Clean Water and Sanitation: The State of Corporate Malaysia
on Water Sustainability
Sustainable Development Goal 6 – “Ensure Availability and Sustainable Management of Water and Sanitation for All” is perhaps one of the least discussed SDGs in Malaysia, particularly in the corporate space. This is as 92% of the Malaysian population has access to clean water, while 82% has access to sanitation services (World Health Organization, 2015), rendering the perception that Malaysia, in terms of the aforementioned SDG, is doing good.
However, Malaysia as a whole can still do better, if we float the question “Why not 100% access to clean water and sanitation services?”. The focus area in designing solutions for this issue should be on marginalized and special groups, those displaced by natural disasters, development projects and construction. On this, GCMY believes corporate Malaysia can play a role to provide water access to said groups, namely Orang Asal tribes in various rural areas in Malaysia.
GCMY refers to United Nations Global Compact’s publication “Guidance for Companies on Respecting the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation: Bringing a Human Rights Lens to Corporate Water Stewardship” on measures to assess a company’s role, impact assessment and solutions to Human Rights to Water and Sanitation (HRWS):
1. Develop a Policy Commitment and Embed Respect for the HRWS
The primary step in recognizing HRWS on a structural level is to develop a policy commitment to respect HRWS by defining the commitment, engagement with internal and external stakeholders as well as communicating that very commitment once adopted as company policy.
Following that, the company should embed respect for the HRWS via establishing appropriate accountability and building a cross-functional coordination framework. Respect for HRWS should be a set expectation for staff, and the commitment established should be applied to business relationships.
2. Assess Impacts on the HRWS
Impact assessment should begin with an internal review of how the company may be involved in impacts on the HRWS, via business relationships, supply chain or its own projects. This needs to be communicated with affected stakeholders.
Next, evaluation for impact severity and likelihood should be undertaken, where the result of the evaluation can be used to prioritize impacts for attention. Finally, following the initial assessment, a systematic approach can be built to streamline future assessments.
3. Integrate and Take Action on Impacts on the HRWS
After impact assessment and prioritization have been done, the company can begin taking action. First step is to identify options to prevent and mitigate potential impacts. This can be done by firstly understanding the company’s involvement with HRWS impact, then identifying potential prevention and mitigation options.
Following that, the company is recommended to build and use its leverage in business relationships. By evaluating possible sources of leverage, addressing supply chain impact and focusing on relationships with state authorities, the company may use its leverage to respect the HRWS across its supply chain and business partners.
4. Track and Communicate Performance
Firstly, a systematic approach to tracking performance should be built and implemented. The company can choose to review and build upon existing tracking systems. From there, the effectiveness of their efforts should be tracked through business relationships, followed by the development of appropriate indicators. A report should be submitted to stakeholders and their perception of the company’s performance should be taken into account.
The next step will be to review and improve communication. Where stakeholders are affected, the company should be prepared to communicate its vision on mitigating negative impacts of its activities on the HRWS. The company should also improve formal reporting on severe impacts on the HRWS.
5. Remediation and Grievance Mechanisms
In cases in which impact to the HRWS could not be satisfactorily minimized or mitigated, the company should be prepared to remediate. Firstly, the company should understand its responsibility in remediation, before mapping existing external grievance mechanisms and their effectiveness.
Next, the company should design an effective operational-level grievance mechanism following the review. The company needs to understand what makes a grievance mechanisms effective via proper cost-benefit analyses, and then build upon existing internal mechanisms to ensure they are properly fit to address HRWS-related grievances.