Safe water, sanitation, and hygiene are vital to public health. But not everyone has access. In lower to middle-income countries like India, approximately 600 million people face extreme water stress. About 70% of India’s available water is contaminated, and the groundwater in one third of the country’s 600 districts — with high concentrations of fluoride, iron, salinity, and arsenic — isn’t fit for drinking. This is largely why over 100,000 people in India die of waterborne diseases annually.
One Drop Foundation, an international non-profit with a focus on ensuring sustainable access to safe water and sanitation to vulnerable communities worldwide, recently partnered with METRO AG, a leading international wholesale company with food and non-food assortments that specializes in serving the needs of hotels, restaurants, and caterers as well as independent traders. The three-year partnership is part of the METRO Water Initiative, which includes a two-week in-store campaign in recognition of World Water Day (March 22). In 2020, it will engage 18 participating suppliers and will be held in 22 countries. “A percentage of sales from selected products during the campaign is matched by One Drop and used to fund safe water projects in India — thereby enabling the company to generate both exponential sales and exponential project funding,” says Lauren Alcorn, Project Director with One Drop. The campaign aims to raise at least $1.4 million USD over three years, and One Drop has committed to match these funds, totalling $2.8 million USD in project funding.
Two innovative projects help communities in state of Bihar, India
One Drop Foundation, in partnership with the METRO Water Initiative, is helping to improve the lives of 500,000 people in the Indian state of Bihar, through two projects. One involves bringing water, sanitation, and hygiene to schools, hospitals, and public places in the districts of Gaya and Madhubani, an initiative known as Boond (meaning “drop” in Hindi).
The other project involves helping community members in the district of Sheohar operate, manage, and maintain their water and sanitation systems over time. “This includes gender-segregated toilets for 9,000 students across 14 schools, which means that girls can now safely and hygienically manage their periods,” says Alcorn. Additionally, 47,000 people will have access to safe drinking water and 1,700 households will have latrines.
To increase public uptake of the facilities and good hygiene practices, One Drop uses its unique approach known as Social Art for Behaviour Change (SABC), working with local artists and artforms. “A common misconception is that people need to be educated, but, there are other predominant barriers that prevent people from adopting good hygienic practices like hand washing,” says Alcorn. By speaking to them through the arts, we’re able to trigger more of an emotional response, and that carries more weight in influencing their decision-making and promoting a behaviour shift.
Corporations shouldn’t shy away from this model of partnerships for global impact.Lauren Alcorn, Project Director with One Drop
Successful initiatives, a testament to value of cross-sectoral partnerships
Cross-sectoral partnerships like the one between One Drop and METRO AG show that organizations with a shared vision and interest can become real change agents when they join forces. “It’s a good, living example of how by creating bold partnerships and innovative fundraising initiatives, we can find new ways to unlock funds that allow us to pursue our mission of ensuring sustainable access to safe water and sanitation worldwide and reaching the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 6 and 17,” says Alcorn. “It’s about creating a win-win for everybody — the NGOs, the private companies and communities in need.”
With an enormous shift taking place in the way corporations are functioning, companies without sustainability in mind aren’t going to be able to thrive in the future. “Organizations like One Drop that have been in the sector for a long time are able to support these corporations in building out their corporate social responsibility initiatives for greater impact,” says Alcorn.
“Seeing so many suppliers and even competitors joining forces in a common initiative shows that when we talk about sustainability, and about achieving the SDGs, there’s no competition,” says Alcorn. “We all have a role to play, and we have to play it together. Corporations shouldn’t shy away from this model of partnerships for global impact.”