New initiative introduced on World Water Day supports business action towards the SDG on universal access to water and sanitation

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21 March, 2016




Today is World Water Day. This year’s theme,Water and Jobs highlights that nearly all jobs and businesses depend on water, yet 38 workers die every hour from water-related diseases. 

New York/Geneva, 22 March 2016 – How can companies build a world where all workers have access to clean water and safe sanitation at the workplace? While signing and implementing WBCSD’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) at the workplace Pledge is an important first step, business can do more.

To support increased efforts on WASH, WBCSD joined the WASH4Work initiative, a coalition of partners aiming to mobilize greater business action to address WASH challenges in workplaces, communities, and across supply chains.

By adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), world leaders have publicly acknowledged that water and sanitation are vital for eradicating poverty and are fundamental elements for sustainable development everywhere.

SDG targets 6.1 and 6.2 set out to achieve universal access to water and sanitation by 2030. Given that 3.1 billion people are employed globally (World Bank, 2013), the workplace is a crucial setting for achieving universal WASH access. In other words, companies can provide concrete contributions to the SDGs by ensuring that their employees have access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene at the workplace.

The WBCSD’s WASH at the workplace Pledge provides companies with the tools to ensure that access to WASH for employees in operations under direct company control is always ensured.

To date, 41 large companies have committed to the WASH Pledge. Together, they employ over 2.3 million people, and are providing access to safe WASH at work. The initiative is widely quoted by WASH and business experts as key in the WASH & private sector sphere.

On World Toilet Day 2015, Paul Bulcke (CEO, Nestlé), Paul Polman (CEO, Unilever), Tom Albanese (CEO, Vedanta Resources), and Nick Blazquez, (President, Africa and Asia Pacific, Diageo) made a global call to action to CEOs to sign the WASH Pledge.

It’s now time to take the next step. We want to help companies look beyond their own operations and into their supply chains and across surrounding communities. This is why the WBCSD joined WASH4Work, an initiative of 11 expert organizations in the WASH field, who have come together to coordinate, collaborate and align efforts to encourage and support business action on WASH. It will also aim to support governments and the public to enable business action.  

To mark this year’s World Water DayWASH4Work will be introduced at a high-level discussion on the private sector and WASH at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.  

Today’s event is hosted by the Permanent Mission of Sweden, and keynote speakers include the UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, H.E. Annika Söder, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Sweden, and panellists from the private sector, international organizations and civil society, including David Croft, Global Sustainable Development Director at Diageo.

About WASH4Work

WASH4Work was established following the ODI Report ‘Private sector and water supply, sanitation and hygiene’, published in October 2015 and commissioned by UNICEF and the UN Foundation following UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson’s Call to Action on Sanitation in 2014. To advance progress in the WASH and private sector sphere, the report proposes to “encourage perception of WASH in the workplace as a normal part of good business practice, for example through scale-up of the WBCSD Pledge and progressively making WASH a core component of workplace health and safety” and the WASH Pledge is identified as an “accessible starting point for all companies.”

Current WASH4Work partners include: Global Poverty Project, International Labor Organization, UN Foundation, UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate, UNICEF, Unilever, USAID, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, WaterAid, and World Business Council for Sustainable Development.