Water-positive CSR needs more attention. Providing access to water to rural communities through CSR directly aligns with supporting UN’s Sustainability Development Goal 6 for the year 2030. Given the importance of water for life and society, it is natural that this is identified as a central issue for companies to manage responsibly through their CSR practices to the benefit of local populations. This is happening, if slowly.
Why is water-positive CSR important?
As we have seen water becoming increasingly focused as a global and local issue, it has also become more focused as a CSR issue by companies. Water-positive CSR provides an opportunity for companies to do more good for society in an area, which is critical to all their stakeholders resulting in significantly strengthened relations and brand visibility. However, this is not all. Given the criticality of water, there are also huge opportunities for companies to engage in a way that adds great value for society, while also being profitable and lowering their risk levels considerably.
Here’s how two companies are setting an example for water-positive CSR in India.
Activities undertaken by the Dalmia Bharat group have resulted in significant water-use efficiency improvements, creating social equity and reduced water availability risks. The water credit activities, related to water recharge and harvesting, were taken up through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) interventions as well as development of harvesting structures in plants and mined out pits.
At the same time, water debit activities which mainly relates to water intake for the production of cement, power generation through captive power plants and domestic consumption in plant and colonies at the manufacturing sites, have been made more efficient through technological interventions and behavioural interventions resulting in reduction of net water debit.
The reporting boundary for this case study covers 11 manufacturing locations of Dalmia Bharat and CSR water projects implemented by Dalmia Bharat Foundation (DBF). The activities taken up on water credit and water debit have collectively created a positive water balance for Dalmia Bharat Limited. The 11 manufacturing locations collectively recycle more than 27% of its total water withdrawn.
The initiative revolves around three different inter-related and multi-faceted components based on water conservation, integrated development of watersheds and associated communities and application of measures to increase water efficiency. As per an estimate, integrated water conservation initiative has positively impacted thousands of livelihoods in at least 7 different states (including Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Karnataka) across India. Dalmia Bharat envisions to conserve 50 million m3 by 2030 (moderate term sustainability goal related to water).
Through the years, Grundfos India has been working to improve the access of clean water in hundreds of villages in India. Grundfos partnered with international nonprofit Hand in Hand India for a CSR project to provide access to clean drinking water to more than 1450 villagers from Maiyur Panchayat in the state of Tamil Nadu.
Maiyur Panchayat mostly comprises labourers whose daily struggle includes walking as much as 2 km every day to fetch water. Through a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative launched in 2019, Grundfos has sponsored a drinking water system, complete with a drinking water bore well, solar-operated water pump and storage tank for controlled use. The impact of this water-positive CSR initiative is that 290 families are no longer dependent on external sources for potable drinking water.
Through this initiative, not only is Grundfos bringing safe drinking water closer to the community, they are helping improve health, hygiene and quality of life of these families. In the long run, this water access is also helping women as they no longer have to spend hours fetching water, giving them a chance to work and earn more, enabling girls to return to school and reduce health costs of the community.