(As prepared for delivery)
Good morning. Thank you, Minhaj, for inviting me to visit your facility.
Last year, the United States and Bangladesh celebrated 50 years of friendship and diplomacy.
Our partnership continues to be strong. We enjoy close cooperation on disaster relief, combating terrorism, tackling the climate crisis, and fighting COVID-19, among many other areas.
Just last week, I celebrated my first anniversary as U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh.
I am proud of this obligation and privilege to represent the United States that affords me opportunities like today to deepen our partnership.
Therefore, I am delighted to recognize Drinkwell’s success as the 2022 winner of the U.S. Secretary of State’s annual Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) in the category of climate resilience.
Award for Corporate Excellence
Since 1999, the Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence has recognized the efforts of U.S. companies that demonstrate leadership in their overseas operations.
They uphold the highest standards of responsible business conduct and international business practices.
This award recognizes U.S. companies that exemplify the positive impact U.S. enterprises can have on local communities, while unleashing world-class innovation and ingenuity.
Each year, the award categories are updated to reflect the private sector’s critical role in addressing global challenges.
For 2022, the themes were responsible business operations, climate resilience, and inclusive economic growth.
These themes reflect President Biden’s agenda of inclusive economic growth at home and abroad.
It also reflects his focus and emphasis on climate action to combat global warning.
I visited Drinkwell’s water ATM and this control room last July with Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs, Dilawar Syed.
Drinkwell provides clean and affordable water directly to residents of densely packed neighborhoods in Dhaka, using a “water ATM,” or a pay-as-you-go system that works with Dhaka WASA to scale its operations.
I queued up at this ATM and drank the water from Drinkwell’s ATM. I was impressed with this model.
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Water, clean water, is essential.
Through its U.S.-technology, Drinkwell’s water purification system strengthens the resilience of the Bangladeshi people in the face of population growth, climate change, and industrial expansion.
Setting up these water ATMs in densely populated Dhaka and providing consumers with safe, clean water at very affordable prices is a novel and innovative solution.
I was delighted to endorse the U.S. Embassy nomination of Drinkwell in the ACE awards climate resilience category.
As a U.S. enterprise, Drinkwell has done incredible work, reflecting the best of American values and having an incredible impact in Bangladesh.
Truly, it is a testament to the beauty of the U.S. story. Minhaj came to Bangladesh in 2011 as a U.S. Fulbright student, focusing his initial efforts on clean water and its intersection to peace.
As one of the first Bangladeshi-American Fulbrighters, he never stopped in his dedication to this timely initiative.
And I know from talking to Minhaj, he gives his 100 percent to this company and strives to expand Drinkwell’s ATM network to provide access to clean water to all.
I don’t think he will stop until he is sure everyone has access to clean water.
Over the past 23 years, the Award for Corporate Excellence has told the story of innovative U.S. firms supporting local communities abroad.
Drinkwell, and the other three winners, like the other awardees before them, are leading the way in promoting growth, with integrity and excellence.
The award’s principles serve as a reminder of the aspirations that the U.S. businesses have for investing in Bangladesh.
Yes, the United States is the largest source of foreign direct investment in Bangladesh and Bangladesh’s largest export market.
With this backdrop, U.S. businesses desire a conducive business climate that allows for the diversification of supply chains and access to the promise of Bangladesh’s Least Developed Country status come 2026.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally presented Drinkwell with the award last December in Washington, DC, and I am delighted to hand it to Minhaj in Dhaka today.
My congratulations to Drinkwell for your achievements, for your championship of the marginalized, and enhancing lives and communities here in Bangladesh.
Thank you for being a symbol of both corporate and social excellence for U.S. businesses.
I wish you every success as you continue to break barriers and achieve the impossible.