019

Water is a key element linked to challenges such as food security, economic development, energy generation and climate change. South Africa experienced its driest year on record in 2015, together with one of the largest cities, Cape Town, almost running out of water in 2018. The likelihood of increased drought in the future coupled to climate risks makes it imperative to attend to water security concerns within the country. The business sector needs to pay more attention to water issues given its reliance on water for operation. This study explores how South African companies that are dependent on water respond to water security concerns linked to increased demand and variability. Focusing on the potential of the CDP Water reporting process to promote improved water stewardship practices. A mixed methods approach is used including a detailed investigation of CDP Water report data and interviews. Companies are unique in their responses, their perception of water risk hence determines their responses to the risk. Many companies showed misalignments between their company strategy, governance and practice in water decision making that further calls into question their water stewardship in addressing water security concerns. Although water stewardship is highlighted as an opportunity for various companies, engagement in practices that promote stewardship is low. In the pursuit of water stewardship practices and improved water management, context becomes key. By companies conducting comprehensive river basin assessments, it assists in addressing and engaging water risks in a local context. Beyond CDP reports and interviews, an underlying outcome has emerged that calls for effective sustainability/ environmental strategic planning in environmental departments within companies. Communication becomes an essential tool even though creating a business case around risk is not unique to water. An emphasis is then needed at Board level on effective leadership within a company to transform the way they view their water related risks and turn them into opportunities. To bring these findings together, archetypes were created based on company ‘water stewardship readiness.’ The archetypes encompassed the likelihood of companies engaging in water stewardship practices as this is seen as one of the best ways forward for business to assist in securing water in the country. The notion of a water champion to tackle water related risks and lead opportunities brings to light the value of education and creating individuals, regardless of their field of interest, with the understanding and knowledge that resources such as water are limited. Environmental issues should be embedded within these individuals for appropriate decision making given the current state and future projections of not only water, but environmental concerns going forward.


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Page publiée le 31 décembre 2020