Business action

Business action for access to safe water and sanitation
Addressing this vital human and socio-economic development issue is a key condition to achieving WBCSD’s vision 2050 of “9 billion people living well within the limits of the planet.”

WBCSD and its member companies recognize the business role and opportunity in addressing the challenge of access to safe water and sanitation. A company can’t become a good water steward if its own employees and surrounding communities don’t have access to these essential services. At the same time, 4 billion low income consumers represent largely under exploited markets and potential for entrepreneurship.


1.      Raise awareness and advocate for large-scale business action: build understanding of business case and key success factors that guide businesses in their existing efforts and call upon increased involvement and scaling up.

2.      Reach commitment: support member companies to provide access to safe and equitable water and sanitation for their own employees and aim to reach further to value chains and surrounding communities via employee homes.

3.      Establish cross-sector collaborative action at scale: develop new business models and large scale sustainable projects.

Key principles

  • To respond to local needs and demand;
  • To work in partnership with all the relevant public and private stakeholders;
  • To foster sustainable change in behavior;
  • To be measurable, achievable and scalable;
  • To provide practical, concrete and holistic solutions at scale;
  • To be implemented through cross-sector collaboration between member companies leveraging their respective expertise, products and services;
  • To ensure long-term financial sustainability including operation and maintenance.

Business case

  • Healthy people produce more and miss fewer days of work;
  • The costs of treating diarrheal disease drain national budgets and family finances, which takes resources away from other development objectives, products and services. People without access are limited in their ability to take an active role in wealth creation;
  • Investing into access to water and sanitation yields high economic returns: $1 invested can bring from $4 in returns;
  • 4 billion of rural and urban poor are willing to pay for good quality services and actively participate in their own socio-economic development.

Over 1.8 billion people depend on unsafe drinking water and an estimated 4 billion lack access to basic sanitation
Many businesses have operations, employees, contractors and customers in countries underserved with water and sanitation. The economic and social consequences impair productivity, cause sick days lost to work and school and restrict markets for products and services. Providing access to water and sanitation for the poor is a huge challenge that requires large-scale solutions and investments, as well as cross-sector, public-private partnerships. Business plays a major role in providing the necessary innovations, technologies, products, financial models and other services.

There are many initiatives and projects on access to water and sanitation led by businesses, governments and civil society organizations. However, they are struggling to provide sustainable long-term solutions. There is immense potential for collaborative cross-sector business action to bring holistic and sustainable solutions at scale, while reaching new markets and consumers.

For data on access to water and sanitation visit UNICEFor WaterAid.


For more information, to share your experience or to get involved contact Tatiana Fedotova, fedotova@wbcsd.org

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