The end of the year is often a time for resolutions and reflections. Especially in 2020 – a year that has caused us to change our behavior, examine our priorities and think deeply about our world’s challenges and how we can address them. Ecolab is a hygiene company, and so much of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic this year has been helping our customers keep hospitals, public spaces and working environments clean, safe and healthy in the face of a global pandemic. But Ecolab is also a water company, and we have a unique view into how water scarcity and inequity impacts public health.
Water shortages are becoming all too common, as demand is increasing due to population and economic growth and supply is becoming less reliable because of extreme weather driven by climate change.
It’s critical that we build the resilience of watersheds around the world so they can withstand these increasingly unpredictable pressures and are able to consistently supply abundant, clean water for all.
The resilience of our water resources contributes to the resilience of our communities. We need clean, safe water for effective hygiene and to respond to public health crises like the pandemic. Vulnerable populations are especially at risk. You can’t wash your hands without clean water and it’s difficult to physically distance if you have to leave your house to retrieve water for daily use.
Water also is critical to business and economic resilience. Virtually every industry relies on water to operate and grow. In the next three decades, according to World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the demand for water will increase by 40–50% for the global food system, by 50–70% for the municipal and industrial sector and by 85% for the energy sector.
Ecolab has a long history of helping our customers integrate smart water management and water stewardship into their operations and partnering with organizations around the world to build water resilience.
Earlier this year, we co-founded the Water Resilience Coalition, part of the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate. The initiative brings together multi-national corporations in an industry-led movement to combat the global water crisis through ambitious, quantifiable commitments and collective action.
This collective action, both from the private and public sectors, is incredibly important in ensuring our water resilience work makes an impact. Much of the Coalition’s collective action focuses on local work to address the specific needs of at-risk watersheds. However, we also look to bring scale to corporate action on water through global initiatives that span a wide range of sectors and audiences. A recent example is the #WaterIsResilience campaign, developed by the Water Resilience Coalition and WaterAid, which aims to bring clean water and good hygiene to the top of corporate agendas and help share how water action can save lives.
One of the Water Resilience Coalition’s core commitments is to deliver a measurable net positive water impact in water-stressed basins, focusing on freshwater availability, quality and accessibility. Ecolab’s recent partnership with Water.org will help us reach that goal in key at-risk watersheds in India.
Through a financial contribution from the Ecolab Foundation, the partnership aims to provide access to sustainable drinking water and improved sanitation for 100,000 people living in poverty in India, while contributing more than 26 million gallons of water per year to watershed health in extremely high-stress river basins in which Ecolab operates facilities. These areas include the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Konnagar, Baroda, Jamshedpur, Kolkata and Pune.
Together, we’re working toward three objectives:
- Social responsibility: Supporting communities, families and workers living in areas where Ecolab operates.
- Accessibility: Providing equitable access to water, sanitation and hygiene solutions to people living in poverty.
- Quantity: Enabling positive, lasting water benefits in high-stress watersheds.
These types of partnerships are an important step toward a water-resilient world. Businesses are in a unique position to work together and use their reach and resources to accelerate progress. Our work with Water.org is one tangible way we’re taking action as an organization to help build community and economic resilience and equitable access to freshwater.
Water is both a shared resource and a shared responsibility. It will take collaborative action from all stakeholders to move the needle at the scale and speed required. As we face a world where a lack of access to clean, safe water can have dramatic implications on daily life and public health, I hope you will join us in our pledge and work to reduce water stress while building resilience in our businesses and communities.