Over the past 18 months, the world has experienced unimaginable struggles and loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities around the world have all felt the impact. Throughout this extraordinary time, water has played a critical role in helping protect public health and well-being: preventing the spread of disease, enabling hospitals to treat the sick, and sustaining families and businesses during lockdowns. The water sector has mobilized to meet the challenges of the pandemic in powerful and inspiring ways. Utility professionals have been on the frontlines, working heroically to provide water and other essential services to their communities. We have also seen businesses of all kinds sustaining local economies during lockdowns. Xylem is honored to support those who play such an integral role in daily life around the world by providing them with the services, products and technologies they need to keep essential services flowing. Working together, we are helping communities and businesses become more resilient and sustainable for the future – and advancing our mission: to solve water.
Our COVID-19 response story starts with our people — our passionate team of more than 16,000 water innovators and champions. Throughout the year, we took actions to protect our colleagues, both to live our values as a company and to ensure we could support our customers and all those we serve. We also came together to continue to reinforce the foundations of our business, ending 2020 in an even stronger financial position than when the pandemic began. And we continued to build a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion to bring the best and most innovative solutions to our customers. We know there is much more work ahead of us, particularly to create a company that is more representative of the people our customers serve, and it is work we are committed to.
When the pandemic struck, we mobilized quickly to support our customers — first in China and then around the world. We helped address immediate needs, such as providing equipment and expertise to emergency hospital builds. We also created new ways to serve customers virtually, so they could keep services flowing when their communities needed them the most. And we continued to develop and provide advanced solutions and products to help our customers build more resilient systems to address challenges now and in the future.
Xylem Watermark, our corporate social responsibility program, helped communities facing the most dire economic and water challenges by supporting nonprofit partners — like Americares and UNICEF — for COVID-19 relief around the world, and expanding our community-based grant program. Xylem colleagues also continued to donate their time, talents and money to bring relief to communities hardest hit by COVID-19. In 2020, despite COVID-19 restrictions, more than 7,400 employees logged over 53,100 volunteer hours.
During a period when many thought sustainability efforts would suffer globally, as companies struggled with financial and economic pressures, Xylem worked with our customers and partners to manage the challenges of the pandemic — and also to take meaningful steps forward on sustainability. Our approach reflects our bedrock belief that a company can and must create both economic and social value, even in the most difficult of times.
We remained firmly committed throughout 2020 to advancing sustainability, including our 2025 Sustainability Goals and our customers’ sustainability goals. Among our impacts: enabling water operators to reduce their carbon footprint by 0.7 million metric tons of CO2, preventing 1.4B m3 of polluted water from flooding communities or entering local waterways, and enabling the reuse of 4.3B m3 of water, or more than 1 trillion gallons.
We are honored to be recognized for our progress by sustainability leaders and ESG investors: Xylem achieved an ESG rating of AAA from MSCI and the top Sustainalytics score for the industrial machinery industry. As of December 2020, Xylem has the highest environmental, social and governance capital as a percent of market capitalization of all large cap companies (>$9 billion).
2020 also made us reflect on what it means to be a company that cares — about our people, our customers, our suppliers and our communities. When a company cares, all stakeholders benefit. We are excited about the future and our opportunity to drive even greater impact.
Our business and mission have never been more relevant, and the economic and social value of critical infrastructure has never been more apparent — as a key to protecting communities in times of crisis, and also a catalyst for economic growth, environmental advances and equity. As the world increasingly recognizes that resilience and sustainability go hand in hand, Xylem has a unique role to play in driving global impact — because these imperatives are at the heart of our business. And, so, we have a responsibility to show leadership, and to work with customers and other stakeholders for a stronger and more equitable future. We have the opportunity of a lifetime to solve urgent challenges like water scarcity, now, and create a more water-secure world for generations to come.
President and CEO