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Implementing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

We are living in a world where 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation and 748 million people lack access to an improved source of drinking water. As such, one of the world’s most urgent issues is the lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene, commonly known as WASH.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council agreed to resolutions affirming the Human Right to Water and Sanitation (HRWS) as a right equal to all other human rights.

We recognise that there is a corporate responsibility to conduct business operations consistent with the right to water, but also recognised a need to define what it means in practice for a company to act consistently with this right, and how to operationalise it on the ground, especially in emerging economies or in a farming or plantation environment.

As a member of the UN CEO Water Mandate’s Steering Committee, we supported the work on WASH as one of their 4 priority areas, and also the work which culminated in the creation of Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation for all.

This year we have now taken the step of defining our own 2020 target to provide clear expectations and ensure all of Olam’s direct operations, including our farms and plantations, are compliant with our own WASH Standard.

As our farms and plantations grow into the next phase of their development, and employee numbers increase, we expect our most difficult ongoing challenge will be ensuring access to safe water and sanitation. This is due to the lack of water and sewerage infrastructure in these rural regions. We have achieved notable successes in tackling these challenge in our coffee farm in Tanzania and we also hope to replicate this in similar farms, but in our larger farms the same solutions may not be transferrable. In response to this we are involved in knowledge-sharing with other companies through the Water Solutions group of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Image: sanitation blocks at our coffee plantations in Zambia.

Sanitation blocks at the coffee plantation in Zambia

Next section: Progress on Olam’s Water Goals