World Economic Forum in Davos:
Swarovski Joins the Conversation on Water Scarcity

Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World declares the ambitious title of the World Economic Forum’s theme for its annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, to be held in January 2018.

Attendees will include the power players who can make a difference through concerted action; Swarovski will be among them—an informed and highly motivated participant in the conversation.

Attended by the world’s power players, convening to discuss sustainable development, it will be a strong reminder that national, regional and global divides are on the rise in place of co-operative globalization. Putting countries first is hindering innovation and transformational change across the global economy, and it is out of sync with sustainable development and inclusive growth. Businesses are increasingly required to step in and support a shared future in a fractured world.

This particularly applies to fresh water challenges, where collaborative action is urgently needed. Consider the facts: oceans cover around 70% of the Earth's surface and account for 97% of its water, but only 3% of all water on Earth is drinkable freshwater, and most of that is in accessible in the form of ice caps and glaciers. In fact, only 1% of all water found on our planet is accessible; it means that 800 million people in the poorest countries are unable to access clean water, and 2.5 billion lack adequate sanitation services. A consequence of this is the approximately1.5 million deaths each year caused by diarrhoea. By 2025, 48 countries will be affected by water scarcity, affecting around 35% of the projected global population.

This is a very localized issue that demands an understanding of how and why regions endure water scarcity, flooding and/or pollution, and how local water users, communities and authorities can come together to solve problems. Context-based collaboration is needed.

Swarovski is working on precisely this kind of collaborative approach. It is a subject close to the company’s heart, and it goes to the very foundations of the business set up by Daniel Swarovski in 1895. It was the abundance of water that first attracted the visionary businessman to the Austrian Tyrol, since water is the essential ingredient in creating Swarovski crystal—it generates clean electricity to power the crystal-cutting machinery. Ever since, the company has been committed to managing water equitably and efficiently as part of its responsibilities toward co-workers, partners and customers.

Today, we conserve water in our production processes. Globally, we recycle 70% of the water we use in our operations. The remaining water from our processes is treated according to local regulations at wastewater treatment plants before being returned to the environment.

However, we have more to do. Across our production sites we face various threats. For example, at our Indian site in Pune, as a response to the extreme drought affecting the region we achieve close to zero-water discharge. In southern Thailand, which endures sporadic flooding, we are starting to engage local agencies to help our factories, our work force, and the local communities to cope with floods.

That is why we are always seeking to develop initiatives around our plants that address the most pressing local water challenges and create inclusive solutions. It means engaging employees and their families and partnering with local authorities, NGOs, and the wider community.

Beyond the business, we also play a role in supporting hard-hit communities. That’s why we have been operating our Swarovski Waterschool since 2000. As the company’s flagship community investment program, it aims to inspire present and future generations to understand and practice sustainable water use, environmental stewardship, and hygiene education.

Today, Waterschools are active in Austria, Brazil, China, India, Thailand, Uganda and the USA, working with schools and NGOs to engage children and empower communities. So far, we have educated 461,220 students; reached 2,451 schools; trained 9,903 teachers and involved 1,585,000 community members. Look out for Swarovski Waterchool and UCLA Film, celebrating the work of our Waterschools and their valuable contribution to improving children’s lives.

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