May 15, 2017

Water, The Co-op Way

We’re proud to say that now, all bottled water does good from the Co-op. We’ve extended our commitment to tackling water poverty even further, by becoming the first pioneer partner of a new initiative called the Global Investment Fund for Water (GIFFW).

GIFFW is a partnership with the bottled water sector to end water poverty. The GIFFW plan is to raise contributions from the sales and distribution of bottled water around the world to create a massive fighting fund for water and sanitation – targeting the 663 million people who still do not have access to clean, safe water and more than 2 billion who lack access to a toilet.

Our Co-op will be the first UK retailer to sign up to GIFFW. We’ve been tackling water poverty globally for over 10 years through our partnership with The One Foundation, celebrating £7million raised and 1.5 million lives changed last November. For every litre sold of our own-brand still, sparkling or flavoured water, 3p is donated to The One Foundation and towards clean water and sanitation projects.

Our work with the GIFFW means that sales of branded bottles of water will also contribute towards water projects to eradicate water poverty. Our commitment is a 1p per litre donation from all branded bottles sold in Co-op Food stores. This will provide an additional a £900,000 a year to our current donations. In total, our donations to clean water and sanitary projects globally will total £2.2m annually now – that’s something to be really proud of.

The Co-op team visited Malawi with the One Foundation last year, to check in on some of the projects we were funding through Co-op own brand water. Malawi, ranked by the World Bank as the world’s poorest country in 2015, has been impacted severely by climate change and is a key focus for the Foundation.

Thoko’s story, Mpeni Village Malawi

One of the villages the team visited was Mpeni, were a borehole was built in 2014 to provide clean water to 70 households in the community – 420 people. Before the pump, the women of Mpeni collected water from an open well at the bottom of a steep hill 1km away. This was a difficult journey in rainy season, with many women falling during the walk and spilling their water on the way. The village valued the new pump so highly that a village water committee has been built to keep the vital system running smoothly – including a water tariff and village roster.

 “We’re so grateful for the work in our village.  We often suffered illness when we drank from the unprotected water source and Cholera was present in our village.  We have seen a reduction in disease over the last two years since we have been drinking water from the water pump.  With the time saved on collecting water we can now tend to our fields and plant crops”. Thoko Mathotho , Community member

For more information about the GIFFW and the part we play, visit http://giffwater.org/.

Cathryn Higgs
Head of Food Policy

Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. Bravo Co-op, leading the field again!

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  2. Good grief – What are you doing about all the billions of plastic bottles which are clogging our world – especially our oceans.As they break down they become tiny pieces which are eaten by marine life. Plastic residue is even found in some sea salt.
    On the face of it a charitable idea – but PLEASE think again. We should be discouraging the purchase of water in plastic throw away bottles. Can you not arrange for re-usable/refillable water bottles to carry this donation instead ?
    If you want to help end water poverty then support WaterAid.

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    • Our water bottles are made from PET which is collected for recycling in almost every local authority in the UK. We’re not encouraging the purchase of the bottles, Victoria-Mae. The fact is that people buy bottled water, so until consumer habits drastically change, this is very much a step in the right direction and we are making a huge difference to a lot of people’s lives. We are leading the way in this field and will continue to do so. ^Ian

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      • Please could you tell us what proportion of recycled material is used in the Co-op’s water bottles? It would be a great contribution to closing the loop and preventing further plastic pollution if the Co-op would commit to using 100% recycled bottles. I have seen a response from Coca-Cola that says they use 25% recycled material in their plastic bottles – I hope the Co-op can do better than that.

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      • Surely encouraging people to change their habits should be a large part of anything of this nature. Provide re-usable bottles which are insulated and can be filled from the tap – with a sign on the shelf that purchasing them will help provide fresh water to those in need AND prevent plastic pollution. It is well known that far too few people actually bother to recycle their bottles. The number of coke bottles thrown away every day – for instance – is astronomical.
        VERONICA-Mae

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    • I think you are missing the point somewhat.
      I don’t believe Steve is suggesting that people in the UK should buy more bottled water but that they buy it from the Co-op when they can. Thus contributing to the GIFFW now in the hope that other retailers will follow suit.
      I reuse plastic water bottles but if I am out somewhere and need to buy bottled water then I will make a point of purchasing it from the Co-op if possible.

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      • I quite agree. I just felt there was a better hook to hang this initiative on than plastic bottles. When I am out I have my travelling water bottle with me (filled from the tap.) If eating out and needing a drink I ask for tap water. I do support the ethos of attempts to bring clean water where it is required, I would just have liked it to be based on something more eco-friendly.

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  3. I agree that we should not be buying/selling plastic bottles. The seas are polluted with the bottles. If sold the water should be in glass which can have a deposit for return.

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    • Our water bottles are made from PET which is collected for recycling in almost every local authority in the UK. We’re not encouraging the purchase of the bottles. The fact is that people buy bottled water, so until consumer habits drastically change, this is very much a step in the right direction and we are making a huge difference to a lot of people’s lives. We are leading the way in this field and will continue to do so.

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  4. Having lived in Africa for 40 years, I am really upset that anyone would want to send bottled water to communities over there who know nothing about recycling. There are organisations based in Africa that would do well to receive the money raised in order to create boreholes for water and who know exactly how to meet this challenging task. I have an issue with most charities based outside of these areas as money is spent employing CEO’s at a huge price as well as admin staff to run the charity. Rather send all of the money to a reputable organisation based in the country where its needed most. I know you mean well, but unless you have lived there yourself you are truly in the dark as to what can and must be done.

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