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Financial market essential for solving water crisis

Gary White and Christopher Flensborg

In connection with World Water Week in Stockholm, on Monday SEB together with the organisation Water.org hosted a reception to highlight the connection between water and finance.

“We want to put the spotlight on the critical importance of finance to solve the worlds water and sanitation crisis,” said Gary White, CEO of Water.org and WaterEquity, and one of the speakers at the reception.

Water.org is a non-profit organisation that has provided 22 million people around the world with access to safe water and sanitation through microfinancing solutions. In 2017 Gary White together with actor Matt Damon founded the company WaterEquity, which targets investors interested in combining financial returns with investments in solving the world’s need for water.

The reception, which was held at SEB’s offices on Kungsträdgårdsgatan, gathered some 200 representatives of authorities, international organisations and financial institutions. They were welcomed by Christopher Flensborg, head of Climate & Sustainable Finance at SEB.

“It has become clear that issues related to water supply have become essential for companies’ financial results,” he said. “So there is a clear link between water and finance. As a bank we want to engage in society, contributing to a better world, and water is entirely decisive for our future.”

Kathleen Dominique, environmental economist for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), was one of the speakers at the reception and addressed the fact that the arrangers, Water.org and SEB, at first glance seem like an odd couple.

“One is a non-profit organisation, the other a financial institution. One is based in Kansas City, the other in Stockholm. One has its focus on microfinancing, the other works with large financial investors. But what they have in common is a willingness and commitment to innovate in difficult markets”, she said.

Another speaker was Erik Karlsson, head of strategic development for the municipal water and waste management company Stockholm Vatten & Avfall. He spoke about the major Slussen project in central Stockholm. While most may regard this as a traffic solution, from his perspective it entails protecting Lake Mälaren, Stockholm’s fresh water supply, from the negative effects of floods.