This article is the second in a four-part series in Impakter Magazine highlighting private sector leadership supporting the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Global SDG Awards seek to recognize and celebrate companies that are creating profitable and innovative solutions with the potential to create a sustainable and more equitable world.
“Water is everybody’s business.” This was the first sentence from August’s World Water Week 2018 report. The annual interdisciplinary and cross-sector event examines and encourages the partnerships, investments and innovations occurring globally that support UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #6 – Clean Water and Sanitation.
Throughout the discussions – in which a record number of attendees from research institutions and both public and private sectors participated – two facts were clear. The first was that investing in water will be central to achieving the 2030 Development Agenda. Secondly, at current investment rates, we are unlikely to achieve key SDG targets related to water and sanitation.
A 2017 report jointly commissioned by WBCSD, WaterAid and the UN Global Compact supports the importance of achieving Goal 6. Access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (also known as “WASH”) is also at the core of meeting many other SDGs, including poverty elimination, the improvement of global health, access to education and increasing economic prosperity.
A new perspective on achieving water security and sanitation
In 2012, the World Health Organization calculated that for every $1 USD invested in water and sanitation, $4 USD is generated due to increased worker health and productivity.
Consider the following: 80% of global trade occurs through the value chains of multinational companies. In addition to this, nearly one-fifth of the world’s population is employed at some level of these global supply chains, and up to 90% of these workers work in countries with the highest water stress levels. Combine this with the financial return on water and sanitation, and it makes sense for these transnational enterprises to focus on Goal #6, for both profit and the well-being of the communities in which they operate.
World Water Week 2018 called for a systems-based approach that will jumpstart economic development using water security as the core. This systems perspective will drive the development of new technologies and business models, and will create new markets in which all stakeholders can prosper.
A systems approach to achieving Goal #6 is longitudinal and requires efforts that transcend national boundaries and the siloed nature of many industries. Because of this, multinational companies are in a unique position to reach through their supply chains and incorporate the best practices for water and sanitation management for their products and the workers who manufacture them.