There's no bigger event in the calendar than World Water Week in Stockholm to remind me that both my day to day role and the role of Belu as a social enterprise is a continuous journey of contradictions!
While Stockholm this month became the annual focal point for the globe's water issues, this should naturally motivate the team at Belu Water to grow the business bigger than ever, to allow us to increase our part in helping to end water poverty through generating more profit, all of which goes to the amazing work of our partner, WaterAid. But life is not that simple, in fact it's anything but. This year's World Water Week theme was Water & waste- reuse & reduce, something we strive for in all areas of our business, but how do we balance this with our growth?
Thinking environment first
Whilst Belu is best known for our social impact through our partnership with WaterAid, we are first and foremost an environmental brand. As a business, we think environment-first; always looking for ways to balance our impact on the planet with a sustainable business model, constantly considering our environmental impact in everything we do and continually looking for ways to remove or reduce it. Not only this but we also look for opportunities to inspire and influence others by setting new standards in the market.
As a result, product light-weighting, smart distribution and the use of closed loop recycling have always been the key focus areas for the team here. We developed the lightest clear glass bottles on the market through our Ethical Glass initiative; made with over 45% recycled content and 18% lighter than our previous bottles. And we're not only innovating with our glass; our plastic bottles are made from at least 50% recycled material, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and using plastic that might otherwise go to landfill. These achievements resulted in us being awarded The Queen's Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development earlier this year.
Exciting new initiatives
We've found it hard to contain our excitement on a more recent initiative – the supply of filtration machines and bottling systems completely free of charge to restaurants, hotels, clubs or cafés who sign up to the Belu Filter initiative – allowing them to filter, chill, carbonate and bottle water on-site. We've also had our first foray into supplying refillable bottles and carafes. As an environmental business, I'm sure you get why we're excited, but perhaps you're also tempted to ask why we don't then stop bottles altogether?
Here's the thing; we're all aware of our responsibilities to ourselves and each other to be better citizens, to consume less and more consciously. And water is an easy win; in the UK, we can get it safe and free out of the tap. Yet, the UK bottled water market is growing. In 2015, sales grew by 8.2% on the previous year to a staggering 3.3bn litres. As this market continues to grow, we need to ensure it is served with the minimum footprint possible and that other companies are held to a higher standard.
So, for now, we would argue that the environmental stance is the most important part of our business. But of course, we need to also play our part in helping to achieve Global Goal 6: ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
What you can do this World Water Week
So, in the wake of World Water Week, wherever you're drinking water, please take a moment to consider the opportunities around you. Buying the odd bottle of mineral water doesn't make you a bad person. But do try to buy less, and when you do, buy your local ethical brand. And if that's proving too complex because your office, local shop or restaurant doesn't stock it, please encourage them to. Here at Belu, whether it's bottles, filtered water, carafes or refillables - we're happy to do it all, for now!