Clean water fund nudges hotels and spas

Sensemaking / Clean water fund nudges hotels and spas

Whole World Water’s low-carbon, filtered alternative to bottles could raise $1 billion to cut thirst in Sub-Saharan Africa.

14 May 2013

Water, as the saying goes, is life. Or life-threatening for the billion people living without safe drinking water. Enter, a new campaign which aims to expand access to safe drinking water by helping the hospitality industry cut back on bottled water. The target is to raise $1 billion in three years to fund projects such as the provision of sustainable, safe drinking water to communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Whole World Water generates funds in collaboration with hotels, restaurants and spas, which install in-house filtration systems as part of the campaign. They can then serve local water to guests in elegant and reusable glass bottles, a low-carbon, low-cost alternative to disposable plastic bottles of drinking water.

And how does it generate money? In many hotel minibars there’ll be a bottle of mineral water. In a campaign member hotel, it will be a bottle of ‘Whole World’ water. The consumer still pays to drink it, then (more often than not) leaves the bottle behind for the hotel to reuse. In a spa, they might add a line item to the guest’s bill, telling them about Whole World Water. In either case, 10% of  the revenue generated goes to the fund.

The financial benefits for the hospitality industry are clear: a bottle of filtered water can cost hotels 25% less to provide than a plastic bottle of water. Each glass bottle can be re-used, reducing CO2 emissions from production and transportation of plastic bottles and avoiding the issue of plastic waste. Richard Branson’s Necker Island estimates it will save 200,000 plastic bottles a year.

The UK-registered charitable fund, managed by ClimateCare, will soon be open to applications from organisations seeking finance for projects to secure safe, sustainable and affordable drinking water in developing countries. Disbursements will be made by a committee of water and financing experts, based on strict objectives, including the potential to return income to the fund. This additional revenue will be recycled to new projects to increase long-term impact.

The filtering concept was piloted by founding member Sonu Shivdasani in the resort and spa group Six Senses. Other early members include Banyan Tree, Oberoi, Ritz-Carlton and Virgin. Shivdasani hopes the fund will showcase the potential of filtered water in the hospitality industry.

“It’s sort of a me-too industry”, says Karena Albers, a television producer and co-founder. “Part and parcel of that is making it as simple as possible for hotels to take part in it. We hope it will inspire businesses to think more holistically about their processes and sustainability.” – David Fulbrook

Photo: Yves Behar / Fusproject

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