CEOs Urge Nations to Act on Water Crisis

Governments of the Group of Eight (G8) countries need to take urgent action on the emerging global crisis in water and sanitation, say business leaders from some of the world's largest companies who have endorsed the United Nations Global Compact.

In a letter released recently by the U.N. Global Compact Office, the chief executive officers of 19 corporations call on G8 leaders to actively address the issue of water during their upcoming summit in Japan in July. These business leaders endorse the compact's CEO Water Mandate, which was launched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last year.

"It is increasingly clear that lack of access to clean water and sanitation in many parts of the world causes great suffering in humanitarian, social, environmental, and economic terms, and seriously undermines development goals," the letter states.

It is estimated that approximately 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. The letter cites a recent U.N. Development Report that argues that the costs to sub-Saharan African economies of not having basic universal access to water and sanitation represent about 5 percent of gross domestic product.

"Water is not just an environmental issue – it is a poverty and development issue, an economic issue, and therefore a business issue," the chief executives state.

The letter notes that in 2000, world leaders committed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including a concrete target to "halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation."

"We are pleased that business leaders have taken the initiative and are urging governments to take seriously this emerging crisis," said Georg Kell, executive director of the compact.

The compact pledges participating businesses – now numbering some 3,600 in more than 100 countries – to observe principles regarding human rights, labor rights, environmental sustainability, and the fight against corruption.

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