Xylem sets new 2030 sustainability commitments for corporate water stewardship and WASH access

Xylem sets new 2030 sustainability commitments for corporate water stewardship and WASH access

As water challenges escalate around the globe, Xylem’s opportunity to help our customers advance sustainability has never been greater. Several years ago, Xylem set ambitious Sustainability Goals for 2025. These goals measure our progress promoting sustainability within our company footprint, enabling customers’ sustainability efforts and making a difference in our communities.

Now we’re looking ahead to 2030 and announcing new sustainability commitments that reflect our ambition to align business value creation with positive environmental and social value.

Making Waves spoke with Austin Alexander, Vice President, Sustainability and Social Impact at Xylem, about these new commitments and how they’ll accelerate our work to help solve the world’s water challenges.

Q: Before we discuss the new commitments, can you give us an overview of Xylem’s sustainability strategy?

Austin: Absolutely. Our sustainability strategy focuses on three strategic pillars that address the greatest challenges our stakeholders face, and where Xylem and our solutions play a unique role in creating lasting, positive impact. In other words, the pillars are designed to concentrate on those areas where we can have the greatest impact helping the global community solve escalating water threats.

The pillars are:

  • Decarbonize the water sector
  • Accelerate corporate water stewardship
  • Advance water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) access and capacity building

Our new 2030 commitments significantly expand on the targets for the corporate water stewardship and WASH pillars.

Q: Can you walk us through the new goal for water stewardship, and how it will help drive sustainability?

Austin: Responsible water stewardship is an increasing priority for the industrial sector and commercial building users. With our recent combination with Evoqua, we’ve added their world-class suite of industrial water solutions to our portfolio. We are a partner of choice for users of water – with technology and services offerings that help corporate water operators reduce annual water demand, reduce business risks related to changing water resources and advance water stewardship. Our new goal, created to accelerate and measure our progress in driving corporate water stewardship, sets three targets that directly align with SDG 6 targets 6.3, 6.4 and 6.5. By 2030, we will:

Reduce global water demand with our solutions and services, increased accountability in our supply chain, operational efficiencies and impactful partnerships by: 

  • Enabling customers to reduce annual water demand by at least 2b cubic meters by 2030
  • Reducing Xylem’s water intensity by 30% through 2030
  • Reducing the water intensity of our supply chain through greater accountability of our high-impact suppliers through 2030

Q: Can you walk us through the new 2030 goal for WASH, and the sustainability impact it will create?

Austin: The second commitment we recently made supports our pillar to advance water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) access and capacity building. Today, more than 1.4 billion people live in areas of high-water vulnerability, according to UNICEF. Through Xylem Watermark, we improve WASH access in under-resourced, water-insecure communities. Over the past four years, working toward our 2025 Goal of providing WASH access to 20 million people, we have gained valuable insights and built strong partnerships. Additionally, we have established new partnerships to enhance our ability to accelerate WASH access beyond purely philanthropic efforts.

We have aligned portions of our portfolio to target the most critical technology needs in WASH access. Building on these efforts and maintaining our commitment to philanthropic efforts, we’ve added a new, more ambitious target for 2030. We will:

Expand our impact to improve WASH access by leveraging our partnerships, our technology and our ability to advance innovative models to:

  • Reach an additional 80m people with climate resilient WASH access and capacity building in under-resourced, water-insecure communities by 2030 (adding to our existing 20m goal by 2025).

Q: How do these new 2030 commitments align with Xylem’s overall sustainability and social impact strategy?

Austin: The new commitments reflect the foundation of our sustainability and social impact efforts at Xylem, and how we continue to prioritize the areas where we have greatest impact. We are uniquely positioned to lead by example when it comes to sustainability due to the nature of our business, working alongside our customers to help them address their most pressing water challenges.

Setting the new corporate water stewardship goal connects us to our purpose: to empower our customers and communities to build a more water-secure world.

It also communicates our commitment to our new High-Impact Culture: the goal is designed to push our teams to be innovative and empowered to lead and to hold us accountable to deliver results to our stakeholders and communities.

Our new WASH access commitment builds on the progress we’ve made – and the impact Xylem Watermark and our partners have delivered to communities – in recent years. Water insecurity is an increasing threat around the globe, and Xylem is committed to helping communities solve water through our humanitarian and social impact capabilities, as well as our commercial offerings.

Q: What strategies or initiatives is Xylem planning to implement to reach these commitments?

Austin: Water is a complex challenge and just like any complex challenge, it cannot be solved by one person or company. Our new water stewardship commitments are built on the understanding that many players, from our own employees and suppliers to our business partners, will need to be involved to achieve our targets.

We only succeed if we also bring others along on the journey – either by encouraging their own water stewardship commitments or by providing technology in areas that reduce water demand.

Q: How are these commitments different from Xylem’s current 2025 Sustainability Goals?

Austin: Our 2025 Sustainability Goals are still core to our sustainability program, spanning all of Xylem’s functional areas. They focus holistically on sustainability, with goals related to decarbonization, diversity and employee volunteering, among other areas of focus. We are still committed to achieving our remaining 2025 goals. We continue to make progress on several key 2025 goals focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, fleet sustainability, safety and other areas.

We hope to continue to see all industries deepen their focus on water-related goals. Water is vital to building a more sustainable world. As more companies, communities, water providers and water solutions providers set water-related sustainability goals, we can really help the world move the needle on creating a more sustainable future.

Read Xylem’s recently released 2023 Sustainability Report.