Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink

In the last 30 years sales of bottled water have grown to more than 1.3 billion litres in the UK and to over 9 billion litres in the US. This is of little comfort the estimated one billion people in the world who don’t have access to safe clean drinking water.

Duncan Goose, founder of Global Ethics and One Water (www.onedifference.org), set-up his new venture, in 2005, to sell ethical bottled water and donate 100% of its profits to installing a specialised water pumping systems called PlayPump (www.playpumps.org). He recognised the potential … “The water market is an absolutely huge market in the UK, worth £1.5 billion” (Guardian, 22/03/2007). At one level Duncan’s vision is simple – use all the profits from selling water, to people who can afford it, to provide clean water for people who cannot. Clearly, there needs to be more to it than that. In his younger days Duncan travelled the world, in fact he was inspired by Ted Simon’s motorcycle journey in the 1970s, detailed in his book Jupiter’s Travels (1979). Duncan is in good company, actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman were also inspired by reading Jupiter’s Travels. As you can image Duncan has his own adventures, including surviving Hurricane Mike that destroyed many communities in Honduras in 1998. Duncan recalled … “What really struck me was to make a difference we did not need a lot of money, just a little money spent in the right way” (Sunday Times, 01/12/2008).

One Water was conceived and launched in 2005 just at the same time as Bob Geldof’s Live 8 appeal was launched. Having created a vision and sharing it with organisers of Live 8, he faced the challenge of promoting and supplying it to individual consumers. Can you imagine how you would go about persuading retailers and supermarkets which have shelves full of numerous brands of bottled water to delist one and put yours it its place? Indeed, it was hard very work for Duncan but when Total (www.total.co.uk) became the first national stockist in 2006 others started to follow. In their first year One Water donated £70,000 to charities working in Africa and India. By 2008, this had exceeded £1 million. Then One Difference started expanding its vision to include other humanitarian issues in developing countries, such as HIV through the sale of One Condoms (www.onedifference.org/condoms). Interestingly, Duncan has recruited other people to promote his vision, including actors David Tennant and Rebecca Lacey.

Dr Nigel Lockett
Director of Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management (CEIM)