Sustainability through Natural Resource Stewardship

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For decades ISO standards have helped to ensure the quality, safety, reliability, and efficiency of products and services. However, organisations now need to tackle a range of longer-term strategic challenges to address stakeholders’ expectations of good governance, environmental stewardship, sustainability and social responsibility.

When the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) begins developing a standard, leading minds gather to debate issues such as strategic risk management, environmental performance, quality assurance, supply chain management and socially responsible behaviour to achieve global agreement on organisational best practices, expectations and guidance.

Sustainability starts with Governance & Risk Management

ISO 31000:2018 Standard on risk management takes these issues into account and supports sustainability by providing direction on how organisations can integrate risk-based decision-making into governance, planning, management, reporting, policies, values and culture.

The ISO 31000:2018 definition of risk is different to the traditional approach to financial risk management, in that the Standard defines risk as being the effect of uncertainty on objectives. These effects can be either a positive  or negative deviation from the objective, and may result in opportunity or threat. Sustainable-thinking helps organisations to set responsible objectives, and the Standard’s risk assessment process supports this approach. Unlike the financial approach that restricts risk management to loss, ISO 31000:2018 adopts the concept of a positive outcome as well.

The Standard helps to embed sustainability into the core business to allow teams to collaborate using the principles, framework and process of risk management in ISO 31000. The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) promotes this thinking on risk to CFOs, and states that accounting is fundamentally a social practice and not a technical one.

“When we understand the full dimensions of accounting we also get to appreciate how morality is at its core.” – IFAC

The benefits of Environmental Stewardship

Morality is central to the concept of stewardship, which is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. Environmental stewardship recognises that we cannot live without the many and varied benefits of ecosystem services, such as benefits derived from agroecosystems, forest ecosystems, grassland ecosystems and aquatic ecosystems.

For some corporates, stewardship represents how they are defining their role in environmental management challenges. Water is the ultimate shared resource. But water can only be managed sustainably if all users work together to ensure that it is responsibly governed and shared. A collaborative approach helps to build trusted relationships between multiple sectors as well as across silos within government and industry, and allows for the type of technical, behavioural and political changes necessary to improve water governance at global, national and community levels.

Case study: The Coca-Cola Company

Clean water is the vital ingredient in Coca-Cola’s beverages, and for various processes in the manufacturing cycle. The organisation’s approach to water stewardship is written into the corporate water strategy, which aims to return as much water to nature and to communities as it uses by 2020. Coca-Cola has applied the same  comprehensive risk assessments that the organisation uses for its strategy to understand global water challenges. The strategy takes into account water management at bottling plants and extends to catchment management, sustainable communities, and raising awareness to inspire other people and organisations to act.

Community & Global Partnerships

To meet the goal of replenishing all the water it uses, Coca-Cola invests in community water partnership projects. One of the largest collaborations is with the United States Agency for International Development and local bottling companies to protect and improve sustainability of catchments, increase people’s access to water and sanitation, and improve water use in 23 countries, including Africa. The company raises global awareness of water stewardship through The 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG), and the CEO mandate.

Reducing water use across the organisation

The company manages its water use ratio through a system-wide sustainability standard. Bottling plants assess water used to make beverages, and water usage in by surrounding communities.

The benefits from water stewardship for Coca-Cola include, watershed protection and conservation; expanding community drinking water and sanitation access, and improving water for productive use.

Coca-Cola is an ISO champion

Coca-Cola is the largest user of ISO management system standards, integrating ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 22000 and ISO 26000 into its total management system. To establish a governance process, businesses within the system implement, document and maintain a safety and quality system aligned to the organisation’s total management system.

For ISO 14001 alone, the organisation’s achievements for water sustainability, energy-savings, reducing CO2 emissions and total waste to landfill are impressive.

For more information or guidance on which ISO standard(s) and services would best suit the needs of your organisation, please email Risk ZA at or contact us on 0861 Risk ZA / +27 (0) 31 569 5900.

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1 thought on “Sustainability through Natural Resource Stewardship”

  1. Brilliant example of Coco-cola. Good to see if every large corporation would highlight at least one of their key natural resource around which to make a lasting difference. Mining with land stewardship, transport companies with air quality, Fisheries with oceans, etc.


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