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Environment 27 May 2019

What is BBVA doing to protect the availability of clean water and sanitation?

It is a known fact that water is the source of life, and survival depends on its constant cycle. The United Nation’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) recognizes the fundamental right to water and sanitation, establishing that every human has the right to between 50 and 100 liters (13 to 26 gallons) of safe and affordable water per day at a distance of less than 1,000 meters (just over half a mile) – or a half hour – from their home. BBVA is also contributing to the fulfillment of this SDG with its ‘Pledge 2025’ specifically with activity aimed at saving water and raising awareness about the responsible use of this life-giving resource.

Only one percent of the world's water is safe for human consumption. By contrast, and as strange as it may seem, 70 percent of the planet is water, just like the human body. Water is so essential, that losing 2.7 liters may cause the onset of dehydration. All of this is why the United Nations established SDG 6: “to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation,” aiming to raise awareness and protect the most vulnerable – women and children at risk of exclusion, refugees, and people with disabilities – from a lack of water.

With its commitment to reduce the direct environmental impacts caused by its business activity and through its Global Eco-efficiency Plan (GEP), BBVA aims to raise awareness about water use and thus reduce its consumption. BBVA’s 2018 GEP indicators revealed positive trends compared to the previous year: water consumption at the bank fell by 13 percent per person, and the percentage of people working in buildings with alternative water sources – such as recycled grey water or rainwater storage – has risen to 13 percent.

Climate change and global warming are realities, and water is a resource that becomes scarcer by the day. Desertification afflicts regions where water once flowed; increasingly, reservoirs are running dry, and this impacts the economy. This is a global problem.

According to Unesco, three out of four jobs worldwide depend on water to some degree. This means that the scarcity of potable water, issues related to its access, and sanitation represent risks to economic growth. At the same time, Unesco admits that “assessing the relationship between water, economic growth, and employment is a challenge.”

The demand for fresh water is growing by the day given the consequences of climate change, which has caused the rate of groundwater extraction to increase 1 percent per year since the 1980s. Furthermore, the fifth assessment report produced by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that for each degree the temperature increases, 7 percent of the world population will have to contend with a 20 percent decline in renewable water resources.

Water is a valuable asset, and BBVA knows it

Everyone – from both private and public sectors and society as a whole – can play a part in leaving the world a better place for future generations. As a company that is engaged with the community and as a financial institution, BBVA also assumes its responsibility in the area of funding. As a bank, having significant control over the channeling of funds, it plays a fundamental role in the fight against climate change and in the fulfillment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. BBVA’s Global Eco-efficiency Plan and its policy for the responsible use of water have produced positive results in recent years.

  • Total water consumption at BBVA Group worldwide dropped 13 percent between 2017 and 2018. In Spain, the bank was able to achieve a 14 percent reduction.
  • At the company headquarters in Madrid, 23.6 percent of the water used for the sprinkler systems and bathrooms is recycled. This would be the equivalent of five Olympic swimming pools or what 30,000 people use in one day.
  • Total water consumption at BBVA's headquarters fell 20 percent between 2017 and 2018. Reduced irrigation needs (-17 percent) and a reduction of water used for air conditioning/heating and decorative fountains (-51 percent) account for a good portion of this savings. The bank also managed to decrease the use of water in bathroom faucets by 41 percent.

Still, BBVA does not limit its implementation of these good consumption and eco-efficiency practices to its own facilities. The bank also promotes responsible water consumption and acknowledges leading-edge initiatives in the field. In 2018, the Group recognized the chemist, Omar Yaghi, with the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge award for his groundbreaking work in the development of materials that can trap and store carbon dioxide, extract water from humid ambient air in arid regions, and produce clean, hydrogen-based fuels.

Along these lines, the BBVA Microfinance Foundation has launched a program that contributes to this ODS. Through a collaboration of the Foundation in Peru with, access to water and sanitation is facilitated, something that is usually carried out when housing is improved.

BBVA’s efforts to ensure access to drinking water are not limited to its association with third parties. A few years ago, the bank began collaborating directly with AUARA, a social company that invests 100 percent of the dividends it generates from sales into developing potable water projects in underdeveloped areas. ince it launched in September 2016, it has provided more than 11,000 people with access to clean water. Also, in order to contribute to awareness about the problem, this year on World Water Day the bank lit up their main buildings in Madrid and Mexico City (La Vela and Torre BBVA Bancomer, respectively) with a giant drop of blue water

BBVA and the SDGs

BBVA’s Pledge 2025 is an initiative that demonstrates BBVA's efforts to contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Spearheaded by the United Nations under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the SDGs are a worldwide call to adopt measures to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Included among the priorities defined by the 17 goals are domains such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace, and justice. On the whole, BBVA contributes to all the SDGs – given its wide range of business activity – with both its global presence and the ever-active BBVA Microfinance Foundation.

With its ‘Pledge 2025’ BBVA is actively fighting climate change, demonstrating the stake it has taken in sustainable development. Under the auspices of this initiative, the bank aims to raise €1 billion by 2025 to fight climate change and promote the development of sustainable infrastructure, in addition to reducing its environmental footprint, and engaging the banking industry in the promotion of sustainable development.

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