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Guest Blog: Working together to make Sustainable Development Goal 6 a reality

By: Analia Mendez, Global Director of Social Mission Expertise in Home Care, Unilever

2015 was a pivotal year for development with the Sustainable Development Goals adopted. The goals put in place our roadmap for meaningful progress on development issues and now that the ‘what’ is established, the agenda has shifted to the ‘how.’

2016 is the year of action. SDG6 is the holistic water goal so many people and organisations campaigned for and with the roadmap agreed and targets defined, the focus of this year’s World Water Week will be how we drive the change needed to realise this positive vision for the future.

As the agenda moves into implementation there is a clear opportunity for the private sector to support meaningful progress on development issues. Businesses’ innovation, resources and expertise in consumer behavior can and should be harnessed to create market-based solutions, and by working in partnership with governments, civil society, communities and consumers, businesses can play a role in delivering the goals.

At Unilever, we have identified areas where we can make the biggest contribution to SDG6. Our portfolio of brands and products used by 2 billion people every day, gives us a unique opportunity to create change and, by working with partners, develop solutions to help address some of the world’s most pressing water-related challenges.

Behaviour change is a key area where Unilever can make a significant contribution to SDG 6 and the nature of our business and scale and global reach of our products provides a unique opportunity to reach consumers to create behaviour change. For example our health soap brand Lifebuoy is running the world’s largest handwashing behaviour change programme and toilet hygiene brand Domestos is working with organisations all over the world to improve access to toilets. At World Water Week, we’ll be announcing the launch of a new Sanitation Behaviour Change report, Use a Toilet, which follows the earlier release of Get a Toilet in 2012. In developing the report and sharing Unilever’s journey in behaviour change, Domestos is aiming to aid others working in this area.

Helping people to use domestic water more efficiently is an area where we see the greatest opportunity to align our business strategy with sustainable development. We’re making progress with market-based innovations designed specifically to help people adapt to poor quality or unreliable water access. For example, Comfort One Rinse, has been developed to dramatically reduce the amount of water required to wash clothes which has the potential to make a significant impact in water-scarce countries where a third of domestic water is used to clean clothes, usually by hand.

World Water Week 2016 will provide an opportunity to share our perspective on how we support SDG6; how we encourage sustained use of toilets, teach handwashing habits, sustainably improve water access, innovate to reduce the amount of water people need every day, and reduce the burden that women in particular carry in water-related development challenges. We will also be contributing to the debate on new mechanisms for financing SDG6 and developing new routes for inspiring populations to demand good WASH. We’ll be looking to learn from others how we can bring greater speed, efficiencies, and where appropriate, scale to our actions.

As Girish Menon, Chief Executive of ActionAid UK, told a UN General Assembly debate: “No village, no city and no country has ever lifted themselves out of poverty without first improving water, sanitation and hygiene.”