Water The Newest Wave of Corporate Social Responsibility 2009: Critics Held

Water The Newest Wave of Corporate Social Responsibility

Even critics of , held annually in Stockholm, Sweden, agree that it's an important forum where thousands of people working on water issues share

information. In other words, World Water Week has become an opportunity for companies selling water, beverages, and water and sanitation services to grab a seat at the table, as water practices and policies are discussed. It must also be a networking gold mine, where companies can pitch their services to government representatives from around the globe. Somehow, promoting beer as a less water-intensive beverage choice doesn't quite seem to meet the World Water Week of "advancing the water, environment, health, livelihood and poverty reduction agendas." World Water Week is only one way in which corporations seek to promote themselves as good "citizens" on water issues. Perhaps the heaviest public scrutiny -- and most elaborate "social responsibility" posturing in response -- involves the bottled water industry. It has become increasingly rare for bottled water brands to launch without a non-profit partnership or other CSR angle. None of these tactics -- cultivating a "responsible" public image, co-opting non-profits, setting up voluntary self-regulatory structures, and influencing policy debates from the get-go -- is anything new in corporate public relations. But the primary importance of water to life, not to mention the increasing stresses on water resources from population growth and climate change, make the corporate warping of water policy and philanthropy especially troubling.

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