Hospitality industry collaborates to support safe water for all

Hospitality industry collaborates to support safe water for all

The UN has proclaimed 2013 the ‘Year of International Water Co-operation’. With more than 780m people on Earth lacking access to safe water, it’s clear that monumental steps are required to ensure sustainable access to safe water for all. What’s more, this must be achieved against a backdrop of water scarcity, global warming, explosive population growth and rising economic prosperity. Demand for water is projected to outstrip supply by 40% by 2030, while the wars of the future will be fought over water, believes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

WHOLE WORLD Water is a new social enterprise established to radically increase funding for sustainable development projects delivering safe water access to developing communities. Set to launch on World Water Day, 22nd March 2013, it seeks to engage the global hospitality and tourism industry in an unprecedented, collaborative effort to address this major world issue.

Uniting in pursuit of a common goal

Spas, hotels, resorts and restaurants signing up to the three-year campaign will filter, bottle and sell their own water to customers on site, with 10% of the revenues being channelled directly to the WHOLE WORLD Water Fund, a UK-based charity. All proceeds donated to the fund will be used to finance high quality, sustainable development projects focused on the provision of safe water in developing countries.

The founders of WHOLE WORLD Water, Jenifer Willig and Karena Albers, anticipate that annual contributions to the fund could total $1bn. With many high profile hotels and resorts already committed to taking part, including Soneva, Six Senses, Virgin Limited Edition, Virgin Hotels, Banyan Tree and Auberge du Soleil, industry players from around the world are being encouraged to participate.

By uniting the tourism and hospitality industry on a non-competitive platform in pursuit of a common goal, the organisation hopes to inspire other industries to follow suit and harness the power of collaboration to bring scale and funding to sustainable development.

“The WHOLE WORLD Water model is designed to combat environmental, health, and economic issues, deliver radical change and drive a more robust bottom line across the industry,” explains Karena Albers, Co-founder of WHOLE WORLD Water. “This will be the first time that a single industry has come together to take positive action on a global development issue via one global campaign.”

A new way to do business

The WHOLE WORLD Water initiative has a smart business model at its core. Member companies firstly implement a new water filtration and bottling infrastructure at their premises with the help of water systems expert Vivreau. Importantly, the system will filter municipal water, avoiding the need for members to purchase plastic bottled water. Instead, members will procure bespoke, reusable glass bottles designed by Yves Bahar and manufactured by Vivreau.

A tenth of the proceeds raised by the sale of the water will go to the Whole World Water Fund, with 100% of contributions subsequently used to finance approved sustainable development projects. Climate and development specialist ClimateCare will manage the fund, and work with a committee of scientists, engineers and water experts to rigorously screen each project submission. The committee  will then allocate the funds and the environmental impacts of each initiative will be measured. Projects could include for example creating pipe infrastructure in urban areas, the rehabilitation of wells and pumps, or household  water purification programmes.

Where a project also generates income through carbon credits, ClimateCare will channel the credits back into the fund, adding yet further scale to the equation. Member companies can also purchase the credits at a discounted rate to offset their own emissions.

Increasing the bottom line

WHOLE WORLD Water estimates that members could add 25% to their bottom line by being involved in the campaign, simply by removing the costs associated with purchasing plastic bottled water. Members will also simultaneously contribute to reducing their own environmental and social impacts by investing in a more sustainable water system. The cost of signing up is $1,000 annually per property.

Turning the tide on plastic waste

The World Bank estimates the value of the bottled water market to be as much as $800bn, with bottled water in the US worth more per cent than gasoline. However, this remarkably lucrative product also demands a high cost in environmental terms. In addition to shipping pollution and CO2 emissions, finite resources of oil are consumed to manufacture the plastic, while heavy water extraction can result in water shortages for local communities.

Fewer than 20% of plastic water bottles are recycled, according to, with plastic bottles contributing to the immense quantities of plastic entrenched in our sub-tropical oceans. These ever-expanding rubbish patches will continue to pollute our oceans for hundreds of years, say researchers at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.

While glass isn’t a thoroughly sustainable option, being energy-intensive to manufacture, it is 100% recyclable, and reusable glass bottles provide a compelling alternative to their plastic counterparts, says WHOLE WORLD Water.

Next steps

Following its official launch, WHOLE WORLD Water will mount a substantial social media campaign, provide updates on the initiative and its progress via, and raise awareness of its activities via numerous festivals, events and shows across the summer. A dashboard revealing the full extent of the campaign’s progress will be unveiled in autumn, while a film documentary entitled ‘Thirst’, narrated by Brad Pitt, will be screened at cinemas worldwide on New Year’s Eve.

With Richard Branson among the board of advisors and Forum for the Future chairman Jonathon Porritt confirmed as a trustee of the fund, WHOLE WORLD Water is backed by some of today’s most eminent business and environmental figures. Richard Branson has described the initiative as a prime example of business being used as a force for good. It will be fascinating to watch this new campaign unfold, as competitors unite to address one of the world’s most pressing challenges.

This article was published on the Urban Times website.