Demand for bottled water is growing and for business and holiday travellers, a reliance on bottled water can be driven as much by convenience as health and safety.
Against a backdrop of increasing water scarcity and as billions of the world’s poor struggle to find safe water and sanitation systems, the founders of a new company say they are developing a cost-effective solution within the global hospitality industry, worth some tn (£3.8tn) annually.
Whole World Water sells water filtration systems that enables hotels to filter, bottle and sell their own water and a global platform allows hotels to purchase equipment that allows them to collaborate with charities on water and sanitation challenges. The platform was developed by Karana Albers and Jenifer Willig after they attended a 2011 environmental symposium in the Maldives.
The two found inspiration in the country’s Soneva resorts, which had long filtered and bottled water on the premises, sold it to guests and then donated a portion of proceeds to local charities. Albers and Willig devised a plan to modify Soneva Kiri’s idea, develop a robust business plan and then partner with NGOs to form market-based solutions to address water scarcity and poor sanitation around the world.
Albers and Willig’s aggressive agenda, targeted particularly at high-end luxury resorts and hotels, is to not only provide market-driven drinking water and sanitation solutions across the world, but to combat waste, reduce carbon emissions and can even, they say, boost the bottom line.
Partner hotel properties start by purchasing a ,000 (£600) water filtration system designed by the UK-based Vivreau. Included in that fee is maintenance, training and reusable glass bottles. Albers and Willig worked with Yves Béhar, founder of Fuseproject and a thought leader in sustainable design, to create a reusable glass bottle that looks chic and eliminates plastic waste. Considering the cost of a night at one of these resorts, the price of such a system is a no-brainer. And according to Albers and Willig, a property should gain a return on investment within three months.
Water has too long been taken for granted and been given a back seat when it comes to carbon issues and climate change, Albers says during a telephone interview from their New York office.
Willig agrees but is emphatic that theirs is a business-led solution: “We are not ‘donating,’ we are investing and creating ownership because these projects won’t go anywhere unless local communities have ownership.”
Instead of doling out grants for one-off projects to NGOs, Whole World Water’s charity fund will invest in projects that offer financial returns. Albers and Willig will aim for investments that can contribute monies to the fund, such as those that gain revenues via carbon offsets, which could then be used to help launch future projects.
As part of their plan, a Whole World Water campaign will launch on 22 March as part of the UN’s international year of water co-operation. The campaign’s three-pronged approach will include a series of documentaries, a massive social media push and various hotel partner events in order to raise awareness on every continent. So far Whole World Water has lined up hotel properties including some within The Ritz-Carlton stable, Virgin Hotels and Banyan Tree resort chains.
The Banyan Tree property in the Maldives, for example, had already filtered some of its own drinking water for guests. And as spokesman Michael Kwee says, hotels have an opportunity to evangelise this program.
One of the charities that could benefit from this campaign is Water for People. For 20 years the Denver, Colorado-based NGO has offered a municipal approach to clean water schemes in rural areas lacking safe drinking water and sanitation. Water and sanitation systems that Water for People’s professionals establish leave a legacy of local councils and stakeholder groups that hold such communities accountable for their own clean water supplies and health. Watch for Whole World Water to foster similar programs across the world should this campaign take off.
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