Drink Well, Be Happy – Ethical Water

The UK bottled water market is worth more than £1.5 billion each year. Within this, UK sales of ethical locally-produced waters continue to account for an enormous proportion of the total: in 2011 over 1.8 billion litres of UK produced bottled water were consumed here in the UK which was almost 3% up on the year before. Total UK bottled water production stood at 1,692 million litres in 2011. While this year the UK bottled water market moved back into growth overall, with UK bottled waters outperforming imported alternatives, the growth in ethical water was faster still.

The appeal comes from marrying the lifestyle appeal of bottled water with local provenance with an emotional appeal of supporting good causes in the developing world. In the water market, it is about funding a variety of products to bring tap or well water to villages overseas.

Ethical water, however, has faced severe criticism from environmentalists and others quick to pick holes in its core values. Critics point to the ethical water being fatally flawed from an ethical perspective due to being bottled and the environmental damage this causes.

This is a charge that the Life Water CEO Simon Konecki, tackles head on. There is a crisis in water in the world. There is a child dying every five seconds and that is more important than the plastic that is wasted. Also, relative to other industries, water is not the biggest contributor to the plastic problem.

Konecki, 38, feels that for a brand to be authentic in the ethical water market it needs to be a new entrant with a strong value proposition. His vision for the company is an audacious one, to be the biggest bottled water brand in the UK within 5 years. He is well on his way with over 10 million bottles sold in the last year and the brand achieving that all important first supermarket listing in Waitrose. Demand from other multiples is building and he has clear new product development plans. His ultimate vision is to see all the bottled water that we drink in the UK being ethical.

He is critical of some leading international water brands, arguing that their marketing positioning – away from the ethical mission of Life Water – misses the point about the numbers of the world’s population who are dying of thirst. No one I know drinks any foreign imported water. I meet people in the village in India and I tell them that the leading brand of water in the UK is imported. They just don’t believe me. They are worried for us, as it seems to them that we must have a water crisis if we have to import so much water.

The drop4drop charity is the core focus for Konecki. Find me the worst poverty and that’s where I want to help, where people are literally dying. His vision is that drop4drop becomes the standard going forward for all bottled water.

The accreditation needs to be easy to measure and an accessible price and he is part way to achieving his goal as the drop4drop charity is now independent of Life Water and runs its own accreditation in categories such as coffee. Tracey Emmin, Adele and others in the arts and media support the charity and it is gaining genuine international reach. Konecki is clear where his heart is, I see my future at drop4drop, once I have proved the Life Water business mode and set the team and the business model. Drop4drop is where my passion is.

He argues that if every plastic bottle of water used the drop4drop accreditation system that would eliminate water poverty globally. The principle behind drop4drop is that you give away more water than you use. Supply chain experts and the charity commission regularly audit the accreditation scheme. The actual rate is one litre of Life Water generates over 1,000 litres of water in developing countries, as the projects that drop4drop runs are very efficient. He maintains a vice-like grip on the charity. If someone gives me a pound, I can tell them exactly in which country and in which project that pound is spent on. We hire local people and train them up and give them education in how to create water. This is the magic of drop4drop.

Ethical water has come a long way in the last five years, it is a safe bet to assume that it has a long way further to go.

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