From risks to shared value? Corporate strategies in building a global water accounting and disclosure regime

Marco A. Daniel
Oxford University Centre for the Environment, Oxford, UK; marco.daniel@graduateinstitute.ch
Suvi Sojamo
Water and Development Research Group, Aalto University, Aalto, Finland; suvi.sojamo@aalto.fi

ABSTRACT: The current debate on water accounting and accountability among transnational actors such as corporations and NGOs is likely to contribute to the emergence of a global water governance regime. Corporations within the food and beverage sector (F&B) are especially vulnerable to water risks; therefore, in this article we analyse motivations and strategies of the major F&B corporations participating in the debate and developing different water accounting, disclosure and risk-assessment tools. Neo-institutionalism and neo-Gramscian regime theory provide the basis for our framework to analyse the discursive, material and organisational corporate water strategies. Findings based on an analysis of the chosen F&B corporations'€™ sustainability reports and interviews with key informants suggest that the corporations share similar goals and values with regard to the emerging regime. They seek a standardisation that is practical and supportive in improving their water efficiency and communication with stakeholders. This indicates that some harmonisation has taken place over time and new actors have been pursuing the path of the pioneering companies, but the lead corporations are also differentiating their strategies, thus engaging in hegemonic positioning. However, so far the plethora of NGO-driven accountability initiatives and tools has fragmented the field more than 'war of position' amongst the corporations. Furthermore, several companies claim to have proceeded from internal water-risk management to reducing risks throughout their value chains and watersheds. As a result they are 'creating shared value' with stakeholders, and potentially manifesting an emergent paradigm that goes beyond a private regime framework. Nevertheless, in the absence of verification schemes, questions of sustainability and legitimacy of such actions on the ground prevail and remain a topic for further research.

KEYWORDS: Water-risk accounting and disclosure, food and beverage sector, global environmental governance, private regime, transnational actors