Including UN SDGs 2030 in your business, is that compatible?

For those who don’t know, in 2015 (yes, that’s six years ago already) the General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted a collection of 17 goals seen as essential to building a better and more sustainable future.

These are collectively known as the Sustainable Development Goals (aka SDGs aka SDG17) and the member states of the UN aim to achieve these goals by the year 2030.

We will look at one of these 17 goals from time to time (in no particular order).[1]

UN SDGs

Number 6 of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is “Clean water and sanitation”

“Clean water is a basic human need, and one that should be easily accessible to all.

There is sufficient fresh water on the planet to achieve this.

However, due to poor infrastructure, investment and planning, every year millions of people — most of them children — die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene.”

That is certainly true, however like most of the SDGs they mean quite different things depending on where in the world you are.

In the developed world, water comes out of the tap and can be safely drunk.

In less developed regions water might still run from a tap but drinking it you might be gambling with your digestive system (or worse).

Then there are regions in the world where a water tap is sheer luxury.

The UN is, of course, aware of this as well and so they set targets for the different aspects.

These are:

Target 6.1: Safe and affordable drinking water UN definition: “By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.”

Target 6.2: End open defecation and provide access to sanitation and hygiene UN definition: “By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.”

Target 6.3: Improve water quality, wastewater treatment and safe reuse UN definition: “By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.”

Target 6.4: Increase water use efficiency and ensure freshwater supplies UN definition: “By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.”

Target 6.5: Implement integrated water resources management UN definition: “By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate.”

Target 6.6: Protect and restore water-related ecosystems UN definition: “By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.”

Target 6.A: Expand water and sanitation support to developing countries UN definition: “By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies.”

Target 6.B: Support local engagement in water and sanitation management UN definition: “Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management.”

The waste of drinking water

Assuming that you, dear reader, dear readeress, or dear reader-ling, live in the developed world you might indeed have asked yourself why we use drinking water (a rare and precious commodity in other parts of the world) to flush our toilets with.

If you happen to have a garden, you might be using drinking water to water your plants.

The reason for that is of course that it makes little economic sense to install a second water grid supplying water of lesser quality just to flush your toilets or to water your garden.

Nonetheless, the fact that clean water is readily available does not mean that it’s free or OK to waste.

While it is true that saving water here does not irrigate fields in sub-Saharan Africa saving water does contribute to the overall rate at which we (over)use our resources.

How to save drinking water?

There are a number of ways in which everybody can safe some water and most of them are just common sense.

Obviously, the tap doesn’t need to be open while you brush your teeth.

The same goes for wet shaves.

Washing machines and dishwashers should only be turned on when fully loaded.

In case you have to water your lawn/garden

It is very good practice to do it in the evening or (early morning) when it’s cool(er) so as to minimise evaporation.

Regularly check for leaks and have them repaired.

The flushing systems of toilets

They come in two basic varieties, continuous and tank-based.

Nowadays, these tanks (cisterns) hold around 6 litres of water and are equipped with a two-stop flushing system.

If you feel you could make do with less than that you could take an old water bottle, fill it with sand and place that bottle into your cistern and henceforth you will use 6 litres minus the volume of the bottle.

In cases where one such reduced flush is not sufficient you can still flush twice.

In the words of Aretha Franklin and the Eurythmics:

Cisterns are doing it for themselves![2]

Rainwater catchment

If you’ve got a garden it is a good idea to install some form of rainwater harvesting.

In the most basic form, this is a barrel connected to the drainpipes going from your roof to the sewers.

The rainwater caught in this barrel can then be used to irrigate your roses, tomatoes, or whatever else you happen to grow in your garden.

Rain water harvesting system

Can you drink rain water?

Can you drink rain water?

In short, no!

  • Rainwater harvested as outlined above has been in contact with your roof and all the dirt accumulated on it.
  • Even if you cleaned your roof recently, the rain has still fell through the atmosphere and soaked up much of the dust and dirt suspended in it.

It is easy to assemble a DIY-filter for rainwater.

Take an old bottle and cut off the bottom.

Now stuff some old piece of cloth into the neck of the bottle, turn the bottle upside down and begin to fill it with activated charcoal, sand, and gravel (in this order), and place the bottle between your drain pipe and the barrel you collect the water in.

This is works perfectly well, however, it only filters particulate matter, it does not filter out microbes or bacteria.

Making rainwater safe to drink is possible but not straightforward and is generally only advisable in situations or places where water does not readily flow out of a tap.

Water in the wild

Is it applicable in businesses?

Saving water can make a real difference for companies in terms of their expenses as well as their taxes.

Installing rainwater catchment systems or water recycling systems (where possible) not only reduces the expenses for fresh water supply and waste water disposal but can also be counted as environmentally beneficial measures which might lead to reduced tax rates.

Save water, save cash

If you’d like to know more about water saving strategies and how to implement them into your operations, let’s have a chat!

The mission of Trianon Scientific Communication is to help CEOs place corporate social responsibility in the DNA of their corporate strategy, and leverage social, economic and environmental sustainability to boost their profitability, competitiveness and attractivity.

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01) https://undocs.org/A/RES/71/313, last accessed 2021.04.25

02) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drGx7JkFSp4, last accessed 2021.04.25

Co-Fonder of Trianon Scientific Communication. Expert in Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainable Development for SMEs — https://www.science-by-trianon.com

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