Water security and improving access to safe drinking water
On Thursday last week (22 March), we at Diageo conducted a webcast presentation to our investor community on how being a sustainable and responsible company is critical in supporting, protecting and strengthening our reputation and driving long term value. Today, stakeholders are increasingly evaluating companies on their ability to support their growth prospects through broader social and economic interactions. Whether it is an investor in our stock, a potential business partner or a consumer of one of our great brands, people are making considered choices based on how we go about our business.
Moreover, we are convinced that our success as 21st Century company is dependent on the health and prosperity of the communities in which we operate. In Africa, we see firsthand how socio-economic development through inclusive business models and innovative partnerships can enhance reputation, attract talent and mitigate risk. We also see how it can help transform an environment for greater enterprise development and entrepreneurialism to flourish – strong drivers of economic growth. Take the work we are undertaking in agricultural development as an example. Our investment in securing high quality grain inputs from local farmers in markets such as Kenya and Cameroon provides a market in and an incentive to grow good yielding crops which in turn has a broad impact on the immediate economy. In turn our supply business has a sustainable and accessible raw material source, which also acts as a natural hedge to foreign exchange and global commodity volatility. It is a virtuous circle that creates broad based prosperity.
Underpinning this prosperity is the need to continue to invest in access to basic needs. One of the greatest leadership imperatives for governments and business is to ensure water security and improving access to safe drinking water. While the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of halving the percentage of people lacking access to sustainable sources of water is ahead of schedule, sub-Saharan Africa is behind its drinking water targets. Poor sanitation also remains a substantial hurdle to overcome if we as a global community are to address significant health issues in Africa.
In 2005, the UN declared this a Decade for Action. In response to this and as a leading company that operates in water stressed areas, we launched in 2006 the Diageo Water of Life programme with an ambitious target of providing access to clean water to a million people every year. So far we have been able to achieve this, thanks to the hard work and dedication of employees and some inspiring collaborations with development organisations. To date Water of Life has benefitted nearly 5 million people that did not have this access. But we must not rest on our laurels. There is a great deal more that we can do, and as such I put on the trainers and hit the road to do my bit.
To coincide with World Water Day last week, I, along with over a thousand others, completed the Water of Life Half Marathon near Marlow in Berkshire, UK yesterday. The event which is in its fourth year and also includes a 10km alternative raises funds for Diageo’s Water of Life programme. This was my first half marathon and I can attest that the hours of training, many of which were on the roads of the African countries I have recently visited, were well worth it. Not only is it a great event in its own right, but in conjunction with WaterAid the money raised will go directly to a water and sanitation project in Maputo, Mozambique. The project aims to provide 46,000 people with a clean drinking water source through new pipe networks and the construction of water kiosks – an innovative model that houses retail outlets which in turn ensures the water point is kept open and maintained. The programme will also provide better sanitation in houses and schools as well as public ecological latrines. So while it pains me to look at the running shoes or even contemplate the treadmill at the moment, I am even more inspired to make a meaningful and long lasting difference to the communities in which we operate.
Support Nick's sponsorship drive for WaterAid here