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Earth Day and Water Day 2016: Ensuring corporate social responsibility when it comes to protecting the environment

corporate social responsibilityCorporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the voluntary activities undertaken by a company to operate in an economic, social, and environmentally sustainable manner.

In light of Earth Day (celebrated annually on April 22) and World Water Day (celebrated annually on March 22), we thought we would provide employers with a background on the internationally observed days, as well as discuss what can be done to ensure their business is operated in an economically, socially, and environmentally responsible way.

Management and lessening of social and environmental risk factors are significantly important for business success abroad, as the costs to companies of losing that “social license” may be considerable. As Canadian businesses explore global opportunities, incorporation of responsible business practices not only benefit local economies and communities, but it makes “good business sense”.

Click here to see how the Government of Canada supports CSR.


Earth Day

This year, Earth Day coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which will take place at UN Headquarters in New York. On December 12, 2015, the Agreement was adopted by all 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP21 in Paris. In the agreement, all countries agree to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the grave risks, to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Earth Day was first celebrated in the United States in 1970 and is organised by the Earth Day Network. Twenty years later, Earth Day went global, taking environmental issues onto the world stage. Today, more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

This year’s theme is “Trees for the Earth”, setting the goal of planting 7.8 billion trees over the next five years. Why Trees? Trees help combat climate change, they help us breathe clean air, as well as help counteract the loss of species, and help communities and their livelihoods.

What can employers do?

  • Join Earth Day Network in its effort to plant more trees. You can organize a team to plant trees in your neighborhood or donate to The Canopy Project.
  • Make a substantial tree planting commitment.
  • Lead a recycling drive to collect as much plastic, metal, and glass as possible.
  • Recycle your electronic waste.
  • Reduce the amount of “junk mail”.
  • Invite an expert, such as a professor or a forester, to educate your employees about climate change, the importance of trees, and about how to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Join the movement”. Sign up to receive updates and stay involved.
  • Track your online energy use. There’s a new Chrome plug-in called Earth Mode that tracks your energy used online and calculates how many trees need to be planted to offset that energy usage.

Interested in learning more? Visit the “Take Action” page to get more information on what you can do!


World Water Day

Water is not only vital for the human body, but also for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development.

According to the United Nations (“UN”), almost half of the world’s workers (1.5 billion people) currently work in water related sectors and almost all jobs, regardless of the sector, depend on water. However, despite this link between water and jobs, millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or protected by basic labour rights.

Each year, UN-Water (the entity that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation) establishes a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge. The theme of World Water Day 2016 focused on the central role that water plays in creating and supporting good quality jobs. The theme focuses on how enough quantity and quality of water cannot only change workers’ lives and livelihoods, but also transform societies and economies.

For instance, in the irrigated agriculture sector, which represents 70 percent of freshwater withdrawals worldwide, a farmer’s job depends on their ability to manage the available freshwater while at the same time facing challenges such as groundwater depletion, climate change, and water scarcity.

The World Water Development Report 2016 (“WWDR 2016”) was released on March 22, 2016. The WWDR is an annual report that focuses on different strategic water issues and looks to provide decision makers with the tools “to implement sustainable use of our water resources.”

This WWDR “calls for concerted long-term decision making to address the core trends and interlinkages affecting the water and jobs nexus.”

The WWDR concluded that,

[t]o effectively achieve these social and political goals, a comprehensive approach that fosters integrity, transparency, accountability, participation and anti-corruption is required. Setting up participatory and accountability mechanisms such as community monitoring, social or community auditing, with an emphasis on gender parity represents a sound approach to ensuring that implementation of water and employment actions result in sustainable and shared benefits.

What can employers do?

According to the UN, tens of thousands of people get involved in World Water Day every year. The following are some suggested activities made by the UN:

  • Make your voice heard on social media (e.g. send a selfie or groupie on how water is part of your daily job).
  • Organize a debate in your school, university, community, office, or organization. Visit the “Tools” page to download the World Water Day logo to use on your material, as well as posters and banners to use at your events.
  • Organize an event and promote it with the UN. You can register your event on the “Events” page to promote your activities to the world.

Interested in learning more? Visit the “Learn” page to get more information on what you can do!

Cristina Lavecchia

Cristina is an editor and researcher at First Reference. She is a licensed paralegal and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, Political Science major at York University. During Cristina's paralegal and undergraduate studies she studied employment standards, occupational health and safety, and workplace safety and insurance. Read more

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