The challenges posed by water scarcity, poor quality and equitable access will not be solved without the power of multinationals.
The challenges posed by water scarcity, poor quality and equitable access will not be solved without the power of multinationals. They have the skills, scale, reach, speed and experience to contribute to solving “wicked problems”. The importance and urgency in leveraging multinationals to be part of aligned action initiatives has only increased over the past two years. Consumer facing brands such as McDonald’s are uniquely positioned to engage with civil society on key environmental issues such as water. It’s an important business issue for food and beverage supply chains, operations but also for the customers, workforce and communities in which they operate. The potential for McDonald’s to engage with an estimated 69 million customers each day in 118 countries and territories is extremely powerful. Our conversation with Ian Olson, Senior Director of Global Sustainability from McDonald's on The Stream podcast provides insights on the value of global brands to contribute to solving wicked problems. Also, my recent World Economic Forum article on the ever-accelerating ESG reporting trend draws an important distinction between a sustainability strategy and reporting, and the need for greater focus on wicked water problems. These issues are also important to companies such as Facebook who announced its goal to be Water Positive by 2030. For me the key aspect of the strategy is the non-volumetric goals to address wicked water problems. The social media giant is taking a broader view of the opportunities to contribute to solving water problems, beyond just reducing water use. This is a more sophisticated water strategy than just focusing on water footprinting. Essentially, it’s more of a water handprint strategy than just a water footprint strategy. As we know, no water no anything. The importance of access to water can’t be overstated. WE can do a better job of valuing water and managing it accordingly.