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13. September 2013

Water for the World: Strong presence at World Water Week in Stockholm

Borealis presents launch of cross-sector business pledge for access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene for all employees at the workplace.

At a side-event convened by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) at the 2013 World Water Week in Stockholm, Borealis and WBCSD launched the WASH pledge for Access to Safe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at the workplace. Signatories to the pledge and its accompanying guiding principles commit to implementing safe and sustainable access to clean water and sanitation on all work premises within three years, and to promote the cause across the value chain and local communities.

As co-chair of the WBCSD Water Programme, Borealis led the task force which developed the pledge together with a set of guiding principles and tools intended to support businesses in evaluating the status quo and setting improvement actions of WASH provisions in the workplace. Alfred Stern, Borealis Executive Vice President Polyolefins, served as keynote speaker at this event and officially launched the pledge. Borealis Sustainability Manager Dorothea Wiplinger explained the pledge and the guiding principles and its tools in detail. Other speakers included Carlo Galli, Technical and Strategic Advisor, Corporate Operations, Water Resources, Nestlé, who shared their experiences when piloting the tools, as well as Virginia Roaf, Advisor to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, who closed the session by welcoming the WASH initiative as "a significant step forward."

The WASH pledge has already been signed by Borealis Chief Executive Mark Garrett as well as by senior executives from Nestlé, Greif, Roche Group, Deloitte LLP, Unilever, HCC (Hindustan Construction Company Ltd). "At Borealis we often go the extra mile for the health and safety of our employees, and this issue will remain at the top of our agenda. As world-class leaders in health and safety it is our duty to assume this leadership role in the promotion of the WASH pledge," Alfred Stern explains. "If all WBCSD member companies were to sign on to the pledge, a combined 15 million employees at workplaces around the world would be positively impacted by this outreach."

"With our Water for the World initiative we want to contribute to sustainable water solutions, including improving access to clean water and sanitation," emphasises Dorothea Wiplinger. "Our role within the WBCSD water programme allows us to expand our efforts and have a positive impact on a significantly higher number of people."

"Forward looking businesses are transitioning from water management to water stewardship, which includes addressing WASH and water scarcity and quality within their operations and across their value chain," Joppe Cramwinckel, WBCSD Water Programme Director adds. "As employers and members of society, we encourage businesses to ensure appropriate access to WASH for their own employees, thus making an initial and direct contribution toward addressing one of the most pressing socio-economic challenges of our times."

Why WASH at Work is an essential contribution social and economic development

As of today, over 1.8 billion people still lack access to safe drinking water and an estimated 4 billion are without adequate sanitation. This has an enormous impact on people's dignity, health, level of education, and capacity to lead fully productive lives. What is more, it can lead to serious environmental damage as a result of water pollution. This situation is incompatible not only with the WBCSD's Vision 2050 – of a world in which 9 billion people are able to live well within the limits of the planet – but also with the United Nations' human right to water and sanitation.

Lack of safe access to WASH also presents major roadblocks to economic and social development. It is estimated that for every USD invested in water and sanitation, USD 4.3 is generated in economic returns through increased productivity. Estimates also suggest that achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Target 7.C10 may lead to an increase of 3.2 billion productive days and 272 million school days per year.

Businesses which have operations, employees, contractors and customers in countries lacking access to sustainable and safe water and sanitation may experience productivity problems due to sick days resulting from water-related illness. The social consequences are significant, with increased incidence of illness and even fatalities, higher costs for healthcare and an increased burden on social services.

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