June 05, 2020

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Water Is Everything

Submitted by: Nassy Avramidis

Posted: Mar 26, 2015 – 06:00 AM EST

Series: Water - Scarcity and Solutions

Tags: environment, ocean pollution, water csr


This is the most recent article in our series on Water - Scarcity and Solutions. For more articles, go to

These days when we talk about water issues in the corporate sector, we’re usually discussing the growing scarcity of freshwater sources and how to overcome major challenges through innovative manufacturing practices and otherwise. Indeed, according to the new UN Water website, “global water demand for manufacturing is expected to increase by 400% from 2000 to 2050, which is much larger than other sectors.” Demand is expected to increase yet freshwater sources are dwindling. This is a major problem and impacts every aspect of society’s ills; equality, health, energy and food production and more.

But, let’s switch gears for a moment and discuss that huge source of water that we also depend on for life on earth: the ocean.

Ocean Pollution

A recent report by non-profit organizations As You Sow and the Natural Resources Defense Council titled, “Waste and Opportunity 2015” found that major companies still aren’t doing their part to protect this great natural resource from devastating pollution. The writers detailed 47 companies ranging from the quick service restaurant sector to the beverage sector, to the consumer packaged goods/grocery sector, and found that due to their sustainability policies and their use of plastic packaging in particular, are “all are failing to sufficiently recover valuable materials and protect our world’s oceans.” 

In their online press release, As You Sow states: “Some companies are wasting less than others. Starbucks, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Nestle Waters NA, New Belgium Brewing, and PepsiCo all emerged as relative leaders in their business sectors, taking proactive steps to recycle, use recycled content, or generate less waste. But as a whole, all three business sectors continue to drag their feet, failing to take sufficient responsibility for the packaging they generate.”

Whether we are talking about a corporate entity or an individual, a failure to take responsibility for the negative impacts we each have on our planet has lead to and is contributing to environmental crisis we are in. Yet in terms of corporate behavior, with changes to the sustainability policies, change can occur. Specifically, I’m talking about full cost accounting and implementing polices that integrate net positive principles into every aspect of the organization’s operations.

Full Cost Accounting

Pollution isn’t always in the forefront of the environmental movement anymore. While it was the big campaign in the past, most of us think that we’re doing our part by recycling every week at home, and not littering. However, it’s still an issue and it’s very much tied to climate change and natural resource scarcity, arguably the two most important environmental issues of our time. It’s tied together because corporations and legal and sustainability policies do not require the taking into account the cost of many of the environmental services they receive. Whether that service is air that emissions are spewed into; ocean water where pollution is dumped by the corporation or by its consumers; or the health of farm workers exposed to pesticides, it is society that bears these costs, not the “perpetrator.” That’s why it’s time to start implementing comprehensive and mandatory full cost accounting measures for these corporations. Full cost accounting would have corporations internalize the cost of their externalities into their operational budget. In the case of plastic packaging, they would internalize the cost of ocean cleanup, and all the other related impacts ocean pollution has on society. These costs could be translated into research and package design innovations that eliminate plastic and bear no cost to society. In this way, corporations would take full responsibility for the packaging they generate.

Net Positive / Regenerative Practices

Going a step beyond full cost accounting, more and more companies these days are aiming for net positive, or regenerative practices in their operations. These companies focus their efforts on restoring nature and having a healing impact on the planet instead of aiming merely to reduce their negative impacts. Today, because the stakes are so high, regenerative corporate systems seem to be one of our only options in reversing the damage we’ve done on the planet.

In terms of the ocean pollution, net positive means not only reducing the amount of plastic in packaging, but it could mean developing technologies ensure the end use of the product is compostable, or biodegradable for fuels, contributing in some positive way to agriculture or clean energy production. As another example of net positive, according to the UN Water webpage, some progressive textile manufacturers have developed a way to ensure that water coming out of the mill is as clean or cleaner than the water coming in from the town's drinking water.

Full cost accounting, together with implementing net positive principles in corporate operations can lead to huge, systemic change to combat the greatest environmental issues of our time. It can help us account for GHG emissions, freshwater use and land and ocean pollution.

This World Water Day and always, let’s remember that ocean pollution is not too big of a problem to overcome. There are technologies available, and ways to get there; what is needed is the will to account for all externalities and implement net positive policies. 

[Image source: http://repeatingislands.com/2013/03/27/plastic-pollution-in-the-sargasso-sea/]

This is the most recent article in our series on Water - Scarcity and Solutions. For more articles, go to

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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