On 25th September 2015, more than 150 world leaders gathered at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit to celebrate the accomplishments and review the shortfalls over the past 15 years, and to renew their commitment to end poverty. This renewed commitment was translated into seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 169 targets set to address the multi-dimensional nature of poverty, over the next 15 years.
The SDGs build on the progress that has been made in the past 15 years with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); which has guided governments, institutions, and organisations in the largest anti-poverty movement in history. They are designed to get us to the finish line; learning from the past shortfalls and with the bold aim of reducing poverty to a statistical zero on most targets.
In the area of water and sanitation, targets were set that covered the entire water cycle – improving water quality (e.g. halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, eliminating dumping), increasing water-use efficiency across all sectors (e.g. substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity), expanding cooperation to developing countries and strengthening the participation of local communities in improving their water and sanitation management.
Translating Commitment to Action
Achieving these necessary targets requires that governments, organisations, companies and individuals act together to align their guiding strategies with these global priorities.
There are several platforms that aim to facilitate the development of such partnerships between governments, organisations, companies and individuals. This includes the Water Action Hub, which is a platform that connects potential collaborators working on water management projects globally. For companies, joining the CEO Water Mandate is an excellent opportunity to be part of an international movement of committed companies and actively contribute to the dialogue on water stewardship and benefit from the collective experience of the other participating organisations.
On an organisational level, the SDG Compass is a useful tool that comprehensively outlines ways companies can align their strategies and actions to contribute to the achievement of these SDGs.
Developed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), United Nations Global Compact, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the SDG Compass provides a good framework for any company seeking to ensure that sustainability is part of their core business strategy.
It includes solid advice on how to map out the impact (positive or negative) of a company’s competencies, technologies, products, and products with respect to the SDGs – an important first step. Water risk mapping tools such as WBCSD’s Global Water Tool, and Water Resource Institute (WRI)’s Aqueduct are useful in this respect. It also provides key indicators in the form of global guidelines and industry-set benchmark necessary in giving companies an overall perspective on their impact.
The next steps
It’s up to governments, institutions and organisations now to set into motion the next steps and while it remains to be seen how these renewed targets will be translated into actionable local targets for individual countries, it is clear that the benefits to addressing water and sanitation continues to exceed the investment needed to achieve it.