Clean water and sanitation is critical to the health and longevity of an individual.

The UN’s 6th Sustainable Development Goal aims to ensure access to the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. The significance of clean water and sanitation to the health and wellbeing of society cannot be overstated as “contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to the transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. Absent, inadequate, or inappropriately managed water and sanitation services expose individuals to preventable health risks” according to the World Health Organisation**. Contamination and a decline in the world’s water quality due to agricultural runoff, improper sewage systems, manufacturing wastewater and other problems is also an acute problem facing the world***.Recognising the importance of clean water for not only drinking and farming but also for disease management only places greater priority on the need to achieve universal and equitable access to safe, affordable drinking water and sanitation.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of accessible hygiene and sanitation resources. Due to the pandemic, the sight of hand sanitiser at the entrance of restaurants, bars and lobbies in cities across the world has become the new norm. Ubiquitous access to these products is commonplace and a basic part of everyday cleanliness in many parts of the world, however for the billions of people living in developing nations this is simply not the case. The disproportionately high cost of hand sanitiser in many developing nations means that it is too expensive for general everyday use and completely inaccessible for the masses. The effect of this is that sanitary practices that would otherwise save the lives of many remain perilously out of reach for those that need it and largely underutilised by billions of people due to inaccessibility.

How businesses can assist with SDG 6:

One of the most promising aspects of SDG 6 is that it presents a range of opportunities for businesses to invest towards. The world’s critical need for greater access to clean water, functional water management systems and sanitation for all presents an enormous problem space that invites creative problem solving and vast investment opportunities with the prospect of drastically improving the standard of living for billions of people.

Another meaningful way businesses can support the achievement of SDG 6 is by using a negative screening process when working with other companies. By rejecting companies with known detrimental impacts on the health and hygiene of its external stakeholders, it can ensure that a business’ ethical reputation remains strong in the long term.

* https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/envision2030-goal6.html

**https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water#:~:text=Contaminated%20water%20and%20poor%20sanitation,individuals%20to%20preventable%20health%20risks

*** https://www.unglobalcompact.org/what-is-gc/our-work/environment/water

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