water-smart solutions for water-stressed living
Water Scarcity – a problem for people, societies and business
With half of the global population expected to live in areas of water stress by 2025, new approaches to cutting water use at home have never been more important. Our daily lives and simple chores depend on water. But in water-scarce regions, the supply and quality of water is unreliable. Water stress is also a business issue. Water is fundamental to the manufacturing and use of our products. Constraints on the quality and quantity of the water available limits our ability to operate effectively and meet the needs of our consumers.
When water is scarce, or supplies are unreliable, people limit how frequently they wash or do the laundry, which can reduce demand for our products. Climate change is increasing the challenges of water scarcity, so the impact on individuals and our business will grow.
Water, time and opportunities for women
Collectively, women and girls in water-scarce areas spend around 200 million hours every day getting water for domestic use. So we opened 18 Water Centres in Nigeria to help give women back this time by providing easy, affordable access to clean water. The first two Water Centres opened their doors in 2014 through a partnership between Sunlight – our laundry and dishwashing brand – and Oxfam. We then worked with non-profit organisation TechnoServe to open 16 more centres during 2015 and 2016, each benefiting more than 500 people.
The Water Centres were designed to be sustainable local businesses. They sell clean water at an affordable price, and double up as the village shop offering food, goods, phone charging and mobile banking facilities. We train local women to run the centres, giving them new skills and an opportunity to earn a salary. The local community provides the land and in return has an equity stake. The retail businesses help subsidise sales of water at an affordable cost, and provide the resources and incentive needed to maintain the water boreholes. However, the Water Centres have not become as self-sustaining as we hoped, and there have been difficulties in ultimately scaling up this approach, leading to no further centres being opened. We are working with TechnoServe to help ensure that the water activities of the centres continue in the future.
Watch this video to see & feel the impact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoTz9u0jmNM
Local women are continuing to run the retail aspect of the centres, and we have included this activity within our Shakti Entrepreneurs programme, which is designed to empower women entrepreneurs through access to training and support, as they in turn empower our business. We are continuing to explore different business models that can improve access to clean water.
Learn more about our water strategy, the programs we have initiated, the products we innovate, and the actions we all can take.