Sanitation is quickly gaining prominence as one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century. Prior to the expiration of the MDGs in 2015, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson has initiated a renewed effort to drive progress on sanitation through his Call to Action. In particular, Mr. Eliasson has called on all actors, including business, to commit to measurable action and to mobilize the necessary resources to rapidly increase access to basic sanitation. This white paper responds to this call to action by exploring why action on sanitation is a moral imperative for companies around the world, and why there is also a good business case for doing so. It discusses not only the business risks resulting from a lack of sanitation, but also the business opportunities and benefits offered by sanitation interventions. The UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate believes that articulating this business case is an essential step in encouraging the private sector to act as champions and facilitators of improving access to sanitation worldwide. The paper focuses on unpacking the business drivers for action on sanitation as well as on presenting a framework for how companies can support sanitation objectives.
The findings and suggestions in this paper are based on a review of existing corporate disclosure documents, academic studies, UN and WHO statistics, a series of interviews conducted with representatives from a range of businesses and civil society organizations, and in-depth consultations with subject area experts at WaterAid. Some findings are based on suggestive evidence and thus will benefit from further academic and field research and ground-truthing. This exploratory paper captures ideas and concepts being discussed and implemented by some companies and their stakeholders.