World Water Week Just Passed. Did You Notice?

Sep 17, 2013 3:15 PM ET

World Water Week just passed. Did you notice?

Today, 780 million individuals still live without access to clean and safe water sources. Two and a half billion people lack access to improved sanitation facilities. One billion people defecate in the open.  Is that too much information?

Which leads me to ask why do I, or you as a business professional, care?

Clean water is like oxygen. You’re not going anywhere without it. This is obvious, especially if you work for a beverage company. Or a food company.  Or any company that has suppliers in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Technology manufacturers. Clothing companies.Candy companies. Pharmaceutical companies.  All of us.

Workers need a reliable supply of potable water for their health and prosperity. The people to whom I refer may not be directly employed by our companies, but they most likely are a critical link in our supply chain, enabling our corporate engine to pump out goods and services. The cotton grower in Honduras, the cocoa smallholder in Ghana, the coffee grower in Ethiopia—there is a reasonable chance that each of these, and his or her family, is living with a compromised household water supply. That means more illness, less productivity and interrupted education. It means risk in our collective supply chain and potentially risk in your specific supply chain.

Clean water, however, changes people’s lives. It is uniquely essential to well-being.

That’s why, when we take a moment to consider the situation, we care.

From the beginning, when NativeEnergy opened our doors more than a dozen years ago, we had a “missionary” quality. Sure, we’ve always been a business. We try to behave in a businesslike way. But ultimately in our own eyes building communities and investing in projects that promote progress and prosperity give our work meaning.  A healthy environment and a stable society are critical for a healthy business climate. 

What do I mean by that?

First, we enlisted with our clients in the fight against global warming. (We don’t talk exactly that way anymore, but that fight is still at our core.) Second, we worked with Native American tribes, small farmers, schools and rural communities-in-need to advance clean development.  We use carbon offset protocols as the foundation of our work, but we never accepted that every offset is equal. As important as reducing the burden of greenhouse gases is to us, causing something to happen that increases social well-being and prosperity matters as much.

We’re still working with farmers and schools and renewable power, but recently we have extended our reach overseas to bring safe water where it is urgently needed. Our projects still reduce greenhouse gas emissions (by eliminating and preventing boiling by burning unsustainably harvested wood). Equally important, the projects will deliver clean water for a decade, using simple, proven filters that have no moving parts and reduce up to 99% of bacteria and parasites.  Promise flows with that water being filtered in households and schools in Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, and elsewhere.

We’re not a big outfit, but we have outsized aspirations. Hand-in-hand with strategic business leaders, we invest in building a better world through a broad portfolio of new projects. Together, we will install some 10,000 filters during the next several years. That means hundreds of thousands of tons of greenhouses gases will be avoided, about 50,000 people will have a better chance of physical and economic health. We know that water risks are exacerbated by climate change. We have set out to turn that equation on its head: reduce water risk and increase resilience despite the threat of a changing climate.

Join the conversation at our blog or give us a call.