Brands Mark World Water Day 2013

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Somewhere, a world exists where more people have access to smartphones than toilets. Oh, wait. That’s us.

Today marks the 20th annual World Water Day, observed on March 22 since 1993 when the United Nations General Assembly declared a global effort to improve access to clean water. Today, hundreds of multinational brands, political figures, celebrities and NGO’s are offering up innovative ways to participate. 

While Americans are drinking more water than ever before, the rest of the world’s water crisis is becoming increasingly pressing, making it to the agenda of the 2012 World Economic Forum in Davos. That’s when a report ranked water among the top five global factors equal in impact to systemic financial failure and fiscal imbalance, with 2.7 billion people affected by water shortages, compounded by climate change and a global population nearing 8 billion.

Two official meetings—in The Hague, The Netherlands and at the U.N. Headquarters in New York City—are taking place today to facilitate a global conversation on water cooperation, this year’s theme, but hundreds of initiatives have launched across the globe in support of the effort.

In keeping with the theme of 2013 being the year of water cooperations, we’ve found some inspiring examples of the type of public-private partnerships spurring sustainable innovation to address the world’s water crisis.[more]

The Discovery Education | 3M Young Scientist Challenge just crowned its winner: 14-year-old Deepika Kurup, who developed a low-cost water purification system after witnessing young children drink dirty water from a stagnant pool in India. “I want to start a nonprofit organization to deploy my innovation,” she told Fast Company.

Virgin founder and long-time supporter of ocean conservation and global philanthropist Sir Richard Branson has teamed up with the Whole World Water Co. to advise the campaign as it unites the travel and hospitality industries to conserve water. The initiative, which has already partnered with brands like The Ritz Carlton, Tao, Lavo, Dusit and Jetwing isn’t just about giving back. The campaign promises a fattened-up bottom line if a brand participates, which includes filtering and bottling your own water, selling it and then donating 10 percent of proceeds back to the campaign. The campaign also sponsored a Google Hangout on the topic, featuring Branson and Maldives president Mohamed Waheed, who signed a referendum to bring the initiative to his nation.

Unilever has launched a “Water Savers” initiative in partnership with LuLu Group to educate consumers across the United Arab Emirates and provide them with tools to save water. The initiative hopes to reach 20,000 households which can amount to over 860 million gallons of water. For an extra bit of motivation, the campaign is offering to pay participants’ utility bills for up to three months if they reduce their water consumption. 

Nestlé, the worldwide bottled water leader, is continuing to push its initiative, Project WET, which spreads across 31 countries and 500 employees. Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe is a key figure among water conservationists and is committed to finding solutions through partnerships with NGOs and government officials. Another company closely associated with water conservation is retailer H&M. This year, the Swedish brand partnered with WWFfor a three-year effort to conserve water. “According to WWF no other fashion company has such a comprehensive global water strategy, as it takes the whole supply chain into account and goes far beyond the factory lines,” according to a release. 

PepsiCo recently reached their water efficiency goal a whole four years ahead of time, the company reported. The brand credits its usage of water-saving technology like i-crop, which helps farmers deliver just the right amount of water to roots systems at just the right time. The company is also working with its agricultural leaders to develop drip irrigation. The company has partnered with organizations such as the Columbia Water Center in order to facilitate global projects that affect both PepsiCo’s production and communities around the world. 

Ford just announced that it cut its water usage by 8.5 percent from 2011 to 2012, EnvironmentalLeader.com reports. Part of the automaker’s Global Water Management initiative, the company has committed to reducing its water usage by 30 percent per vehicle by 2015. Off to a good start, the company has already cut its water usage 62 percent since 2000.

P&G is promoting its ongoing Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, which distributes water purification packets to communities in need around the globe.

In a stunt that not only brought awareness, but also garnered a few laughs, actor Matt Damon announced last month that he was going on a toilet strike in support of the foundation he-coufounded with Gary White (see above), Water.org. “In protest of this global tragedy … until everyone has access to clean water, I will not go to the bathroom,” he said in a faux press conference. Damon hopes that his efforts will help revive the stalled Water for the World Act in Washington, which would provide funding for water sanitation projects in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. 

Another not-for-profit organization making a great impact is Charity Water. The non-profit donates 100 percent of donations to projects that provide clean drinking water—and they prove it with photos and GPS coordinates of specific projects and end results. (One of the organization’s fundraising campaigns asks people to pledge their birthday to clean water, turning gifts into donations for a good cause.)

In another effort that promises a 100 percent return on a donation, People Water has adopted the one-for-one model pioneered by TOMS. For every bottle of People Water purchased, the organization will give an equal amount of clean water to a person in need. The campaign has garnered a lot of attention thanks to compelling ambassadors, like 7-year-old Hunter from Los Angeles. 

Even Cirque du Soleil is getting in on the act. The travelling troupe of performers is collaborating with charity One Drop on “One Week for One Drop,” producing a 90-minute special performance of “O” at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Fans can log on for a limited 7-day period starting March 25th and pay $5 to watch the performance, with all proceeds going to One Drop. 

While much of World Water Day is focused around clean drinking water, there are plenty of other initiatives to protect the other 72 percent of the Earth’s surface—its oceans. National Geographic and Davidoff Cool Water have announced that they have renewed their partnership in the Pristine Seas program, which aims to protect some of the last pristine spots in the oceans and create protected marine areas, according to a release. 

In the political sector, the U.S. Water Partnership, which was organized by ex-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is celebrating its first anniversary today. The organization serves to “unite and mobilize U.S. expertise, resources and ingenuity to address water challenges around the globe, particularly in the developing world.” Through partnerships with everyone from Coca-Cola to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “the partnership has gained diverse commitments of money and know-how now totaling more than $500 million in its first year. Those resources will support water-related projects over the next five years,” according to the U.S. Embassy. 

Here’s hoping that all of this effort to improve the global clean water supply so that someday, all children can say “Water, water everywhere and all okay to drink.”

Below, a portion of a World Water Day infographic from AbleSkills. Go here to see the full version.

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