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Driving access to clean water and sanitation for all as the climate warms

Water is essential to health, life and our shared prosperity. Yet today, water scarcity affects every continent. 2.2 billion people worldwide currently do not have access to clean drinking water and 1 in 4 people lack access to safe sanitation. If climate change persists without action, 4.8 billion people will be at risk by 2050, due to water stress.

Droughts force people to migrate in search of livelihoods and water and increases the risk of illness, as communities go without access to basic services.

Lack of water access disproportionately affects the most vulnerable and marginalised. In 80% of water-deprived households, women and girls carry the burden of water collection, spending 200 hours a day worldwide on the task.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 requires access to clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. But to meet this challenge, we’ll need a 4x increase in the pace of progress, and a 3.5x increase in global investment in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

What are we doing about it?

Every day, we sell 20 million products. Water is our biggest ingredient in the manufacture of these products, and our customers often need water when they use them. That’s why water is such a critical part of enabling our purpose and our sustainability ambitions. We’re looking at our impact across the whole water footprint, from sourcing, to manufacturing and consumer use, and in communities where we work.

We're working to reduce the water we use in our operations and ensure the water we do need is sourced sustainably. We’re developing products that require less water to use and driving more water-conscious behaviour through our campaigns.

We are working with leading partners around the world to drive access to safe sanitation. For example, our work with Water.org has already helped 1.4 million people gain improved access to water and sanitation. We are also working tirelessly to improve access to hygiene through our global schools’ education programmes.

We can all play our part, but we need to work together. To reduce the impact of climate change on health, and the healthcare systems we all rely on, the world needs private sector and public sector to work in partnership.

Planetary health is public health: water access and finance

That’s why at COP27, we hosted an event focusing specifically on water access and finance. The event brought together eminent experts from global bodies, including the UN 2023 Water Conference, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Girl Rising, and more.

This event built on our conversations at COP26 and New York Climate Week and looked towards the upcoming UN Water Conference in March 2023. 

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We recognise that we don’t have all the solutions to this challenge, but we want to be a partner to national healthcare systems, be it through our education on hygiene behaviours, self-care products, support for communities through our Fight for Access programmes on health, water and sanitation, or improvements within our own supply chain.

David Croft Global Head of Sustainability, Reckitt