By:Sara Schmuck Issue: Conscious Capitalism Section: Jewel Of Collaboration
Joining Forces to Bring Quality Water to All
Over a billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water.
Human beings need at least one liter of water per day to survive and 50 liters for reasonable comfort.
Better water, sanitation and hygiene could reduce diarrheal diseases such as cholera and dysentery by as much as about 30 percent according to the World Health Organization.
More than 65% of the world’s population does not have enough water. Every day, diseases that could be prevented by better water quality kill thousands of children, most of them below the age of five. But there are several programs to deal with this global crisis. One of them originated at Atlas Copco.
Employees of Atlas Copco launched an initiative of their own, called Water for All (WFA) over 20 years ago. A severe drought in Peru inspired Atlas Copco as a corporation to help the plight of the thirsty. Rather than just donate money to a cause, Atlas Copco enlisted contributions from its employees and formed the organization.
Since its founding in 1984, Water for All has helped provide close to one million people with steady access to clean drinking water. Water for All cooperates with non-political aid organizations, funding different kinds of water projects in countries such as Kenya, Sudan, Burkina Faso, India, and Afghanistan. For example, in Tibet, Water for All works with the Swedish Tibetan Society for School and Culture. The group’s main aim is to improve the educational opportunities for children in Tibet, but with Water for All as a sponsor; it has also installed wells with drinking water at three schools, which are used by the children as well as by thousands of villagers in the vicinity.
The organization is funded through employee contributions, which Atlas Copco matches. The motto of Water for All is, “Clean drinking water is a basic human right.”
What Kind of Solutions are Provided?
The goal is to give people access to safe drinking water by providing sustainable solutions which they can manage themselves. Simple methods that are used include either digging or drilling wells for which Atlas Copco's equipment is sometimes used, building weirs, protecting existing natural sources such as springs or simply installing hand pumps.
Jo Cronstedt, Vice President, Public Affairs and Environment, notes that traditionally it is the women in developing countries who have the job of fetching water, often at the cost of their education. “Girls and young women in Africa, for instance, can spend much of the day walking long distances to and from water sources instead of attending school. Therefore an extra valuable achievement for Water for All is to install a pump at a school so that the girls can get education and water at the same time.”
Participation from the Recipients
Those who benefit from the donated funds are required to contribute to the project with resources and/or labor. Thus, the local village contributes with work and a small fund for maintenance and repair of the water wells. Again, women are typically chosen to look after the wells in the local communities to ensure sustainability of the project.
Among other things, Atlas Copco is a manufacturer of water well drilling equipment and related accessories. So, its employees see and learn about water issues more than most people. Atlas Copco, through Water for All, is committed to “help people to help themselves” by having end users take part in and have ownership of the project. This helps ensure long-term success.
Atlas Copco North America has just started its fundraising efforts and expects to contribute to a specific project late this year. Chris Heap, Vice President of Human Resources at Atlas Copco Drilling Solutions, says, “We look forward to being in a position to fund a project. We can look at it and say, ‘That one’s ours.’”
Core Values Drive the Organization
Jo Cronstedt, Vice President of Public Affairs at Atlas Copco Sweden, sees his company’s commitment to Water for All as extremely positive. “It aligns with our basic core values, interaction, commitment and innovation. Water for All doesn’t just provide funding; it provides sustainable solutions.”
Furthermore, at Atlas Copco, core values drive the daily business. Cronstedt said, “We try to choose suppliers with a social conscience, and we want our customers to feel comfortable working with us for the same reason.
Heap serves as the chairman of the Water for All Committee in the U.S. Heap said he’s been impressed with the generosity of Atlas Copco employees, especially during a time when many charitable donations are down. Along with Atlas Copco North America, Atlas Copco India and China are also new members of Water for All.
Mikael Lorin, Chairman of Water for All, Sweden, said, “I wish you could see the gratitude in the eyes of the people I met when I was on a mission. It says more than both words and pictures; it goes straight into the heart.”
Water for All recently worked in Malawi in southeast Africa. Water for All worked with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency to drill and dig for water in villages surrounding the Malamulo Hospital in the Mulanje District. This provided much needed access to water in an area where an average 1,600 people had to share one well. Now, every village in the area will have its own well and a water pump, meaning just 250 people have to share a well.
Malawi has a young and booming population; two out of every three residents are younger than 20 years old. Contaminated water contributes to many diseases that lead to early death, such as cholera. In fact, one in five children die before age five. Cholera and hepatitis are commonly found in drinking water that doesn’t come from good wells.
“We are very happy to see so many of our people take an interest in this important issue, which is not only about health and sanitation, but also about creating significant social benefits. Having clean water in schools means better access for children to education,” said Cronstedt. The plan ahead is to expand the Water for All membership further, so that eventually all employees who want to, regardless of their location, will be able to help needy communities get access to clean drinking water.
The Atlas Copco Group is a global industrial group of companies headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden. U.S. offices are in Commerce City, Colo., Garland, Texas, and Rock Hill, S.C. Atlas Copco develops and manufactures industrial tools, compressed air equipment, construction and mining equipment, assembly systems and offers related service and equipment rental. The products are sold and rented through a worldwide sales and service network reaching 150 countries.
To learn more or to contribute to Water for All, contact Chris Heap, Atlas Copco Drilling Solutions LLC, 2100 North First Street, Garland, TX 75040 or visit www.atlascopco.com.