• Hamish Sherlock

Case Study: Belu Water

I recently came across a blog discussing the partnership between Belu Water and The Pig Hotel, announcing the introduction of the Belu Filter Initiative to the new Pig in Harlyn Bay, Cornwall before rolling it out to their other sites. I have often seen Belu mineral water at events or in restaurants and knew they had good environmental credentials, and as the Pig happens to be one of my favourite hotels my interest was definitely piqued, and I wanted to know more.

I got in touch with Belu and spoke to the blog’s author and business development director Claire Pearson, who talked me through how they are revolutionising water service whilst keeping to their own high standards of continually reducing their carbon emissions and maximising their positive environmental impact. “Our target is to reduce our carbon emissions as much as we can year on year, we continually strive to do better”

Belu is at its core a social enterprise, 100% of their net profits go directly to WaterAid (£5.1 million so far), a charity working towards bringing clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to some of the most remote and marginalised communities globally. Their ethical glass water bottles (all manufactured in the UK to avoid shipping emissions, and not sold outside of the UK for the same reason) are market leading, but came with a significant financial impact when their UK glass supply was disrupted in 2019. Belu stuck to their values of not sourcing outside the UK and found a domestic patner, Encirc who were willing to disrupt their own business to help Belu. The result will be a significant improvement in C02 emissions on their glass lines, but with changeover costs to stay true to their values in a clear demonstration of their will to do things the right way, not the easy way. “We exist to demonstrate to others that there’s a better way to do business, we’re about doing good business with good people”

The Belu Filter Initiative is further example of providing sustainable water solutions for hospitality clients, the carbon savings created by using a properties mains water supply and eliminating single use glass bottles is a progressive concept. Bottled water can be sold at a premium, especially in hotels, even filtered water at a 5 star London hotel can cost £7 per bottle, but Belu are relating their offering to the various needs of their clients by offering three different formats for clients to engage with. “It’s early days with hotels for us, but I do think the sustainable initiatives we’re doing in partnership with market leaders such as Inhabit, Montcalme and The Pig means more will hopefully follow.”

The three ways for hospitality businesses to join the Belu Filter Initiative -

Positive Profit – Introduced just before the first lockdown, this is great if you want to generate revenue and transform lives at the same time. Belu will lease you a filtration system at a reduced tariff, you have the ability to charge for filtered water with 50% of sales given to Belu. You create a social impact outcome for your water service and a great story for your venue.

Customer Contribution Model –

Perfect for those who offer table service and want to generate maximum social impact. The filtration system is supplied and installed free of charge, clients are then asked to simply add a voluntary £1 contribution to the bill for each table served in return for unlimited still and sparkling filtered water. These contributions are passed to Belu and in turn, all of their profits passed to WaterAid. This has proved very popular in restaurants, with most customers predominantly more than willing to contribute to the circular economy and increase sustainable innovation, all with ultimate profits going to WaterAid.

Lease Agreement –

This is a standard lease agreement that allows you to utilise your filtration system in any way you wish. Hotels producing considerable non-revenue generating water (bottles provided in guests room etc) may prefer this option to charging or collecting contributions for serving still and sparkling filtered water.

I was intrigued in Belu’s approach to the filtration service as a product within their range, when set against potential effect on their historical core product, but their focus is primarily to be a sustainable business and value-led organisation and filtration has a vastly more positive effect on their carbon emissions than other products, so they continue to invest in this area. This commitment is proving itself, with current trends and sales in this sector continuing to grow. The Pig is their biggest scale partner in terms of the filter initiative which has historically been focused on restaurants. The growing requisite for hotels to be environmentally credible is changing the game however. Sustainable initiatives are so often seen through a short-term lens as PR-worthy financial liabilities, but it’s great to see an example of a business being genuinely driven by the mission, and showing how successful that can be when committed to.

I asked Claire if that means we might start to see filtration being sold direct to consumers, can we expect Belu filters in our homes? Claire - ‘It’s on the list!’

Watch this space…

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