Based on research by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), it is estimated that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water-stressed conditions. These conditions arose from increased global population, pollution (untreated human waste, use of fertilizers), and agriculture (irrigation and exceeding water resource limits). Governments and NGOs have been working diligently to combat this crisis, but the private sector also has a crucial role to play. By leveraging their resources, skills, and innovation, businesses can contribute significantly to addressing water scarcity and improving water security worldwide.
- Investment in Water Infrastructure
Coca-Cola, through its Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN), has committed to improving access to clean water for communities across Africa. The effect of the multinational’s initiative is felt in thirty-seven (37) countries on the continent (Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Uganda, Swaziland, Egypt, and South Africa, among many others). As part of this drive, the company has funded numerous water infrastructure projects, including the construction of water supply systems and the provision of sanitation facilities in schools. To date, RAIN has benefited more than 6 million people across the continent.
Furthermore, Global Water Challenge (GWC), an initiative of the Global Environment and Technology Foundation (GETF) has partnered with the previously mentioned bottling multinational (Coca Cola) as well as fifty (50) other development oriented companies like Ford Motor Company, Dow, The Hilton Foundation, and Wallace Genetic, to deploy “expertise and networks to achieve universal access to safe and affordable drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in communities around the world.” They provide support through spreading shared water use and supply chain reporting standards, sourcing grants, and incubating technologies.
- Technological Innovations
Procter & Gamble (P&G), a multinational consumer goods corporation, with representation in ninety-three (93) countries and with over one hundred and fifty (150) partners in their portfolio has developed the P&G Purifier of Water packet, a low-cost water purification technology that can quickly turn contaminated water into clean drinking water. The purification packets are endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and claim to remove more than 99.99999% of common waterborne bacteria (including those that cause cholera), 99.9% of protozoa, 99.99% of common waterborne viruses (including those that cause Hepatitis A). Their sciences revolve around flocculation, coagulation, and disinfection. This innovation has been widely distributed in developing countries, helping millions of people gain access to safe water during emergencies and natural disasters. Over twenty (20) billion liters of clean water has been distributed.
- Corporate Water Stewardship
Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, has implemented comprehensive water stewardship initiatives across its operations. One of their many efforts in driving the clean and affordable water course is their membership as a founding member in the California Water Action Initiative. Other undertakings like the support of 226,685 beneficiaries in rural communities who were provided access to clean water and sanitation through their partnership with IFRC has helped secure their status as a multinational with serious intentions regarding water security in areas affected by natural disasters or internal distress. The company has set ambitious water reduction targets for 2030 and 2050 and has invested in water-saving technologies and processes at its production facilities. Nestlé also actively engages with local communities and farmers to promote sustainable water use in agriculture. They directly partner with close to a million farmers. Over time, they have tried to offset the massive amount of water they use in their business operations by dedicating 400 times that amount (64 billion cubic meters) to agricultural purposes. They are proponents of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the global community and believe that water is a human right that should be accessed by all.
- Public-Private Partnerships
In 2016, Gap Inc., a leading global fashion retailer, partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in a five (5) year collaboration called the Women + Water Alliance. By 2022, Gap Inc. reported in a press release that they had exceeded the partnership’s goal to empower two (2) million people by improving their access to water and sanitation. Although the impact of the USAID / Gap Inc. partnership will mostly be felt in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh in India, the yield from the farming processes which benefit from the joint enterprise will traverse the globe (cotton products). The public-private partnership discussed here particularly aims at improving water security for communities in India by increasing access to clean water and sanitation services, thereby promoting efficient water use in the textile industry, and empowering women as agents of change.
- Raising Awareness and Promoting Education
Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company, has used its global reach to raise awareness about the importance of water conservation and sanitation. Through its Lifebuoy soap brand, Unilever has initiated handwashing education campaigns in schools and communities across the world, emphasizing the role of clean water in maintaining good hygiene and preventing diseases. The product itself comes in various types (sprays, refill bottles) but handwashing is the main message with children as the main form factor for education and dissemination of the message. The company boasts of reaching a billion people from this program alone and plans to educate five-hundred (500) million yearly.
In conclusion, the global water crisis is a complex problem that demands collaborative and multi-faceted solutions. With a multifaceted water solutions strategy, the range of options for upgrading global water infrastructure will, among many other benefits, drive technological innovations, and utilize up to date water management practices. With the added advantage of collaborating with governments and NGOs there is a sure guarantee that the private sector can make a significant impact in addressing water scarcity and present more resilient solutions to the water problem.