Economic development across India has blown up over the past few decades, with new manufacturers, tech hubs and skyscrapers popping up with each new year. While some individuals have managed to amass great wealth in this economic boom, the majority have been left behind. Inequality is evident at nearly every turn, but it’s far more vivid here than in the US. Tuk-tuks are seen driving alongside Range Rovers, and slums are found just a few steps away from a Four Seasons Hotel (in Mumbai). Meanwhile, in the remote, barren and arid villages in rural India, communities are still struggling to survive without running water.
The World Bank estimates that 21 percent of communicable diseases in India are linked to unsafe water, and more than 500 children under the age of five die each day from diarrhea alone. At the same time, the country is the second leading producer of cotton, which demands a huge portion of the nation’s water supply.
As a brand that sources cotton from India, we recognize the role that EST/WST has- however small- within this system. We also recognize that our decision to source organic cotton and other low impact materials is only a very small contribution to the massive water problem; much more needs to be done.
For this reason, we’ve decided to partner with WaterHarvest, a nonprofit that has provided grant funding and technical support for water-based rural development projects in India since 1987. Starting February 1st, we’ll be donating $10 from every purchase from our Indian organic cotton collections towards their water development projects in India. Our goal is to more than offset the amount of water used to produce the cotton that our products demand, and more importantly, to support the much-needed clean water infrastructure in rural India, which can ultimately save lives.
As the impacts of globalization draw increasingly stark contrasts between the rich and the poor, businesses must do more to protect the interests of all stakeholders whom they impact. All too often we see businesses exploiting communities and resources, and leaving it up to nonprofits to clean up after them. However, more businesses are taking a stand against this imperialistic, extractive approach, an approach which has dominated much of the past century, and are looking at ways to create shared value across a multitude of disparate stakeholder groups. We’re excited to be participating in this new wave of business, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to partner with an organization that has done so much good for others already.
WaterHarvest focuses on making clean water more accessible by partnering with local communities to build rooftop rainwater harvesting systems, irrigation systems for local crops, well renovations, and other local forms of water storage such as taankas and johads. In rural india, women are typically in charge of fetching water, and often walk for hours each day just to fill a pot with unsafe water. By making clean water more accessible, WaterHarvest is helping to free up time for women so that they can pursue other activities, such as education and income-generating activities. WaterHarvest also partners with local beneficiaries to run village development committees, which manage their natural resources responsibly and plan collectively for their future. Beneficiaries also receive training to develop skills such as farming, masonry, and business, thereby benefiting the community in more ways than clean water alone.