The sixth of the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals is dedicated to ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. What does progress toward such an ambitious goal even look like?
Working with WWF, I’ve witnessed this kind of progress firsthand, and it takes many forms: women in Guatemala and Honduras who are happier, healthier, and working to preserve their environment for future generations; communities gaining the knowledge and resources to combat invasive species in Vietnam; and volunteers who are rebuilding water-cleansing wetlands in China.
These projects, which came to fruition and started paying off in a few short years, have something in common: they were all collaborations of nonprofits, governments, and businesses. If these projects were left solely to the responsibility of governments and local nonprofits, they would probably still happen—but success would take longer, and the journey would be harder.
Businesses also benefit, which in this case is The Coca-Cola Company. Water is a shared resource. Coca-Cola needs it too—for everything from growing their ingredients and to manufacturing their beverages. By investing now to protect freshwater resources, they are investing in the future and their ability to continue making products.
Now that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are official, governments will start focusing on implementation. The lessons learned from corporate water stewards like Coca-Cola can prove invaluable around the world, particularly as we try to reach the freshwater goal.
A water crisis is looming. Some businesses were early to recognize it: first as a risk—something to address to protect the bottom line—and then as an opportunity—something the private sector can lead on by pioneering innovative solutions. Our work with Coca-Cola began in 2007 and set an early bar. Our goal was to help a corporate giant become a leader by developing and implementing a water stewardship strategy that went far beyond their fence lines to benefit freshwater ecosystems and communities, spur cross-sector collaboration, and drive policy changes in basins around the world. Today, many companies are taking a similar approach and embracing corporate water stewardship strategies that benefit people, planet and profit.
Governments need to recognize this. The private sector offers more than finance and technology toward SDG implementation; businesses can bring the nimbleness, resources, and dedication required to make big changes on issues that require urgent solutions. Corporate water stewards have experience partnering across sectors and with local communities to secure water. Fifteen years will pass quickly as we try to undo much of the harm already done to freshwater ecosystems, but by working together, we stand a better chance of achieving our ambitious global goal on water.
Learn more about how corporate water stewards can help deliver on Goal 6 in this brief.