CEO Water Mandate

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In July of 2005 a group of business leaders met during the UN Global Compact leaders summit in Geneva to launch the CEO Water Mandate – an initiative developed in partnership with the UN Global Compact and the Government of Sweden. The group consisted of CEOs and representatives of six corporations including, The Coca Cola Company, Levi Strauss & Co., Läckeby Water Group, Nestlé S.A., SABMiller, and Suez[1]. The initiative, currently endorsed by CEOs of more than 20 corporations, is described as a “private-public initiative with a focus on developing strategies and solutions to contribute positively to the emerging global water crisis”[2]. [3].

The mandate is focused on six key areas: Direct Operations; Supply Chain and Watershed Management; Collective Action; Public Policy; Community Engagement; and Transparency[4]. The initiative “seeks to mobilize a critical mass of companies in all regions of the world”[5].

Critics sceptical of the CEO Water Mandate suggest that it is a UN sponsored corporate green-washing campaign. For example, Richard Girard of the Polaris Institute refers to the CEO Water Mandate as a “devious initiative by some global water giants to position themselves as environmental stewards while also exercising even more control over water management”[6]. He suggests that corporate participation in the drafting of such global water policy initiatives should be viewed in the broader context of a corporate urgency to commodify and privatize fresh water goods and services. Ultimately, green washing campaigns such as the CEO Water Mandate can be seen as hegemonic constructs that apply productivist logic to global crises in order to legitimise the subordination of socially necessary good and services, such as water and water services, to the growth imperative of the free market.

Furthermore, the non-legal status of this mandate calls attention to the integrity of its framework. It is noted within the CEO Water Mandate report that the initiative is “voluntary and aspirational”[7]. In other words, the CEO Water Mandate is a non-binding agreement which carries no legal significance whatsoever, hence the lack of enforcement mechanisms to monitor signatories’ operations.


  1. The Corporate Responsibility Newswire, CEOs Issue Global Call to Action on Water Crisis, accessed 19 March 2008.
  2. UN Global Compact, The CEO Water Mandate: An initiative by business leaders in partnership with the international community, accessed 19 March 2008.
  3. United Nations Global Compact, Water Sustainability, accessed 11 March 2008.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Polaris Institute, [Coke, Nestlé and Suez push greenwashing envelope to the highest level], accessed 19 March 2008.
  7. UN Global Compact, [CEO Water Mandate], accessed 19 March 2008.