[Joining forces] Private and public sectors reaffirm their commitment to water management at the event “Water Unites Us” (El Agua Nos Une)

The publication Results: Water Unites Us Colombia” was presented at the event, with the best business practices highlighted by the United Nations.

The event “Water unites us: corporate management of water, an opportunity for the region” was held on October 18, at the Hall 74 auditorium in Bogota. The opening ceremony was given by Bruce Mac Master, president of the National Association of Colombian Businessmen (ANDI); María Claudia García, Colombian Minister of Environment; and Yvonne Baumann, Swiss ambassador in Colombia. The event was attended by various business leaders, representatives of the government, international cooperation, the Swiss Embassy in Colombia (Humanitarian Aid and Development Cooperation, SDC), who had the opportunity to speak, share experiences and learn more about water resource management.

Bruce Mac Master, president of the National Association of Colombian Businessmen (ANDI) 

In his speech, Mac Master emphasized that companies are committed to continue their efforts in water resource management and to making water an element of cohesion, dialogue and community building.

The Water Unites Us project has completed three years’ work, and is the result of the joint efforts of ANDI and the Swiss Embassy in Colombia. I would like to take this opportunity to say that we hope to continue working and giving an example, so that this project can expand elsewhere. Today we have 28 companies from different links in the value chain, but the decisions taken in the organizations will not be significant if they are not taken out into the country. Joint work between the public and private sectors, the regulators and the regulated, citizens and government, is essential in the advance towards sustainability.” said Bruce Mac Master, president ANDI.

Yvonne Baumann, Swiss ambassador to Colombia, presented Switzerland’s experience in corporate water management at this time of climate change. She emphasised that Water Unites Us started with four companies and today the group has risen to 28. She called on more countries and companies to join this initiative, to share their good practices and promote cleaner production.

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Yvonne Baumann, Swiss ambassador in Colombia

In 2012 we began working with Peru and Chile; in 2016 with Colombia; and in 2018 with Mexico and Brazil. During this time, the five countries have managed to build an intervention model for corporate water management. In Colombia, this has resulted in investments of $79 billion in three years, the equivalent of saving 1.5 million cubic meters of water, or what 27,000 people consume in three years. This experience has shown us that managing water also makes us more efficient.” said Yvonne Baumann, Swiss ambassador in Colombia.

María Claudia García, environment minister, highlighted the efforts of the 2018-2022 National Development Plan for meeting Colombia’s Sustainable Development Goals.  

Next, the president of ANDI and the ambassador of Switzerland presented the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, represented by minister Maria Claudia Garcia, with the publication “Results: Water Unites Us Colombia”, which includes the best business practices in the country highlighted by the United Nations.

The Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development stressed that the challenges of climate change are evident and that in order to tackle them, it is important for the public and private sectors to work together, and for Colombia to have a leading role as a country and in making proposals. She also highlighted the relationship between the National Development Plan 2018-2022 and the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals in Colombia.

Martin Jaggi, head of SDC global cooperation in the Andes, shared with the attendees some of the corporate water management initiatives in course in Peru and Chile, member countries of the Pacific Alliance, where the public sector has developed voluntary instruments (Peru has the Blue Certificate), which has sparked the interest of other countries in developing similar instruments for the private sector to play a greater part.

Leaders from Peru’s National Water Authority, Chile’s Agency for Sustainability and Climate Change and Mabe from Mexico also participated in the event, speaking on the importance of building a regional vision around water management. Companies such as Colcafé, Vestolit, Argos, Fabricato and Unibán shared their experiences in corporate water resource management and the importance of sustainability as a business strategy.

Ana Milena Cortázar, liaison officer for the Colombia Chapter of the Business Council of the Pacific Alliance (CEAP), announced that the public and private sectors of each Alliance member country have committed to scale up the Water Unites Us initiative, and encourage a change of behaviour in the business sector, government and the general public.

There were two panels in the afternoon. The first was Corporate Water Management: Business Case Studies in Colombia. Pablo Correa, science and environment editor of the El Espectador newspaper, spoke with the leaders of Colcafé, Vestolit, Grupo Argos, Fabricato and Uniban, about the results, lessons learned and main challenges they faced, and they shared with the attendees their success stories in corporate water resource management.

The event concluded with the panel: Territorial Action on Water, in which Aldemar Moreno Quevedo, Editor in Chief of Dinero magazine, spoke with members of Asoherbal, the Comité de Cafeteros del Valle del Cauca and the Alianza BioCuenca, who related their experience, results, leaderships and alliances in terms of territorial actions for water.

ANDI’s Vice-President of Sustainable Development, Carlos Herrera, closed the event with a call to continue working for the conservation and efficient management of water resources and highlighted the work of companies in sustainability.

For further information:
SuizAgua project, ficha de proyecto, Swiss Embassy, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
Web El Agua Nos Une

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La Agencia Suiza para el Desarrollo y la Cooperación (COSUDE) es la entidad encargada de la cooperación internacional dentro del Departamento Federal de Asuntos Exteriores (DFAE). Con otras oficinas de la Confederación, la COSUDE es responsable de la coordinación general de la cooperación para el desarrollo y de la cooperación con los Países del Este, así como de los programas de ayuda humanitaria suizos.