Private sector and water supply, sanitation and hygiene

Research reports and studies
October 2015
Nathaniel Mason, Mariana Matoso and William Smith

This discussion paper has been commissioned by UNICEF and the UN Foundation in order to:

  •  provide a clear language and framework, articulating the diverse ways the private sector can engage in support of universal access to and use of WASH.
  •  identify actionable ways forward for catalytic forms of engagement between private sector organisations and institutions working on WASH.

In responding to these needs, this paper aims to enable a more specific and coherent conversation about what the water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector is asking of the private sector, and what the WASH sector offers to the private sector in return. The findings are based on interviews with over 60 individuals, representing over 40 organisations from the private sector, government, civil society organisations, NGOs, multilaterals and partnership organisations. The paper responds to the interest of the UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson in this area, as expressed in his Call to Action on Sanitation.

Analysis and recommendations are framed around the unique opportunity created by the agreement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, on water and sanitation (and hygiene), and SDG 17, on the means of implementation and the global partnership for sustainable development. To achieve SDG 6 requires the commitment of the private sector – a fact that is recognised at the core of the concept of “global partnership”, promoted under SDG 17. This paper highlights ways that the private sector can be engaged in support of SDG 6, and particularly the targets on WASH, to generate business return at the same time as societal value. Specific areas for action include linking the public sector and larger companies in efforts to strengthen the domestic and small-scale private sector; collaborating to meet the WASH needs of people at work, as well as in their homes and communities; and facilitating forms of engagement at global level that can support country governments to engage their own private sectors in support of SDG 6.