Today marks the one year anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly officially declaring that safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights. If you think this is UN jargon, think again. It’s a big deal. Instead of me telling you why, let me quote the words of the UN Independent Expert on the subject, Catarina de Albuquerque:
“This means that for the UN, the right to water and sanitation, is contained in existing human rights treaties and is therefore legally binding. This landmark decision has the potential to change the lives of the billions of human beings who still lack access to water and sanitation.”
I had the great fortune of having lunch with Catarina a couple of months ago in New York City, and she was very complimentary of what we are doing at PepsiCo. Almost a year before the UN Declaration, we published formal guidelines to respect water as a human right. As a member of the Steering Committee of the United Nations CEO Water Mandate, we helped develop a task force of companies that is developing a broader framework for how companies can contribute to respecting this right. We also emphasized this commitment in the Promise of PepsiCo, signifying that we will “Respect the human right to water through world class efficiency in our operations, preserving water resources and enabling access to safe water.” And if you haven’t seen the five elements of our commitment, I urge you to have a look. The truth is that every single one of us has a role to play in respecting, protecting, and helping governments fulfill this right to water.
Our team at PepsiCorps is taking this obligation to heart. As a member of the PepsiCorps Advisory Board, I was thrilled and honored that water was chosen as the focus for the very first trip of the PepsiCorps volunteers. The team received 168 applications from PepsiCo associates across the world and across our businesses seeking one of eight spots for its month-long pilot in Ghana this October. After hearing the background of the eight finalists, I was not only inspired beyond words, but was—once again—proud to work for PepsiCo. These folks define what it means to be passionate and to have a social conscience. I have no doubt that they will contribute significantly to the cause of providing safe water to those who do not have it during their month abroad.
This anniversary really is a cause for celebration!