Business Leaders Urge Group of Eight Governments to Take Action on Emerging Global Water Crisis

7 May 2008
Press Release

NEW YORK, 7 May (Global Compact Office) — Business leaders representing some of the world’s largest companies today launched an international campaign urging Governments of the Group of Eight (G-8) countries to address with urgency the emerging global crisis in water and sanitation.In a letter released by the United Nations Global Compact Office, the chief executive officers of 19 corporations call on G-8 leaders to actively address the issue of water during their upcoming Hokkaido Toyako Summit on 7 to 9 July in Japan. The business leaders are all endorsers of the United Nations Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, which was launched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in July 2007.

“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 United Nations development report, which argues that the costs to sub-Saharan African economies of not having basic universal access to water and sanitation represent about 5 per cent of gross domestic product.

“Thus, 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, including a concrete target to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation”.

The letter calls on leaders of the G-8 countries to take a number of actions, including reaffirming the importance of achieving the Millennium Development Goal related to water in G-8 Summit preparatory documents and in final communiqués; fulfilling their Gleneagles commitment on water and sanitation by ensuring that allocations for safe drinking water and sanitation increase as a per cent of all official development assistance (ODA) and that ODA increases overall; and encouraging non-G-8 nations to pay more attention to the Millennium Development Goal related to water.

The business leaders also urge the G-8 leaders to work more actively with the international business community, through initiatives such as The CEO Water Mandate.

“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 United Nations Global Compact. “This also represents an appeal for partnership, and in this way underscores the fact that today’s global problems demand collective and coordinated action.”

The signing chief executives represent the following companies: Diageo; Hayleys PLC; Hindustan Construction Company; Läckeby Water AB; Levi Strauss & Co.; Liqum Oy; Metito (Overseas) Limited; Nestlé S.A.; Netafim Ltd.; PepsiCo, Inc.; SABMiller plc; Siemens AG; Suez; SunOpta Inc.; The Coca-Cola Company; The Dow Chemical Company; Unilever; Westpac Banking Corporation; and WPP.

The letter by the chief executive officers to G-8 leaders is available at

Media contacts: Gavin Power, Head, The CEO Water Mandate, United Nations Global Compact,, +1 917 679 8144 (mobile); and Matthias Stausberg, Spokesperson, United Nations Global Compact,, +1 917 367 3423, +1 917 214 1337 (mobile).

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