In case you were too sidetracked by next month’s Earth Day, yesterday was World Water Day. The reality, however, is that every day should be Water Day, when we consider some of the daunting statistics we face early in the 21st century: close to 900 million people, or about 1 in 8 worldwide, lack access to clean water; over 3.5 million a year worldwide die from water-related diseases; and 200 million hours of women’s time is exhausted daily just by the hauling of water for every day needs.
The depressing statistics related to the lack of sufficient water around the globe hits the world’s poor the hardest. The water crisis, however, is not one of scarcity, but of access. About 70% of the world’s fresh water supply goes towards agriculture, so as the global demand for dairy and meat surges, that only will squeeze the proportion that is available to the world’s increasing population. Many NGOs, however, are confronting this issue now, and have launched programs that focus on granting the world’s poor easier access to safe water. One of those organizations is Water.org, which has partnered with Levi Strauss to raise awareness of the issue.
Levi’s promises to commit US$250,000 to Water.org to fund programs that collectively will provide at least 52.8 million gallons (200 million liters) to safe water projects. Water.org’s programs focuses on clean water and sanitation initiatives in South Asia, Latin America and Africa, regions that could definitely use a boost.
Depending on your perspective, this partnership is either a spry approach that engages customers or a tactic to encourage consumers to promote Levi’s brand. In order to help raise the 200 million liters needed for this campaign, consumers can tweet what they are doing using a Twitter hashtag, “Like” the Levi’s brand on Facebook, play a water game on Facebook (which means downloading an app that grants access to your private information, with the caveat that there is more of a social benefit than Mafia Wars), or visit a Levi’s chain store in the United States. In this new age of social media, users may feel as if they are making a difference, and Levi’s is promoting more than their brand: for example, the company urges customers to limit the washing of their jeans to every two weeks (as the care of a garment after a purchase creates a larger environmental impact than the steps taken along the supply chain to get that pair of jeans on a store’s shelf).
Welcome to the new world of corporate social responsibility, where consumers will further interact with companies through the use of platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Clicking a “Like” button or forwarding a tweet is now the new activism. Whether you are a fan of this trend or not, expect this tactic to become the norm. In the end, what matters is whether the folks who need help the most really benefit.