FootprintComment: Rich Wolf talks WHOLE WORLD WATER FUND

NEXT MONTH the WHOLE WORLD Water Fund is launched. The plan is to bring the world’s hospitality businesses together and raise £1bn a year to improve access to safe and clean water for a billion people. Rich Wolf, co-founder of the Tao Group, explains why he’s already on board.

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I’m usually not one to believe in serendipity, but the following story made me wonder. Early in 2012, I began discussing with my team the idea of partnering with charitable organisations in the United States and around the world. I always believed there was more we could do as an industry to give back. At the same time, we were working to offer filtered water as an alternative to bottled water in our restaurants and nightclubs. Our venues go through almost 1m bottles of water every year, so naturally there is a huge cost for us in terms of investment, storage, waste and environmental impact.


When we decided to install a Vivreau water system we heard about a new initiative called WHOLE WORLD Water. It seemed like a game-changing idea: unite the hospitality and tourism industry around the greatest social issue facing the world – the fact that nearly 1bn people don’t have access to safe and clean drinking water, and almost 2.4bn live without basic sanitation. They hit on everything I personally care about: environmental sustainability, reducing our carbon footprint and a new way to give back that focuses on long- term solutions versus short-term fixes.


More importantly, it‘s a sustainable business model. Filtering and selling water at our venues is profitable. It’s simple. And with WHOLE WORLD Water we build our business over the long term to create massive social change. Even with the 10% contribution to the WHOLE WORLD Water Fund from the sale of every bottle of water, I’m building my bottom line and participating in an exciting global marketing platform that engages our employees and customers.


But it’s the scale of the solution – not the issue – that’s so exciting. We are a multi-trillion-dollar industry. And WHOLE WORLD Water is the first industry-wide initiative that could play a major part in solving a global issue. We have the scale – all we need is the will. Filtering our own water is easy to implement. What’s more, it is measurable and bankable. In fact, sustainable business solutions guarantee sustainable social solutions.


Another unique selling point for joining WHOLE WORLD Water was their approach to managing the WHOLE WORLD Water Fund. They created the fund to provide access to clean and safe water for everyone around the world. It will be open to organisations, NGOs, charities and social enterprises.


Therefore my employees understand that all of their favourite water charities have the opportunity to benefit from this partnership. The fund takes a different approach from purely charitable grant-giving by investing in programmes with the potential to bring a return through carbon revenues and results-based financing, enabling revenues to be recycled back into the fund and deployed again.


This is a new way to do business, one I’m proud to say Tao Group is a part of. We’re out to prove that economic and social progress are not mutually exclusive. Join us, and let’s see this issue eradicated in our lifetime.