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Will Sarni

2023 Water Action Agenda: The Role of the Private Sector in Solving “Super Wicked Water Problems”
2023 Water Action Agenda: The Role of the Private Sector in Solving “Super Wicked Water Problems” 1024 547 Will Sarni

A couple of weeks have passed since UN Water Summit in New York. While there will be ongoing reflection on the value of the summit there are a few key takeaways that are top of mind for me.

The value of the summit came down to these four takeaways:

  1. The crucial role of the private sector in creating a “catalytic community” to address water challenges at speed.
  2. The need for greater diversity in stakeholder groups engaged in solving global water challenges.
  3. Reframing “collective action” and replacing it with building “catalytic communities” that include investors and entrepreneurs working with the public sector, private sector, non-governmental organizations and civil society.
  4. Acknowledging that water and climate are “super wicked problems” and our approaches to tackling these problems need to be critically challenged – and in many cases replaced with new ways of thinking and solutions.

I was fortunate to facilitate a session led by Xylem and the Kingdom of the Netherlands to announce that seventeen organizations joined forces to support the United Nations (UN) Water Action Agenda, pledging to invest $11 billion in water innovation over the next five years. The pledges were included in the Water Action Agenda, a collection of all water-related commitments to accelerate progress on UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 targeting Water and Sanitation.

Water Foundry Ventures, along with executives from Xylem, Veolia, XPV, Hydraloop International, and Hansgrohe were joined by several nonprofit organizations, to pledge their commitment to invest in innovative water solutions. The funds will be directed toward water-related research and development, start-up companies commercializing innovative approaches to water management, and the deployment of new water technologies.

This event brought cemented my view that the private sector is the spark in building and scaling catalytic communities to solve water as a wicked problem.

More to follow on this topic and actions in 2023 to finally solve water.


Learn more about the UN 2023 water Conference here:

March 22, 2023 Press Release

17 Innovators Highlight Investment to Solve Global Water Challenges
Private Sector Pledges at UN 2023 Water Conference are Included in Water Action Agenda to Accelerate Progress on Water and Sanitation Over Next 5 Years
Water as a CFO Issue
Water as a CFO Issue 1024 683 Will Sarni

“Water as a CFO Issue” is my latest collaboration with Alexis Morgan from WWF, my co-author and friend, on why water strategy is a strategic risk but also, and often ignored, business opportunity. A water strategy should support business continuity, growth, and brand value, and contribute to positive economic, environmental, and social impact. We believe that it is long overdue to revisit prioritizing water as a financially material business issue (be it risks, fiduciary liabilities or opportunities: assets and sales growth) and the role of the CFO.

Our rationale is as follows: the financial performance of the company is the responsibility of the CFO and given how deeply financial performance is being influenced by factors such as climate-related water risks (from water scarcity to extreme weather events), there is a fiduciary responsibility for water to fall within the CFO’s purview.

Read the full article on Water Online here: Water as a CFO Issue

Thanks to Brendan Tierney and the team at Raymond James for the opportunity to publish original publication and Kevin Westerling at Water Online for republishing.