Systems thinking, respecting the Yarra River, and the future of water stewardship at the Water Innovation Lab Australia 2018.

OK, there’s a lot to cover here because I just got back from a transformative week with 60 other people in the Yarra Valley – home of the Yarra River, which has been the lifeblood of Melbourne and surrounds since before Europeans arrived. For tens of thousands of years it was called the Birrarung, and the cultural and spiritual heartland of the Wurundjeri people. It is to their elders – past, present, and future – that I pay my respects.

So what is the Water Innovation Lab?

The Waterlution Water Innovation Lab unites “young” (in quotation marks because I don’t think of myself as young!) leaders from across the globe in one place to think holistically about emerging global trends and how established patterns of thinking can be broken. The end goal is to develop solutions that integrate the values and approaches of different disciplines and segments of society.

Over a one week period, we visited numerous sites around Melbourne and the Yarra Valley, speaking to Melbourne Water, their 3 metro water retailers, Melbourne council, and a range of inspirational resource guests from industry partners such as Clearwater, Resilient Melbourne, WSAA, ICE WaRM, and the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, just to name a few. We then withdrew to a camp site in the Yarra Junction to reflect, share knowledge, and innovate, using systems thinking tools that the Waterlution facilitators shared with us.

Melbourne’s Western Treatment Plant

Here’s a little thing I made after we visited the Western Treatment Plant – unlike any conventional wastewater treatment plant I’ve ever seen, the WTP is picturesque, tranquil, and VAST! If we had the luxury of land space we could turn all our treatment plants into places of natural beauty.

Western treatment plant

Find out more about Melbourne’s Sewage Treatment.

What is Systems Thinking?

I admit, before last week, Systems Thinking was something I’d heard of but knew almost nothing about. It is a way of tackling problems from different angles, exploring the relationships between the different “why” variables, as well as identifying influences, dynamics, motivations, processes and patterns.

The Systems Thinker site highlights that many of the solutions or interventions we design (and as engineers and planners, solving problems and delivering solutions is what we do), often address symptoms of a problem and not the underlying cause. This is more likely to result in the solution having unintended consequences.

This was one of the graphics used to highlight the differences between linear and systems thinking:

Tools of a system thinker

So collectively we identified a range of complex problems that we were passionate about and wanted to spend the next few days working on (I’ve written briefly about complex or “wicked” problems here). We defined complexity based on how much agreement and how much certainty currently surrounds the issue.

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My team chose to explore issues relating to the water-energy-food nexus – a topic I’m interested in, as you may already know.

Then using a systems thinking approach, we broke off into teams and what came out was, in a nutshell, this:

Waste transfer market

I’ll go through the systems thinking behind this, and explain the concept further in another post. Although we got a lot of positive feedback from the industry partners and resource guests, a more deserving team ended up winning the seed funding and mentorship prizes.

Some insights from WILAustralia 2018:

Waterlution’s founder, Karen Kun, posits that water could be the catalyst for decreasing global inequality. Until now I had always thought of water as being the cause of global inequality and system stress – we use the terms “water wars“, “water conflict“, and “water scarcity” to link water to emerging social and political trends. Waterlution, for all the language cliches used on the website, genuinely lives and breathes their guiding metaphor of building connections through water. Through their lens, I realise that water can be the catalyst, if we each act as instruments of positive change.

Some of my key insights from the week were:

1. We all have some kind of connection to water in our day-to-day lives

Each person’s narrative may be different but without even realising it, we have more in common with strangers than we thought. What is your water story?

2. It’s hard to properly engage with aboriginal and vulnerable communities if we don’t build genuine and lasting relationships.

“Engagement” at a project level relies on trust, dialogue on an equal footing, and shared visions – these things don’t happen overnight. Build authentic relationships within the communities you serve.

3. Systems thinking

In order to solve the increasingly complex problems we face (climate change, resource security, inequality, poverty, etc), we need to break down traditional ways of thinking and approaching problems. Successful system thinkers are also able to work collaboratively across disciplines, sectors and other divides.

4. Water companies can play a significant role in creating liveable cities if they are given the opportunity to do so.

When council, water authorities, community, business and industry come together to identify patterns and the underlying structures surrounding some of our complex problems, they can design interventions that are more than just band-aid solutions. Melbourne’s Urban Forest Strategy is a good example of an initiative that benefits the whole community.

5. People with diametrically opposing ideas, and different values can still come together to create clever solutions.

If we’re willing to challenge our own biases and boundaries we stand a far better chance of working together successfully than if we view the world only through the lenses that we are accustomed to.

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On our last full day, we shared one insight each with one another, and there are so many more to capture that I don’t think I’ve done this section justice.

What comes after this week of water-based systems thinking?

My group hopes to pitch our idea to others in the water industry to see whether or not the concept has enough substance to be something we can pursue. We will need to explore the barriers and implementation a bit further, and seek out the support that we have identified that we will need to build a basic prototype.

And who were the innovative thinkers on my own team?

and myself.

I see a future where people working in the water sector no longer see solutions in terms of things we can build or repair. We will think about communities. We will think about blue and green infrastructure. We will think about our first nation peoples and vulnerable groups in society. We will be forward thinkers with values rooted in our past and present. We will be compassionate and collaborative leaders.

For me, I see a lot of exciting posts in the pipeline about some of the amazing work that the people I met last week are involved in – from the International Indigenous Youth Council, to some of the other interesting innovations and ideas that members of this group are involved in. As always, watch this space!

Want to see what the future water stewards will look like?

Here are some of them – what makes them remarkable is that they care not only about our water, our future and our communities, they also care about each other and work life balance!

WILAustralia2018 - nexusjournalist

A question that resonated in my mind the Monday after I got home was one that someone put to the group one evening: What will YOU do differently come Monday? Memories fade, and returning to our everyday lives will bring us back to old habits and lifestyles; but hopefully our “Monday moments” will last a long while to come.

More on Water Innovation Lab 2018

To read more about the experiences of the inaugural Water Innovation Lab Australia cohort, check out the following blogs:

  • Emma Milburn – Marketing Manager, Iota Services at South East Water

Who were our amazing facilitators?

I can’t end this without a shout-out to Seanna Davidson, Dona Geagea, and Katia Bratieres, who made this space possible and who looked after all of us for the week; as well as the other fabulous resource guests – you can have a peek at the list here.


Interview: There’s only One Water – CEO David Sparke on rainwater harvesting, and assisting natural stormwater treatment processes.

I was recently fortunate enough to visit OneWater’s ( CEO, David Sparke at his warehouse offices in French’s Forest, Sydney. I got to interview him, meet his team, and chat over a cup of tea on a brisk autumn day. I also took a peek at some of OneWater’s primary and secondary stormwater handling technologies and the engineer in me was impressed by their simple practicality and ease of maintenance. David himself was a keen advocate of stormwater treatment and harvesting, passionately sharing his views on many topics relating to development, planning and water quality in Sydney and surrounds.

Below is the transcript of our interview, annotated from its original raw format for better readability:

Who is David Sparke, and what work does OneWater do?

M: I am here with David Sparke of OneWater. David is the CEO and has been very generous in his time to sit down with me today to do this interview. Let’s start.

D: Thanks, Marlene. David Sparke is my name I’ve been involved with OneWater since 2002 when I established the brand. OneWater was based on the fact that there is only OneWater resource, regardless of how we interact with it in its various forms.

I have had a lifelong interest in water and an association with water. I started off my career with Sydney Water or what was then known as MWSDB, working on constructing gravity mains for sewers in the Northern Beaches. I then continued my career in a bureaucracy before retiring from that to do some undergrad and postgrad studies in international marketing. I eventually came back to water, and built up a business based on management and transfer of water. This evolved into rainwater harvesting, which became topical around the mid to early 2000s when political and media goodwill drove rainwater harvesting projects. The approach was to give people incentives to install rainwater harvesting systems, principally in the domestic space. The introduction of community water grants further created an incentive for schools and community centres to install harvesting systems. This period was quite successful for us.

Since then, Australia has experienced the GFC, along with a decline in housing starts, which shrunk the construction sector, and substantially affected water businesses. We restructured into finding solutions that promoted water quality and water as a resource. At this time I got involved with Austrade on a few water missions to the United States and into China, and gained a good understanding of the water markets and conditions that exist over there. Australia is highly regarded due to our experience from the 2000s, so we’ve got quite a good marketing position and global sense to drive the water market globally.

So what has happened to our attention on water in the last decade?

D: I think water has been overtaken to a large degree by the focus on energy but they do work hand in hand – there’s a Nexus between the two and water is now becoming a little more prominent again on the basis of shortages.

OneWater’s processes avoid adding chemicals or other elements into the water, which is often part of many traditional treatment systems, but which further contaminate the water. We view nature as the ultimate water treatment process and we have to support nature as much as possible to allow the normal processing of water that occurs in natural systems to happen. The OneWater system allows contaminants from say industrial sites (including roads) to be managed by various means in diversion, segmenting small areas and independent treatment – often including an oil/water coalescing system.

M: Thanks David. It’s fascinating that you highlighted Australia’s prominence at one point, ahead of many other developed countries in terms of rainwater harvesting and treatment. You’re able to draw parallels between the water quality in Australia and places in Europe and elsewhere. How do you feel we compare now post GFC [Global Financial Crisis]?

D: Well it’s my view but I think we’ve substantially fallen behind in a lot of aspects in at least the last 10 years. In Australia now I think the emphasis seems to have shifted to landscape architecture as the solution for water quality and the ubiquitous GPT, which in my view is misconceived as a primary treatment device, it’s no more than a separator, and that’s not sufficient for good water quality. It doesn’t sustain ecology – which, when discharging to the waterways, is often the benchmark by which we can say that we are treating water well.

M: Just for our audience could you expand a little on the GPT acronym?

D: GPT stands for gross pollutant trap, which in municipal infrastructure is the primary go to device for stormwater treatment. Ultimately a pits and pipes drainage solution does not adequately address water quality – it’s basically handling the effects of water flow on the surface. 

During a peak stormwater event, the GPT may not be able to cope, or it blocks up, and no treatment is done. Many GPT’s also claim to capture hydrocarbons but the designs and high velocity flows makes this highly improbable. GPT’s also fail to reduce the soluble contaminants that result due to other major issues of algae contamination, oxygen depletion, anoxic reactions with the captured organics and rotting litter with water quality significantly degrading in a relatively short time. The OneWater systemized product solutions and engineered design prevent this by treating all the flows; and by regularly maintaining reset the devices after a storm water event, this approach ensures superior potential for contaminant reductions before release to waterways or wetlands. This systemized treatment train provides support for nature to complete the tertiary treatment. 

Photo by Oliver Swinburne on Unsplash

The OneWater way of handling stormwater

M: Thanks. So OneWater gets involved in rainwater harvesting, stormwater treatment as well as treatment and transfer packages for conventional sewage treatment. You also provide the engineering Design Services associated with these products. Could you give us some examples of some of OneWater’s more notable projects here in Australia or elsewhere?

D: We had a major position in the Sydney market for schools and community projects where we did roof capture and storage, to be used for services such as toilet flushing, air-conditioning, and maintenance needs. These were successful projects that led me to believe that our solution needed to look at the rainwater that ends up on the ground where the majority of our water falls. Roof water capture is convenient as a cost effective solution, but when water ends up on the ground it picks up any contaminants in the catchments. 

M: Yeah that’s a very good point actually because if we’re not treating the diffuse sources, the problem just grows and grows as water travels through the catchment. Someone once described it to me as being like death by a thousand cuts by the time it gets out to the bottom of the catchment.

How can we improve the way we manage stormwater in Australia?

M: You recently gave a great presentation at the Australian Water Association seminar on valuing liveability. What do you see are the opportunities within Australia in particular in our Urban centres for improving the way we currently manage our water and wastewater?

D: In that presentation I had a couple of outlines of the Sydney Basin and it doesn’t take a lot of analysis to see that we don’t have a holistic plan for managing our water sources and I don’t think that that will contribute to  Sydney’s liveability into the future. We’ve got some major projects like just outside here – a $500-million project, but all that’s been installed is drainage. All the vegetation has been cleared to facilitate the infrastructure in place yet the whole ridge has been drained, and it doesn’t to me indicate any focus or any commitment to environmental protection and water quality discharge.

M: That’s a really interesting point David, there’s a lot of land clearing going on in Sydney but also in many other large urban centres around the world. What do you think is the key message here regarding the way we have to deal with storm water and also build new infrastructure?

D: Groundwater represents potentially up to 80% of our available potable water. We’ve also got surface water, and we’ve got harvested water. We’ve got sewage treatment plants which discharge into inland rivers – the Nepean Hawksbury and South Creek. That river system surrounds the Sydney basin. We’ve got a series of ocean outfalls with only screening before release. That water is still a resource if we treat it properly. 

Harvested water can be retained until it is needed.  If a storage volume of at least 100 cubic meters were available there would be a reserve of water to utilise. This form of water conservation ensures that stormwater is not wasted.

M: Hence the term OneWater because it’s the one resource.

D: It’s the OneWater and we have support nature in doing the tertiary treatment, and for the sustainability of our natural water resources. 

Photo by Aman Bhargava on Unsplash

Integrating water ideologies

M: You’ve done a fair bit of work, David, in overseas markets as well. How does Australia compare in terms of adoption of sustainable technologies, as well as the government drive to roll out sustainable technologies, or any other differentiating factors that you’ve noticed?

D: We’ve had a few water missions into China. China has their sponge city ideology, which relies on infiltration technology. In my view this is only a starting point in looking at a more holistic solution. China has got 3 different environmental (climatic) conditions, including a relatively a dry central area, and a tropical south. That presents challenges for an ideology that spreads across the country.

In Australia, we`ve got WSUD (Water Sensitive Urban Design), the USA has LID (Low Impact Development), the British and Europeans have SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems). Although largely similar, we haven’t got a benchmark that everybody can follow and achieve.

There was a NSW state government urban growth discussion paper on water quality, setting vigorous contaminant reduction standards, but the industry was not ready to deviate from the status quo. In water conservation terms, for example in NSW, an original target of 40% reduction in the use of potable water from mains source has exceeded expectations over a 10 year period and it has now been moved to 50%. I’d like to see the aspirational targets for contaminant reduction set for industry, which industry can then plan and attain over time.

We need strong leaders or champions in the stormwater market to push for better water quality and for maintaining the environmental conditions for the ecology. 

Reasons for investing in stormwater quality

M: I think you make a very good point there about our attitudes to stormwater. I was at a WSUD conference earlier this year where somebody mentioned that they worked for the Hong Kong drainage department, and that we need to stop thinking about stormwater as something that needs to be drained away, but rather a resource that we need to treat and make better use of.

To those that are still wondering whether or not to invest in water harvesting or urban rainwater treatment or landscaping, could you go through some of the pros and cons?

D: Stormwater pollution and qualitiy needs investment, and it’s a good market. Major infrastructure projects often treat stormwater as one of the 8 or 10 elements of the project and it consequently does not receive proper prioritisation. Collaboration by an astute investor with our SME creative skills could greatly benefit many projects. I’ve created a conceptual design to improve water quality and back that up with having product solutions that are flexible and not necessarily restricted to projects that are civil works. With a good investment regime, Australia can pick up a lot more of the leadership that’s needed in stormwater and help drive that. As I say there is a substantial market there.

I think I’ve created an approach that can be implemented and I think it can create a strong process model, but I do need some support. As an SME it needs the right investors to do that, and collaboration to pick up and drive good outcomes for stormwater.

M: So correct me if I’m wrong but basically what you offer is a better long term solution that utilises natural processes as well as using a few engineered products as well?

D: The basic concept is that we can’t get the value and the amenity out of water by channelling everything right through the catchment, right through to the bottom of the catchment before we do anything about it. My concept starts at the very top of the catchment so that we’ve got good quality water, we’ve got a fantastic urban amenity and the use of water and the waterways are protected all the way along, and it just seems logical that the top of the catchment is where we need to start. The products that I’ve designed facilitate that catchment issue and can assist in creating our liveable cities of the future.

Last words from OneWater

M: So what’s your vision for OneWater going into the future?

D: I’d like to see a new approach to stormwater management. I use the term harvesting to the whole of the process. The process needs some hydraulic residence time for nature to do it’s work but we shouldn’t be using stormwater and our waterways as a disposal channel. We have to remove those contaminants to a land-based facility and view them as resources that can metamorphose into alternate products. I’d like to set up some collaborations to get some investment and lead stormwater to where it needs to be – positioning it for sustainability and resource resilience.

M: You’ve shared a lot of really good insights with us David. Are there any last things that you’d like to add?

D: I think we can easily apply the product design that I’ve created. It’s well thought out. It’s science-based. It’s materials based. It takes account of the drainage and the regulations and the guidelines for water quality and I think we need to get beyond the heavy engineering concrete pits and pipes and see the value of alternate solutions.


### Author’s note: The Nexus Journalist receives no commission, income or royalties from the publication of this interview, and holds no vested interests in OneWater’s products, services or other offerings. Views and opinions of the interviewee do not necessarily reflect the author’s views ###

5 things I learned as an engineer when I studied Integrated Water Management

A professional engineer discovers Integrated Water Management (but I had no idea what it was really).

I had spent nearly 8 years working as an engineer (mechanical if you must know) in the water sector – in construction, consulting, and for a water utility company by the time I decided that I needed to further my education and learn something new. By 2009 I’d gained enough experience to get my Engineering Chartership – an important feather in your cap if you want to approve engineering designs and mentor younger engineers.

I knew I wanted to pursue a career in water. I was also at that stage in my career where I could see a vast field of opportunities ahead of me and wanted to put myself ahead of the competition, even though I wasn’t entirely sure at that point whether I wanted to pursue promotion in a technical role, or move into management.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Like anyone else who grew up in the age of discount air fares and easy travel, the world was my oyster, so I started looking up courses in water management that I could do – from the United Kingdom, to the Netherlands, to North America, and Asia. I finally landed on the Master of Integrated Water Management, delivered of course, in Australia where I grew up. By this point I was living in London, with no immediate plans to move back to Australia. Luckily I was able to study by distance education. Online teaching technology was still relatively new and not without hiccups, but it worked. I tied the compulsory field trips in with visits to family, and worked full time, whilst studying part time over the next 3 years. It wasn’t easy.

What I learned during my studies in Integrated Water Resource Management

Coming from a background of hard-nosed contract managers and gruff construction engineers, the world of IWRM was totally different. In my cohort of students there were professionals from all sorts of backgrounds – educators, environmentalists, engineers, hydrogeologists, ecologists, lawyers, economists and more. It was truly humbling and educational just being around them. They came from all over the globe – Kenya, Zambia, USA, Canada, Chile, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, China, Vanuatu and Australia to name just a few countries. This course wasn’t going to just be about the best methods for excavating rocky soil, the best process for treating sewage, the safest way to construct a building, or most cost effective way to deliver a project. No it was so much more, which I’ll cover in other posts going forward.

For me, the 5 stand-out lessons were:

1. Rivers truly are the lifeblood of a city.

Rivers have throughout history provided societies with the means to grow food, live comfortably, transport goods, and stay hygienic. Amazing cities have grown up around rivers over the centuries, and slowly we’ve cleared away the trees and vegetation lining the river banks that protect them from erosion, flooding and pollution. Now that we know the importance of rivers in creating livable cities, governments worldwide are undertaking riparian restoration projects to return rivers a more natural state.

I learned how this can be done.

2. There are economic and social costs of not managing our natural resources carefully or engaging with local stakeholders

In the short term, fighting over who has the right to build on a particular piece of land or extract from a particular part of the river costs projects time and money. In the long term, if a project hasn’t considered the impacts to the environment or to local communities of a new scheme, the costs to the environment or community in terms of economic productivity, ecological impact or collective happiness may outweigh the benefits provided by the scheme. This is neither good for the Client, community, nor the company delivering the scheme – potentially costing $20 million per week. It is easy for a company that is just following instructions of a Client to pass environmental assessment and community engagement off as the Client’s responsibility, when in reality everybody holds responsibility in a project’s decision-making processes.

We have a duty to identify both short and long term scheme costs and benefits, and properly risk assess with communities in mind.

3. Everyone has competing values – they’re not necessarily right or wrong, just different

I once asked a respected professor how we decide what the “right” decision is on a project. Take for example a mine that excavates a mineral that is used in everyday products that we can’t live without – the mine provides a service that people need, and contributes to the economy. It provides jobs for the employees of the mine and for the local community. Yet it leaves an irreversible impact on the environment, often quite detrimental, which can’t simply be offset by planting some trees elsewhere. This impact on the environment may also have its own economic impacts in the longer term, or perhaps impact the cultural traditions of indigenous communities.

Know that our actions have consequences, no matter how good the intention.

4. We are faced with Wicked Problems

The previous point brings us to Wicked Problems. The fact that the world’s natural resources are finite and our population is ever growing means that we are faced with complex social problems that often have no solution. A wicked problem may by dealt with using approaches to improve the situation for those affected, but since each problem is unique and dependent on context and perspective, there is no template for how one should approach them.

Learn to listen to Wicked Problems and don’t assume there is an easy answer.

5. We need to rethink how we define the success of a project

I’ve spent my career delivering and managing projects. A successful project is often defined by whether or not the Client’s Brief is met on time and under budget. In recent years another key metric used is Client feedback – is your Client happy with the way you delivered the project as well as the end result? Yet it’s not often that projects are monitored and evaluated over a longer time-frame – over the life of the installed asset, or over a generation of the affected communities.

We don’t budget for ongoing monitoring and evaluation. We tend not to measure less tangible benefits such as social impact, goodwill, compliance or customer satisfaction. That doesn’t mean they are any less important.

Photo by The Climate Reality Project 01 on Unsplash

Actually there’s a sixth lesson

I’m forgetting one last important thing that funnily enough I hadn’t appreciated until I was more deeply immersed in my coursework. It’s women. Women are a catalyst for social change in ways that have been invisible throughout history, and women will continue to be the driving force for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and for effecting social change going into the future.

As a mother to a young boy I wonder what the world will be like when my son is a grown man. I will teach him that he is important. I will teach him that there are still places in the world where he will still be told he is more important than his female counterparts, and that this is unlikely to be true. I will teach him that there are also adversities facing young men that we have yet to address properly. Yet he will know that women in the community undertake many invisible jobs – jobs that have not yet received the proper recognition in our society. Women also wield influence, and have some great ideas and inspiring energy for making their societies a better place to live.

We need to let women do what they do best, but also recognize and celebrate their achievements.

Sorry for the long post. I’m not quite sure how to end this, so I’m just going to leave this here:


Why business leaders should sign up to the CEO Water Mandate

What is the CEO water mandate?

The CEO Water Mandate calls on business leaders globally to take action on water stewardship.

The endorsing companies recognize that much more can be done to reduce water risks to businesses, seize water-related opportunities, and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. Doing so places a value on shared water resources; sustainability of water usage is interwoven into business strategy. The CEO Water Mandate works to “address challenges related to water scarcity, water quality, water governance, and access to water and sanitation”.

What benefit does signing up to the CEO water mandate bring to businesses?

The private sector recognizes that there is a need to understand the risks posed by climate change, and plan for future uncertainties. The Business Alliance for Water and Climate calls for collaboration between companies to :

  • Share and analyse water-related risks in order to develop response strategies.
  • Measure and report water use data
  • Reduce impacts on water supplies in operations and throughout the value chain.

In addition to collaborating with others to better understand the water-related risks to your business (a benefit that is in itself a reason to join such a movement), the CEO water mandate also allows you to:

  • Strengthen your brand by reaffirming your commitment to sustainable business practices
  • Optimize your supply chain and operations, by identifying where these areas may be exposed to water-related risks
  • Build relationships with key partners who share your values
  • Access the experience and expertise of other like-minded organisations
  • Increase your ability to affect public policy, as a thought leader in your field, and as part of a partnership of leading organisations
  • Engage with your customers and community through working groups, collective action, and meaningful corporate and social responsibility strategies.

Many businesses have risen to the challenge of reviewing and improving their water usage to create a more sustainable relationship with local waterways. The Business for Water platform has been working with corporations to do just this for the last 20 years, using verifiable metrics.

Business water risks infographic:

Water-risk infographic

Who has signed up to it so far?

The current list of endorsing companies is expected to grow as more and more businesses come to understand the importance of water stewardship to their future success.

The Innovation diffusion model tells us that behavioral change broadly follows 5 phases – the innovators are the first to embrace new concepts or products, followed by the early adopters, early majority, late majority, then the laggards.

The names of the innovators and early adopters who signed up in the early days of the CEO Water Mandate are hardly a surprise – many are known for progressive workplace policies, work done to create sustainable supply chains, or authentic and high profile corporate and social responsibility activities.

In more recent times, we’ve seen personal products company Colgate Palmolive, Japanese food products maker Kikkoman, the Ford motor company, and educational research institutions such as the International Water Centre also endorse the mandate.

They are diverse in the products and services they offer, yet the one thing these organisations have in common is that they are leaders in their respective industries – Because water stewardship is for everyone.

Don’t be a laggard. Read this article to see if your business may be at risk, and consider signing up to the CEO Water Mandate if your organisation has not already done so. Take action and follow the business alliance for water and climate, or join a working group to develop tools and resources that will help your business tackle water-related challenges and needs.

Finally the words of the highly successful CEO of Pernod Ricard, Alexandre Ricard states: We are a business, first of all. In today’s world, every single business has a duty of giving back to society.

Your career does not define you but your actions do

I started this website when I was at a cross-road in my life. Some of you might know the one. You realize that you’ve done reasonably well so far in your career, but you’ve spent the last 15 years of your career chasing one opportunity after the other, balancing someone else’s P&Ls, and helping someone else to manage their business. Running on the hamster wheel. You have more or less enjoyed your work (or not!), and have met some great people along the way, but now there’s this gnawing feeling of “what else is there?”. You may even have an existential crisis or two. If you’re a millennial, you probably already know that this is not an uncommon phenomenon for your generation. If you’re a Xennial like me, you’ve probably still got a handful of friends who’ve been at the same company for the last 15 years, but also friends who keep jumping at the next big opportunity. I don’t know the secret formula to a long, successful and fulfilling career.

What I do know is that there’s no right or wrong way of doing things. You are not defined by your career.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

This one cup can save the world

The quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world” is often wrongly attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, but this convenient bumper sticker slogan holds a certain amount of truth. It is aspirational and excitingly laden with hope.

There are some great TED talks out there on making a difference while making a living. I’m going to leave you with one that I listened to today by Audrey Choi – I’m totally that person who hopes that my one reusable cup may inspire others to use one too, and that this one cup may just cause some kind of ripple effect to save the world.

Today, we’ll do better

If you’re an individual, you can choose any time to find your true north in your career. Do it today. Do it now.

If you’re a business executive, now is the time to build your business case for better environmental stewardship in your organisation. Business heavyweights like Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Bill Gates are investing in sustainable innovation, greener supply chains and clean technology. Not to mention other household names like Ikea , Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Marks and Spencer and other companies on the Forbes World’s Most Sustainable Companies List – and it’s not just greenwashing, it’s an investment in the future.