Businesses Take Up the World's Water Needs

The humble molecule dihydrogen monoxide is so ever-present that it is often forgotten. Yet this one substance – water, the universal solvent, H2O – is fundamental for regulating the temperature of our planet, it’s the chemical basis of all life on earth, it constitutes as much as 78% of our bodies, and it was the fount of human civilization. It’s for these important reasons (and many more) that today we celebrate water, and draw attention to our stewardship of this life-giving substance.

Unfortunately, not all people have as much access to clean water as they need. According to a 2008 UNICEF/WHO study on drinking water, approximately one in eight individuals lacks access to clean water. That is 884 million people across the globe. The WHO estimates that over 3.5 million people die each year from water-related diseases.

But it’s not just lives that are lost from poor water access – it is also livelihoods.  Consider the libratory power of better water distribution.  In sheer economic terms, it is estimated that over 200 million work hours are expended each day on the collection of fresh water for families.  It’s hard to imagine the freedom that might result if all that time were applied to more transformative activities, like learning better farming practices or creating better infrastructure.

Given the economic and societal importance of clean water, what are companies doing to meet the world’s water needs? Formerly, this question would be tough to answer, because there was no comprehensive data source for CSR projects. Fortunately, this is why the Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC) recently created its “Business for Good Map.” Already since its inauguration last October, the map has captured an impressive list of projects undertaken by businesses to improve their world. The following is a sample of the work we see on the map related to improving water conditions around the globe.

ONE DROP Support by MGM Resorts International

We start off the list with a brand new project from MGM Resorts International. Joining forces with Cirque du Soleil, MGM Resorts will donate all proceeds from Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil performances taking place between March 20 and March 25, in recognition of World Water Day.   

Guy Laliberté, Founder of Cirque du Soleil and Chair of ONE DROP, said, “This incredible commitment from MGM Resorts International … truly expresses one of the goals I had when I founded ONE DROP in 2007: creating a powerful ripple effect of solidarity made up of companies, individuals and people around the world. I am so grateful that MGM Resorts International will not only support in an important financial manner, but also shares our belief by raising awareness of this precious resource.”

Water Filtration Opportunities in Haiti by Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical donated two ultra-filtration units to provide water to earthquake-stricken Haiti, in partnership with Pure Water for the World. Designing, manufacturing, and commissioning the systems within a very tight timeline, Dow and its partner made a valiant effort to implement these systems. The systems purify approximately 10,000 gallons of water a day at two sites; one a hospital in Port-au-Prince, the other a hospital in Leogane.

Sensor Web for Smarter Cities by IBM Corporation

During the Monsoon season urban flooding is a severe problem in India. Pursuing this issue, IBM continues its efforts to build a “smarter planet” through a flood sensor initiative. Supporting a team from the Indian Institute of Technology, IBM hopes to implement a network of sensors to warn people of possible flood conditions, giving them enough time to take action.

Water Quality Monitoring by FedEx

Through a partnership with Rocking the Boat, FedEx engages students in performing weekly water quality tests on the Bronx River. The information is used to educate youth and the community, and is also given to the Bronx River Alliance for analysis.

In this project and others, FedEx has planted over 15,000 trees and shrubs planted, restored over 200 acres of urban wildlife habitat restored, engaged over 9,000 community members in on-the-ground conservation, and reduced the amount of polluted stormwater entering urban rivers by over 570,000 gallons per year.

Research4Life Helps Improve Online Access to Research by Microsoft

As part of the Research4Life project, Dr. Poli Semenye worked with researchers in Kenya to construct innovative solutions tailored for the Njoro River watershed. Together, they launched SUMAWA, a multi-disciplinary research effort focusing on reducing pollution in the Njoro watershed and educating the region's residents.

Research4Life is a program designed to overcome the digital divide in access to leading research, and to help address the United Nation (UN) Millennium Development Goals. As the sole technology partner in Research4Life, Microsoft supported the technical infrastructure for access and authentication, information delivery, and the platform's search and security features.

Supporting Community Water Systems with Planet Water Foundation by Xylem, Inc.

Xylem, Inc. (formerly ITT Corporation) has committed $14.5 million to develop clean drinking water systems for developing communities around the world. In partnership with Planet Water Foundation, Xylem and Planet Water have brought drinking water to over 22,500 people in the Philippines and India.

Business is Part of the Solution

Businesses are an integral part of the solution to the world’s water problems. Through projects like those outlined above, we see the power of businesses to contribute their time, money, and expertise to managing the world’s water. Just in the CSR efforts considered here, businesses are providing clean water to tens of thousands of people, educating communities on how to better preserve fresh water supplies, and providing solutions for monsoon flooding that impacts hundreds of thousands of lives each year.

This summary glance at the Business for Good Map also highlights the power of this important tool for analyzing CSR work. The map already features over 240 projects, with rich descriptive details for each one. At its current pace, this map will soon serve as an import “keeper of record” for CSR projects; offering the first comprehensive picture of which businesses are doing what work to improve their communities and their planet.