Inge at Seoul AirportI’ve just arrived in Daegu, Korea, where for the next week thousands of people from across the globe with a stake in water will gather to attend the
7th World Water Forum (WWF). In my role as the Director of Communications and Engagement for the International Water Association (IWA) this Forum is an important event to attend. Water plays a crucial role in the overall sustainability agenda, and the IWA has a vision to ensure water becomes a catalysing issue to drive forward the blue-green revolution.

We need to address the progress that is needed for innovative water management and solutions, for people and our planet. How do we define progress though? We know that these meetings and conferences are often full of great talk, but not enough action. The anticipation is that the meeting will reach a consensus, but one that will lack the transformational vision necessary to deliver the change we need.

As with so many multi stakeholder meetings and platforms, the question is whether it is realistic to expect more to come out of it? Whether binding agreements are discussed or non-binding commitments agreed, at the end of the day it is up to specific change agents to drive transformative agendas.

I believe that these change agents can be found across sectors and across disciplines. The Forum here in Korea actually draws people from both and so I hope to meet with other change agents. I believe that change can only come about when people connect and work together. So I will focus on what connects us rather than what divides us.

It is with that perspective that I look at the business world and their position here at the World Water Forum. I have total sympathy with the new leader of 350.org, May Boeve, who argues that sustainable corporate behaviour won’t be brought about through shareholder advocacy. However, at the IWA we believe the jury is out on that and apply a different theory of change.

To put this into action we have organised a series of CEO Panels at the World Water Forum, and we ask whether business can and should take a lead in delivering a new water paradigm and water innovation. I have written an anticipatory blog post about these panels, as I wonder whether on Monday I will find myself inspired or not.

In my professional communications approach, I apply the three As of ‘authenticity, audiences and audacity’. Business can appear authentic when it comes to environmental issues, but too often the reality is blue wash (the green wash of the water world). I hope the CEO panels will prove their authenticity is real, and that they are in the process of truly creating and contributing to sustainable business models.

Here you can click to check out my IWA blog post: Will water take a lead in new water paradigms and water innovation.


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