Today we focus our attention on the importance of nature’s most precious resource around the world; water.
One in 10 people do not have access to clean drinking water: CLICK TO DONATE
A sustainable planet starts with clean water and we are committed to reducing our water footprint by using materials that are dyed without water, working with mills that clean and recycle their water and investing in clean water for communities.
That’s why we partner with Planet Water Foundation – a U.S. non-profit that helps combat our global water crisis by bringing clean water to the world’s most disadvantaged communities.
We caught up with Carolina Bravo, Director of Partnership Development at Planet Water Foundation, to learn more about their mission and operations around the world.
Learn More and donate to the Planet Water Foundation: CLICK HERE
Can you tell us more about what the Planet Water Foundation does?
Planet Water Foundation is a U.S.-based non-profit organization focused on bringing clean water to the world’s most disadvantaged communities through the installation of community-based water filtration systems and the deployment of hygiene education programs. Planet Water projects are focused on children, schools, and rural communities across the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America.
A sustainable planet starts with clean water.
Planet Water implements a multi-faceted program that aims to create change at both environmental and behavioral levels. This model is built on the following primary approaches: 1) providing a safe water supply; 2) promoting water health and hygiene; 3) prioritizing ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and sustainability; 4) enhancing corporate social responsibility programming and employee engagement; and 5) engaging and empowering communities throughout this process.
Why is the focus on water so important?
Water is a basic necessity for life, however the number of people lacking access to clean water globally is alarming. Across the world, 663 million people (approximately one in ten) lack access to an improved water source, while 1.8 billion, or one in four, use a drinking water source with fecal contamination. These rates are higher in communities facing water poverty—these are the areas where Planet Water focuses its projects.
Across the world, 663 million people (approximately one in ten) lack access to an improved water source, while 1.8 billion, or one in four, use a drinking water source with fecal contamination.
Water poverty is an issue that not only has an impact on health but also has significant implications for education, gender equity, and social wellbeing. Although many areas of the world have available water sources, water is often not safe for human consumption and in many cases access is unreliable and comes at a high cost to human health, family finances, personal safety, educational opportunities, economic productivity, and overall community development. As global demand for water continues to grow and we see an increased impact on water scarcity and quality due to climate change, natural disasters, and pollution, this is an issue we must prioritize to ensure healthy ecosystems and sustainable communities worldwide.
In which countries does the foundation operate?
Planet Water has deployed nearly 1,000 projects across 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America.
Is the infrastructure and education free for the communities? How do you choose the locations?
The local Planet Water team has worked closely with Columbia Sportswear’s supplier partners to identify schools within their supply chain communities who can directly benefit from these projects. For each project, the team initially identified three to five potential sites, which they then assess and determine which location is in greatest need and most viable for the projects.
The recipient communities are then involved throughout the process to ensure buy-in and participation in the initiative. In addition, following the deployment of each system, the Planet Water team trains a group of custodial staff and teachers from each school on the simple cleaning and maintenance processes to ensure the projects are sustainable over time. And the Planet Water team returns back to each site regularly over five years to complete follow-up visits and reinforce training where needed.
How and why did Columbia Sportswear get involved?
We began our partnership with Columbia Sportswear in 2016, with our first two projects deployed together in Vietnam in October of that year. In 2017 we deployed three projects, again in Vietnam and we now have 9 projects to date (2019) in Vietnam, India, and the Philippines. Columbia Sportswear became involved with our projects as part of their commitment to social and environmental responsibility and to support communities in need within their supply chain.
Columbia has proudly continued this partnership with Planet Water and our supplier partners over the past 3 years and completed 9 projects to date. In partnership with Planet Water, Columbia intends to build 25 Planet Water Towers by the end of 2022.
What are the successes you have seen so far from the program?
Planet Water and Columbia Sportswear have now brought clean, safe water access up to 9,000 people [per day] while providing water-health and hygiene education programming to the participating communities. Based on an impact evaluation study from other projects, Planet Water’s approach was found to decrease diarrhea rates by 80% in participating communities while also having significant improvements in knowledge and behavior related to water-health and hygiene topics.
In addition to the impact we have made together on participating communities, we have also provided a platform to engage Columbia’s supplier partners on meaningful Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. This has included participation from employee volunteers from Columbia Sportswear and partner companies. These volunteers have helped deploy each project from beginning to end to provide clean water access to supply chain communities.
Planet Water’s approach was found to decrease diarrhea rates by 80% in participating communities while also having significant improvements in knowledge and behavior related to water-health and hygiene topics.
Beyond the impact Planet Water has measured through prior evaluation studies, access to clean water catalyzes change within a community by improving health, increasing educational opportunities through higher rates of school attendance, and transforming the lives of women and girls, who often dedicate hours a day to collecting water. Due to the multi-dimensional impact that clean water access has on a community, interventions in this area have been found to provide a $3 to $34 return for every dollar invested, depending on the project location and approach.
What are the challenges still ahead?
The need for clean water access remains a pressing global issue and has been identified by the United Nations as one of the Sustainable Development goals. Through collaborative projects between organizations such as Planet Water Foundation and Columbia Sportswear we continue to make progress towards improving well-being for all.
 World Health Organization and UNICEF; Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2014 Update
 World Health Organization, 2004; Evaluation of the costs and benefits of water and sanitation improvements at the global level