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Public and private sector collaboration to advocate for sustainable water for all


2015 is set to be a crucial year for the future of the world’s freshwater sources. This September, the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) will be finalised and the outcome will determine how the world’s governments approach two of our most critical inter-related challenges: water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and freshwater ecosystem conservation.

WWF’s conservation work in the greater Mekong © Thomas CristofolettiWWF’s conservation work in the greater Mekong © Thomas Cristofoletti

Water – the number one risk to global growth

In January 2015, the World Economic Forum published its Global Risk Report, which ranks water crises first among the global risks of highest concern for global growth because of the systemic importance of water for global economic activity.

The drivers of these economic risks are the same as those causing the decline of our freshwater ecosystems and affecting communities: poor management of the rivers, lakes and aquifers which supply our water.

Working in partnership to address water risks

If we are going to address these risks and live in a water-secure world, we need to ensure that the final goal remains ambitious and that we are committed earnestly to achieving it. No one country, sector or organisation will be able to deliver the goal independently. Governments, NGO’s and the private sector will need to come together and work in partnership.

In recognition of the shared risk and collective action required to minimise their impact WWF are currently working with Wateraid, HSBC and Earthwatch on The HSBC Water Programme. This is a five-year programme to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene to communities in need, protect key river basins and promote the value of water to HSBC employees.

In light of the current negotiations of the future of the world’s freshwater, WWF and Wateraid decided to join forces to advocate together for the first time.  We along with a host of companies and their representatives came together to issue an open letter in support of the dedicated water and sanitation goal currently proposed as part of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development framework.

The interdependencies between WASH and freshwater ecosystem conservation

We wanted to highlight the interdependencies between water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and freshwater ecosystem conservation. WASH development efforts and freshwater conservation reinforce each other and depend on each other to succeed. Well planned sanitation programmes ensure wastewater is treated and disposed of properly, which protects freshwater and coastal ecosystems downstream, as well as safeguarding the local communities’ health. Freshwater conservation measures ensure a continued supply of good quality water that communities can access. It is essential that there is an integrated and ambitious programme of action underpinning the goal.

Young boys fishing, Ganges, India ©  Michele Depraz / WWF-CanonYoung boys fishing, Ganges, India © Michele Depraz / WWF-Canon

A collective voice for the future framework

Along with NGO’s and Governments the private sector also has a critical role to play in the sustainable management of our water resources. That is why it is fantastic that so many companies and organizations—including our partners here in the UK, HSBC and SAB Miller – have come together to provide such a strong collective voice of support for the maintenance of water and sanitation goal as it is currently proposed in the final framework.

Water and sanitation are fundamental to ensuring human, economic and environmental development and will underpin progress across a range of SDGs. Goal 6 which focuses on these elements can only be achieved with a holistic agenda; drinking water and sanitation targets are inherently connected to the water quality and efficiency and ecosystem management targets, which is why WaterAid, WWF and a number of our corporate partners have collaborated to release this statement. The range of partners who have signed on shows that responsibility for achieving it lies with actors across multiple sectors and it is clear that multi-stakeholder collaboration between governments, NGOs, the private sector and communities will be critical to achieving the goals.

– Hannah Greig, Private Sector Advisor, WaterAid.

It’s the start of an exciting journey! Working together will give us a much better change of achieving the seemingly impossible – sustainable water management for all.

Read the joint statement on access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) PDF

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