Have you ever heard about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals or better known as SDG? Well, in case you haven’t heard about it, the 17 SDGs are humanity’s plan for creating a better world. In September 2015, 193 countries agreed on these 17 goals that cover all three areas of sustainable developments which are ecological, economic, and social. These 17 SDGs goals are aimed for everyone, either you are a policymaker, in the field of business, academia, even just as an individual.
So, what is the relevance of SDGs to business?
SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation is the SDG that was assigned to us for discussion. We, group 17, discussed some of the businesses that all share the same goal, which is SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation, during the second week after the International Collaboration Project meeting opened. Some of the enterprises provide a product that aids in providing clean water access to locations where there is a scarcity.
Because water makes up 90% of a human’s body, it is critical for survival and the continuance of human life. Also, without clean water, ailments like diarrhea, intestinal parasites, and chronic intestine inflammation are widespread, preventing children from absorbing essential nutrients and making them more vulnerable to other health problems. Unfortunately, billions of people around the world still lack access to clean water. In 2018, 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed countries. One in every three persons does not have access to sanitation. This results in unneeded disease and death. Although significant progress has been made in terms of access to safe drinking water, these gains are being undermined by a lack of sanitation. Then, according to 2020 data, nearly 2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water, 3.6 billion people do not have access to properly managed sanitation, and 2.3 billion people do not have access to basic hygiene. Natural wetlands fell by 35% between 1970 and 2015. It’s three times the rate at which forests are being lost. Think about it. Not to mention the fact that 129 countries will not be able to manage their water resources sustainably by 2030.
The United Nations (UN) has already established eight targets and eleven indicators that must be met by 2030. The UN’s primary aims and targets for the year 2030 are listed below. The first goal is to provide everyone with equal and universal access to safe and inexpensive drinking water. The second goal is to ensure that everyone has access to sufficient and equitable sanitation and hygiene, and put an end to open defecation, with a focus on the needs of women and girls, as well as those in vulnerable situations. The third goal is to reduce the amount of untreated wastewater in the world by half and significantly increase recycling and safe reuse. The next step is to improve water quality by lowering pollution, eliminating dumping, and limiting dangerous chemical and material releases. The fifth goal is to significantly improve water efficiency in all industries. Protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems, such as mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers, and lakes is the sixth goal. The next one is to increase international collaboration and capacity-building support for developing countries in water and sanitation-related activities and programs, such as water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling, and reuse technologies. And last but not least, is to encourage and strengthen community participation in improving water and sanitation management.
That is why one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is clean water and sanitation because it is critical for human survival, because like Emily Bell Tyree, the
Head of Communications from Action Against Hunger said, “when clean water is guaranteed, communities are healthier and more resilient.” In this essay, we will tell you about what we learned after four weeks of meetings and discussions, about a flourishing and sustainable business that focuses on clean water and sanitation.
Description and comparison of the innovations
All of the companies that we have been working on in the project, share a story inspired on helping the environment that surrounds us, and more specifically, all of them are mainly involved with SGD nº 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. More specifically, our businesses worked on:
● “Diamond Developers” (1) is a firm that provides sustainable villas in Dubai, but with a vision where people take a really important role. That’s why they also educate people in sustainability. SDGs involved are mainly nº6 (clean water and sanitation) and nº11 (sustainable cities and communities). However, there are others involved, such as nº7 (renewable energy) or nº3 (good health).
● “InnovaKit SAS” (2) works on a kit developed to wash coffee efficiently with innocuous materials, which reduces water consumption up to 90% compared to the traditional process, estimate humidity content through the mixed methodology, and mix the product in the drying stage homogeneously. Its main SDG is nº6, but nº9 (innovation and infrastructure) is also involved, in the way they are providing innovative and affordable tools and techniques to improve their coffee production, mainly on small coffee farms.
● “Solar Water Solutions” (3) offers a water purification system that is based on traditional reverse osmosis but is unique as it can produce safe drinking water from seawater in a sustainable way by using renewable energy and without emissions. The company’s product is directly related to SDG nº6, but it is strongly related to nº7, too. SDG nº 8 and nº9 can be appreciated as well, and nº5 (gender equality) in certain communities such as in Kenya, where it is traditionally the women and girl’s responsibility to carry the water, undertaking time-consuming and arduous water-carrying trips. With the company’s system, water can be obtained easier, enabling the children to go to school and the women to engage in entrepreneurial activities. Also, it reduces the toxic gasses and carcinogens produced in comparison with other methods of heating.
● “SolFoil” (4) is a company that produces solar products for cooking, heating, and pasteurizing. Their solar heating packages are covered with a special thin layer that heats up when exposed to sunlight. This product contributes to SDGs nº2, 3, 6, 7 and 13 “Climate Action”. This is because this product can be used for heating and cleaning water and food in developing countries where fire ignition or electricity is not available.
● “ORA Estuaries” (5), uses 3D printing technology to create man-made oyster beds in coastal regions. The objective is to stop erosion, filter the water, and regulate the food chain to improve life below water and on land too. The SDGs taken care of with this project are nº6, nº9, nº11, nº14 “Life below water” and nº15 “Life on land”, and they are altogether a consequence of the creation of these beds that step by step improve the environment.
● “Recyclamer Innovation” (6) is a company that has created a vacuum robot which is completely innovative, as it works with solar panels and has been especially eco-designed using a natural filter that is in direct contact with water, that is totally safe for the environment. It accomplishes the SGDs nº6, nº 14 and nº 17 “Partnership for the goals”, improving water sanitation mainly in Europe.
● “Cupanion” (7) has developed a project with the mission of inspiring people to reuse their goods and in this way show more respect to the environment. Cupanion has addressed the problem of over-consumption and wastefulness and developed reusable bottles that also support water-related projects around the world with its marketing campaigns. The SDGs this company achieves are nº3, nº6, nº12 “Responsible consumption” and nº 13.
In relation to the 5 Ps of sustainable development, they are all affected by these firms. People are experiencing an increase in happiness and a cheaper access to natural resources. Planet is experiencing a clear benefit. There is a much cleaner access to natural resources, with less emissions and taking more into account renewable energies. All these businesses contribute to this aspect, each of which does it in a different way. For instance, “Solar Water Solutions” offer access to water with less emissions, and through renewable energy. Prosperity is benefited because the world advances, improves, and it follows the natural course it should. Peace is also enhanced because with these innovations people experience an increase in happiness, and because what they are looking for is to distribute resources among everyone, so this avoids conflicts to obtain them. Partnership is reflected in most of these firms because they are looking for cooperation between developed and developing countries, and for the possibility of sharing resources, such as in “InnovaKit SAS”, for example.
All these companies have in common that they contribute to achieve a better and more sustainable world, in particular they are all related to SDG 6, but they differ greatly in the way they do it. For example, “Solar Water Solutions” offers access to water through renewable energy, while “InnovaKit SAS” provides a kit that helps to save up to 90% of water use in coffee production.
To achieve sustainability in such an unsustainable world, many different and complementary actions are needed; just a couple of measures are not enough.
So, having many companies contributing in different ways is encouraging and shows us that the important thing is everyone can contribute in their own way (recycling, consuming sustainable products, making donations, etc.) and the more innovative and sustainable ideas are, the better, we should not just stick to one.
In conclusion, these companies have in common the spirit and purpose (something that individuals can and should share), but they differ in the concrete means.
After studying the themes on our companies, and relating them in between, seeing their similarities and differences, we have realized we can link them by using the Stakeholder Theory, as all these businesses are interconnected and dependent on their customers, investors, … and they need to create value for all the stakeholders, not only to their shareholders. As they not only want to be profitable, but also are committed to the good of the environment and our world’s future, they need the whole society to be involved in their project, understand their objectives, and collaborate with them. They are in this sense “sending the world a message”.
Critical Reflection Essay
To begin with, the most relevant and the first highlight of this work is the realization of how little we were aware of the importance of sustainability in the world. We had always seen it as something distant, not so important. However, through this work we have realized how necessary sustainability is. Firstly, because without sustainability, growth would not be possible. Resources would end up disappearing, without a sustainable use of them, because what we are looking for is sustainable consumption, so that it can last into the future. Without it, we would not have environmental quality, clean and pure environments. Moreover, the less sustainable our behavior is, the more dangerous it is for our health as well. Poor environmental quality affects health (8)
However, it is far from the only thing we have noticed. To be honest, we were not very familiar with the Sustainable Development Goals. However, thanks to the work we have done, we have been able to learn about each of them, especially number 6 (clean water and sanitation). Having learned about them, we have realized the importance of these goals, how present they are in our lives, and the impulse we should give to them. These are not really distant goals that only a few companies or organizations should consider and promote, but rather goals to which we ourselves can contribute through our actions, through our way of life, and we should feel obliged to do so. If each one of us contributes a little to trying to improve the world, to trying to achieve these goals, they would be much more feasible than they may seem at first glance.
We have been able to see how they can guide the actions of so many companies, so that they can improve their impact, strengthen their reputation, and contribute value to society. We truly believe that the pursuit of these goals will have a tremendously positive effect on the environment, on interpersonal relationships, and on the world at large.
During the course of this work, we have felt to some extent ignorant, unaware of the richness of the subject. As we mentioned earlier, we were not very aware of what we were dealing with. We now have more knowledge. This knowledge means nothing other than responsibility because we have realized how important it is. We have been a bit worried about the current situation, and it has made us think a lot about what companies are really looking for out there. However, we are also very excited about the future, and very hopeful about all the benefits this can bring.
As all the companies we analyzed contributed to SDG 6, this made us realize how important it is that clean water reaches all parts of the planet as a starting point for many other SDGs and for life in all its forms.
Hence the title of our work, water is the basis of life and, as such, is necessary for good health, to eliminate poverty, to make it possible to foster life on land and life under water (heavily polluted water makes life impossible for many fish).
Perhaps because this is the SDG, we have worked on the most in depth, it is the one we have ended up with the most sensitized, life is not possible without water, and no one should ever suffer for not having sufficient access to it. Water must be cared for and valued, because without it there is no life of any kind.
Something we have discussed and learned a lot about, and perhaps the most important thing considering that all the authors of this reflection are students of the business/economics faculty, is the role that companies play in achieving a sustainable world. We often hear debates that emphasize and argue the importance of the measures that politicians must take to eliminate climate change, achieve equality, in short, achieve the different SDGs.
However, one does not often notice the role that companies can play in achieving a more sustainable world.
Companies are the main generators of wealth in the societies in which we, the authors of this reflection, live: they produce the food we eat, the houses we live in, the technology we use every day, and so on.
But unfortunately, they also generate most of the pollution and inequality that prevails in our world.
It is clear that governments have to limit and take measures with the resources they have to combat climate change, but it is also clear that all companies in the world have more productive, purchasing and economic power than all governments in the world and innovation and progress generally also comes from them, so, knowing these companies has made us realize that it is also a major responsibility of the business ecosystem to contribute to make the world we live in a more sustainable world and that without their contribution, we will never achieve. Innovations that make it possible to use energy without polluting will come from companies, innovations that help to bring clean water to different parts of the world (and we have seen this in the examples we have studied) will come from companies.
So, studying these business models has excited us and changed the perspective we have towards the future, in the sense that they combine the purpose of generating profits for companies with the purpose of achieving a sustainable, better, and long-term world.
Therefore, to conclude this point, we would like to emphasize that we are grateful for the opportunity to do this work because it has made us eliminate a prejudice such as thinking that in order to favor sustainability we must renounce economic progress, when this is not the case. Through innovation and progress, hand in hand with the contribution of everyone (individuals, governments, and in this case companies), we will achieve a more sustainable world. It is important to promote, also in universities, that sustainability and economic progress are not incompatible, and that we do not have to sacrifice short-term ease for the long-term stability of the people we love, and of the generations to come.
So, after all this work and reflections, we ask ourselves: What actions can we take now? How could we apply all these learnings?
First of all, it’s relevant to stand out, as we said before, that studying these business models has helped us realize that climate change is not just a fantasy, or a matter for others to take care of; but a reality we must take care of and that affects each one of us directly. If we want a better future, we have to take action now. We have also realized that it is possible to help climate change with an actual model of business, and that there are plenty of companies that are fully committed to climate change and are totally aware of the need to protect our planet.
For that reason, from now on, apart from applying some day-to-day knowledge we all have in order to take care of our planet (such as recycling at home, not wasting water, etc.), that most of us already apply although we are probably more conscious about now; we can start to value some other aspects.
But we believe that this knowledge and conscience about the importance of SDGs and climate change is not only important for the planet’s future, but also for our future. Some of us now, some of us in a few years, will start entering the working market, and we are each day more and more conscious of the importance of our future. We have learned that if we want to be able to have a secure future for ourselves and for the ones after us, we have to take care of our world.
We have realized that entering the working market with this in mind, is a very important aspect to take into account in the world we are living in, as businesses are now giving more and more importance to these aspects and are each day required to accomplish new and different sustainability and eco-friendly aspects and requisites, so they will positively value this knowledge and thinking aspect in an employee. We must keep in mind what we have learned about the SGDs and keep on learning on the matter in order to be valued and in order to protect our environment.
Summing up, by making the project we have come to knowledge of a lot of important aspects of sustainability in general, and more particularly on the importance of SDG nº 6 “Clean Water and Sanitation”, as well as the impact that this has on politics, economy, …at the same time as it has made us understand how it could play a really important role in our life’s future, individually and as habitants of our planet.
Our work as a distributed team: lessons learned
Diversity in different points of view gives us some lessons to learn about how other people see how the world works. Before looking further into big things like saving the world, we have to unify our perspective. We learn there are many ways to save the world. One of them is by maintaining and providing clean water to all living things that depend on the sustainability of this world, we are aware of our limited resources. different points of view can also be a source. As first world and third world countries, we are aware that we have a big gap between “developed country” and “developing country”.
in a group, we work well together with each other’s limitations. We started awkwardly, getting too hung up on the rules and assignments. Maybe this happened in some meetings. which in the end we realized it’s not about how to complete tasks and follow the rules. This is how we as young people from different parts of the world are able to exchange information and give our point of view in dealing with problems. This is how we as young people from different parts of the world can exchange information and give our point of view in dealing with problems. Among these many differences, we realize that the gap between us is not an obstacle for us to collaborate and work together in solving problems. At first, we do it by the rule and then we do it with our heart. It arises after we realize that the gap that exists between us, is something that must prevent us from collaborating and giving our thoughts to others.
We learn that the more resources we have, the more “money” we have. checks us a lot of power to do great things. At this time, we or we as a small group from Spain and Indonesia have started small steps to save the world. for “money” problems let those who are capable do their job. we get a new perspective as a person. The experiences we share can become new opinions for us as individuals who are always learning. we cannot evaluate this in a short time. we can be sure in this case we make a contribution that has an impact on others. this should be fundamental in thinking for everyone. In the end we learn about appreciating the small parts of the responsibilities that are given to us. and we realize that the more power and resources we have, the bigger the impact on the world. not quantity but quality.
“Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation” (2022). The Global Goals. <https://www.globalgoals.org/goals/6-clean-water-and-sanitation/>
“Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation – SDG Tracker” (n.d). Our World In Data. <https://sdg-tracker.org/water-and-sanitation>
“Goal 6 | Department of Economic and Social Affairs” (n.d). United Nations. <https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal6>
Emily B. T. (2020). Action Against Hunger. <https://www.actionagainsthunger.org/story/world-water-day-water-sanitation-and-hygiene-stronger-health>
Sayanti S. (2021). Seventeen goals Magazine. <https://www.17goalsmagazin.de/en/the-relevance-of-the-sustainable-development-goals-sdgs-for-companies/>
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