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Centre for Building Sustainable Value

Julian Koelbel

Julian KoelbelJulian Koelbel
ETZ Zurich

Exploring strategy for common pool resources: How do corporations manage water risks?

This study explores the strategies that multinational companies employ to manage water risks. The common pool resource characteristics of water confront companies with a strategic dilemma, because a priori, the only rational strategy seems to be selfish exploitation. Yet, twelve in-depth case studies reveal that there are four different archetypical response strategies, none of which resembles selfish exploitation. I theorize that the choice of strategy is guided by the degree of water risk, and the degree to which this water risk is shared with others. Contrasting these four strategies with common pool resource economics reveals that all strategies can be rational choices, if viewed in a sequential model.


Julian is a PhD candidate at SusTec since October 2011. Previously, he completed a BSc of Environmental Science at ETH Zurich and an MSc of Water Science, Policy and Management at the University of Oxford. Julian has won the best student paper award at the UN PRI conference in Paris, in 2013 for a paper on media coverage of corporate social irresponsibility. He is passionate about teaching corporate sustainability and sustainable finance in meaningful formats and with a critical perspective. Julian’s research interests are risk and risk management in the context of corporate sustainability, focusing in particular on the agenda-setting role of the media and risks related to water scarcity.