Water scarcity is a huge problem for people, society and business.
Water is critical for the planet, its ecosystems and its inhabitants to survive and thrive. At a human level, it is essential for life, and at an economic level, it is a central fuel for the global economy. Unilever is no different. Water is critical for the manufacturing and use of our products. Constraints on the quality and quantity of the water available limit our ability to operate effectively and meet the needs of our consumers.
Over 2 billion people across the world are currently experiencing high water stress and this is expected to worsen significantly. Within the next ten years, we could already be facing a 40% gap in water supply and demand. Household water scarcity is becoming a major issue in fast-growing cities in developing countries where infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth in population and income. Climate change, urbanisation, population growth and a growing middle class have combined to create a global water crisis – characterised by droughts, floods, pollution and localised shortages such as experienced in Cape Town and Chennai.
Tackling these challenges requires collective action from companies, governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and consumers. Here, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) provides a common framework for achieving sustainable water access for all by 2030. We believe that a world with water for all is a critical platform for achieving the rest of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), we are responding directly to a number of macro forces. A number of our USLP targets directly address the risks and opportunities in our markets, including water scarcity that’s caused by climate change. The water pillar of our USLP contributes to a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), primarily: Clean water and sanitation (SDG 6); Responsible consumption and production (SDG 12); Climate action (SDG 13); and Partnerships for the goals (SDG 17).