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belu in indiaBy Karen Lynch, CEO, Belu

This World Water Day, Belu and all the SRA members who have supported us since the start of our partnership with WaterAid, have a lot to be happy about.

This week we are announcing that together, we have raised £1million for WaterAid; transforming over 66,000 lives so far.

But as I learnt on a recent trip to New Delhi, the task of tackling water poverty is an incredibly complex one, and we still have a long way to go.

At Belu we pride ourselves on being first and foremost environmental champions. From the development and introduction of the lightest glass bottle available on the market to our market leading position of guaranteeing at least 50% UK recycled plastic in our plastic formats we unashamedly put the environment first. We are also the only brand to achieve Carbon Neutral certification to PAS2060 standard.

We believe if you don’t get that part right, then talking about the impact of our work with WaterAid is out of context. Like business, solving water poverty isn’t a simple matter of providing taps or pumps – as the many marketing images of smiling children drinking fresh water might have you believe.

Belu has a complex model – we need to trade sustainably without compromising our environmental ethics and take full accountability for our impact whether positive or negative. Water poverty is equally as complex.

My first education visit with WaterAid in New Delhi looked at both pre-and post intervention work. No image, or amount of talking about it third-hand can really articulate what water and sanitation poverty looks like.

As I expected, I did see happier, healthier and more industrious families in post intervention communities. I did see women empowered and children able to go to school – and stay there. I even saw the resurgence of the twin tub washing machine. I saw organised communities with water and sanitation committees and most importantly, I saw clear evidence that the work WaterAid deliver on the ground is sustainable once they depart. Access to clean water is just the beginning.

But I also saw more complexities that I hadn’t expected, that really reinforced our decision to shift from implementing our own interventions (no world water daymatter how well intentioned they were), to partnering with WaterAid in 2011. I learned that the challenge to empower all human beings to access their right to clean water requires leadership and management on a complex mix of political, cultural and economic issues. That is why working with WaterAid, who work with local partners, is our best bet for making an impact.

I simply hadn’t envisaged the frustration I would feel. I stood in the centre of a community of 200 families living in an illegal slum in New Delhi that had not one toilet, They had to defecate openly, and spend the little money they did have buying water that likely contained e-coli. I was frustrated to see that those most in need were an opportunity for profiteering by that water seller, whilst simply a few hundred meters away, there stood some very nice houses fed by mains water.

But the biggest irony? Every day that this continues, the ground water source in this community and in fact New Delhi becomes more and more polluted as the elements wash the outputs of that open defecation into the ground.

So this World Water Day, I’d like to thank all SRA members who have supported Belu since the start of our partnership with WaterAid four yearsBeluFamily1 ago. We are incredibly proud of the £1million that we have been able to pass to WaterAid whilst still being true to our environmental principles.

But perhaps even more importantly, we need to celebrate the fact that we do have WaterAid, so that while we are focussed on the sustainability of our own businesses, we know the money invested in supporting Belu as your water partner delivers sustainable results on the ground, where It’s needed most.

Today, we all need to remember the 748 million people who still don’t have access to clean water and the 2.5bn without a safe place to go to the toilet. For that reason, our partnership with WaterAid and our need to work with you and your business goes on.