To care for water is to care for the planet. Fun fact — the surface of Earth is 71 per cent water, and Canada has access to upwards of 20 per cent of the world’s surface freshwater. Water is humanity’s most essential natural resource. Still, there are also instances where water crises have caused some of the most critical sustainable development challenges of our time, continuing to rank among the top five global risks. Today, more than two billion people live in river basins where water demand outstrips supply, known as water-stressed areas, and this number is expected to jump to five billion by 2050. Nevertheless, water challenges are not limited to only water scarcity but also include pollution, flooding, access to drinking and sanitation services, and much more.
According to research, there’s more pressure on freshwater resources worldwide due to a rapidly growing population and a shifting climate. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 focuses on water, with different sub-goals related to several water challenges. Although progress is being made, there’s much work to be done to make water sustainability a reality in order to reach the Global Goals target date of 2030.
Business leaders have recognized the significant role of the private sector in helping to address the water challenges faced by the world. Many even acknowledge that lack of access to clean water and sanitation in many parts of the world causes humanitarian, social, environmental and economic suffering — ultimately impacting the Global Goals. This is why the UN Secretary-General and the UN Global Compact implemented, in partnership with the Pacific Institute, the CEO Water Mandate.
This cross-sectoral collaboration is the most effective and credible path to water security. Endorsers of the CEO Water Mandate commit to continuous progress in six core elements and report annually on progress. In implementing water stewardship, endorsing companies also identify and reduce critical water risks to their businesses, seize water-related opportunities, and contribute to water security and the Global Goals.
Furthermore, by adhering to the CEO Water Mandate, businesses will be equipped with key practices to address critical water challenges, drive water security, and advance the Global Goals. Likewise, businesses that wish to drive their water stewardship engagement to the next level can join the Mandate’s Water Security through Stewardship Action Platform, which houses all of the Mandate’s programmatic work and working groups. This initiative is the core mechanism regrouping companies, UN entities, governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders to test, refine, and scale cutting-edge water stewardship practices and foster local partnerships, collective actions, and policy engagement.
Overall, although collective efforts between the private and public sectors are ongoing, actions need to be accelerated and securing long-term partnerships will be essential to build water resilience. Transparency in dealings and regular conversations with governments and other public authorities on water issues can guide businesses as they focus on continuous improvement and move to turn principles into results.
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