World Business Council for Sustainable Development

World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Meeting the water and sanitation targets of the Millennium Development Goals

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Business called on governments to take urgent steps to increase commitment at all levels towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for water and sanitation during the 16th session of the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development (UN CSD). “Businesses of all sizes are significant investors in water, wastewater and sanitation,” said Björn von Euler, ITT's communications director and WBCSD Water Project Co-chair. “They are making their contribution at local and regional levels, often in conjunction with public authorities, who they recognize must usually take the lead.”

The CSD – a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – is currently assessing the progress made in implementing the water and sanitation decisions made in 2005 during its 13 th session.

“While it is widely accepted that access to clean water is essential to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, implementation of international commitments on water and sanitation has been slow. The 2008 review is therefore of critical importance to the international water agenda,” said WBCSD Managing Director Jürg Gerber.

MDG Target 10 is to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.” At current trends, the world is expected to fall short of meeting the sanitation target by more than 560 million people and would still leave 1.8 billion people with inadequate sanitation if the goal is met.

Gérard Payen, president of AquaFed (International Federation of Private Operators), speaking on behalf of the Business and Industry Major Group at CSD, pointed out the crucial importance of access to water and sanitation for health, dignity, education, protection of the environment, and for economic development.

Moreover, the group stresses the need for acceleration of progress and more ambitious objectives, and advocates for integrated sanitation management in order to monitor these challenges worldwide. This is necessary to master all sanitation challenges – not only toilets but wastewater management and pollution removal.

In this context, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development launched the It is time for business to act folder ( 937 kb), highlighting the economic impact of a lack of sanitation on business through reduced work time, productive capacity and purchasing power due to disease, during the CSD.

“Unlike HIV/AIDS we do not need to undertake further research to find a cure. We have the skills, know-how and capacity to solve the sanitation problem now. It requires leadership and commitment by the world community to give this issue appropriate priority. The business community has the opportunity to help build commitment and turn it into action,” says GHD Director Nick Apostolidis.

Through case studies, companies highlight how the International Year of Sanitation 2008 is a tremendous opportunity for them to make a difference. The estimated economic return from improved sanitation is about ten US dollars for every dollar invested. Some companies have already taken the lead in sanitation projects, like Borouge and Borealis, Dow Chemical, GHD, ITT, Procter & Gamble, Shell, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever and Veolia.

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