World Water Day: Working with Westminster to end water poverty
Here in the UK, we don’t tend to think much about how much we need water. This marks us out from millions around the world for whom the task of collecting water dominates every day. Globally, 650 million people still live without safe water. For almost one in ten people, most of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa, the water collected is often so unclean that it causes ill-health and disease.
As the Chief Executive of a social enterprise called Belu Water, I think about water a lot. We're proud to be the UK's only British bottled water company to be 100% carbon neutral. We never knowingly export and we continually trial and test new production ideas to reduce our environmental impact and increase our positive global impact. That’s also why in 2011 we partnered with international NGO WaterAid and committed to give them 100% of our profits. Since then we have already given more than £1.5 million to support WaterAid projects around the world and help communities achieve access to safe water and sanitation – basic human rights.
Readers of PoliticsHome may have seen Belu around the Palace of Westminster, where we are the official supplier of bottled water following an open and competitive tender in 2013. We like to think that we are playing our small part in keeping our nation’s democracy ticking. At Belu we're constantly striving to make a difference in innovative and inspiring ways.
March 22nd is World Water Day – a day to really think about water, and an ideal time to tell the readers of PoliticsHome that by drinking Belu water they are already doing something to help reach everyone everywhere with a safe supply. This year the theme of UN World Water Day is “Water and Jobs”.
I’ve seen first-hand the impact of WaterAid’s work on communities which now have clean, safe water nearby. Rather than walking miles for water, women can look after their families and work. Children can go to school full-time because they no longer get sick from waterborne diseases.
It’s impossible for me to imagine running my business without clean water. When our staff are sick or absent, our bottom line suffers; their health and productivity is paramount to our success.
Knowing that I could use my corporate experience to bring a product to market while helping transform some of the world’s poorest communities has been incredibly motivating.
The partnership with the Palace of Westminster to sell Belu was a real landmark. Since we started supplying Belu on the premises, our business has gone from strength to strength – this has meant we can support WaterAid more every day. I’ve even had the opportunity to accompany the Prime Minister to the World Expo, the World Fair, hosted by Milan in 2015, to show the world how social enterprise can contribute to the British economy while also having international impact.
The public also understand the importance of water (alongside sanitation and hygiene). In 2015, independent polling found that the general public believe most UK foreign aid goes to health programmes, followed closely by aid for clean water, and improved sanitation. Moreover, the survey revealed that the public also think that health, and water and sanitation, should receive the greatest investment from the UK’s foreign aid budget. However, the Government spend only 2% of bilateral overseas aid on water and sanitation.
My colleagues at WaterAid are working closely with supportive parliamentarians to ensure that this vital resource gets the attention it needs.
So, this World Water Day, I’d like you to join me in raising a glass – of water – and reflect on how important this basic resource is to our lives. And every time you quench your thirst with Belu, remember that you’re helping to improve lives.
Learn more about WaterAid’s partnership with Belu here.