HOW A HURRICANE STARTED IT ALL
In 1998 Duncan Goose was caught in Hurricane Mitch, a deadly Atlantic storm that killed more than 19,000 people in Central America. He saw millions left homeless and without fresh water. The experience led him to found One, a UK based bottled water and drinks brand which has donated over $30 million to water projects, providing water services to 4.3 million people.
With 800 million people still lacking access to reliable, safe water and sanitation, ending water poverty clearly needs a much more ambitious approach. As world leaders discussed the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations, it was clear that achieving Goal 6 – clean water and sanitation for all by 2030 – would need a huge boost in investment. With global bottled water sales approaching $200 billion by 2020, Duncan could see the potential for raising much greater sums if just one cent from every litre of bottled water sold was directed to a global fund for sustainable water services.
In 2015 the Rockefeller Foundation, alongside the Stone, Osprey and Vitol Foundations, generously supported the work of a small team of experts and strategists to develop and test the concept for a Global Investment Fund for Water (now Water Unite). 8
In the research phase, it became clear we had to link our efforts to improve access to water and sanitation services (SDG 6) to environmental concerns and simultaneously address SDGs 12 and 14. Our goal is to reduce marine and terrestrial plastic pollution by preventing and minimising plastic waste. We will do so by aligning our interventions to support extended producer responsibility approaches and to strengthen the plastic value chain in countries where this is needed the most.
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Chair of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership, agreed to offer his support. In April 2017, Mr. Rudd hosted a meeting of bottlers, retailers, water experts and NGOs in Washington DC. Around the table were representatives of some of the world’s biggest bottled water brands. Global Citizen, a movement of millions of people, joined the effort as communications partner and 29,000 of their members signed up in support.
The Water Unite brand was conceived and developed in 2017, and formally launched on 22 March, 2018, World Water Day. Read more >
Co-op UK became the first company to join the Water Unite initiative, donating a penny per litre from all branded water it sells across its 2,600 stores in the UK to contribute to the initiative. Steve Murrells, Group Chief Executive, Co-op, said: “Water Unite is an exciting new initiative which has the potential to transform communities on a much larger scale than we have been able to achieve before, enabling millions of people to live much healthier lives.” Read more >
In March 2019, Water Unite announced its first three programmes: Sanitation for Millions (S4M) in Jordan, Pakistan and Uganda, Mobilizing blended finance for water security in Cape Town, South Africa and Strengthening the plastic value chain in Mozambique. They were selected on an approach to financing that is catalytic and has the potential to leverage additional financing. In September, two further plastics programmes were funded: Plastics For Change in India and Gjenge Makers in Kenya. Read more >
Elior UK, the British arm of the €6bn French company, joined Water Unite in a foodservice industry first in October. Catherine Roe, CEO Elior UK, commented, "Plastic pollution is a growing global problem that collectively the world can no longer ignore. The partnership with Water Unite and the adoption of the micro-levy is significant step towards a more circular economy and our long-term plan to reduce the impact of plastic on our oceans and environment". Read more >
In June 2020, Water Unite launched Water Unite Impact, managed by Wellers Impact. The investment vehicle, with planned capitalisation of US$ 100 million, invests into private sector water, sanitation and circular economy firms globally. It addresses the gap in the funding landscape not currently filled by charitable foundations, microfinance institutions, commercial banks and traditional capital markets. The fund invests into private sector businesses using a catalytic capital structure relying on Water Unite’s micro-levy programme contributions from retailers as its foundation. Read more >
On 3rd September 2020, Water Unite held an online convening of over 350 delegates to discuss the SDGs. Speakers included Satya S. Tripathi (UN Assistant Secretary-General & Head of New York Office at UNEP) and Chantal Line Carpentier (Chief, UNCTAD New York Office). Read more >
The micro-levy model was extended outside of bottled water for the first time, by the adoption of Britvic PLC on Robinsons products. A 1p/litre donation is now made for every sale of Robinsons Core, Creations, Refresh'd and Fruit Shoot products in Co-op and Nisa stores.
Water Unite collaborates with Kantar, GfK and Europanel to demonstrate the commercial business case for the model in enabling eco-conscious consumer to make positive environmental and social choices. This work is shared in a series of research reports, white papers and webinars. Read more >
The Water Unite Impact analyst team and investment committee scoured across 3 continents, screening over 50 opportunities, to identify our first ever impact investment into Sanivation. Based in Naivasha (Kenya) Sanivation turn human waste into a solid fuel, or brickett. These briquettes provide a low carbon bioenergy alternative to fossil fuel. This investment turned Water Unite's impact investing theory into reality. Read more >
Water Unite made 3 further investments into the water and circular economy sectors; Mr Green Africa, GREE Energy and Jibu. Mr Green Africa, based East Africa, solves waste and exploitation issues by providing a transparent value chain, sourcing recycled plastic waste ethically whilst giving waste pickers their fair share. GREE Energy, Indonesia, offers a new generation of wastewater treatment facilities centred on a waste-to-energy model with significant decarbonisation impacts added to the supply of green power to rural areas of emergent countries. Jibu pairs financing with an innovative franchise model to empower entrepreneurs, across eight African countries, to provide for their communities basic drinking water needs. Read more >
At COP27 in Egypt, the Water Unite Impact investment vehicle was endorsed as one of the key solutions to tackling water security issues across Africa over the next 10 years. At the ‘Catalyzing Finance for Strengthened Water Resilience in African Cities’ session, hosted in Sharm El Sheikh, displayed Water Unite Impact amongst other initiatives and collaborations that are working towards building a water resilient future for Africa's cities. Read more >
The sign-on of additional corporate partners signals the completion of the pilot and move to scale-up phase, in which Water Unite targets increasing the total number of partners to raise $100 - 200 million in the next two years.
Our strategy to meet our growth goals involves both direct engagement with potential commercial partners and high-level engagement of national governments and institutional investors. Water Unite’s advocates encourage governments to support us in their country and campaign for wider adoption.