A. What are the main facts about the company’s activities?
It all started back in 2003 in London, when a group of friends decided to try make a difference in the one billion people’s lives without safe access to drinking water. They decided to create a mission-controlled company, that would sell bottled water, devoting all it’s profits to projects improving community access to drinking water in developing countries. One was born. Two years later, the first bottle of One Water was sold in store. Since then, the company has expanded it’s production and products are now sold in the UK, the USA, and Australia. Over the years, one has provided 7.8 Million USD for projects, improving the lives of over one million people in developing countries.
B. What are the Ethical challenges this company is addressing?
What distinguishes one from other for-profit companies, is the fact that their organization is mission-controlled. Private investment in the company will not yield private returns to the investors, but instead provide a constant flow of capital for the one foundation’s projects. In contrast to regular profit driven companies that rely on their Corporate Social Responsibility projects to add an ethical touch to their business operations, the social and ethical considerations of one, constitute the very core of the organization.
With the profits from it’s products, One tackles concrete development challenges, that relate to the sold products. For example: (1) Profits from One Water go towards funding clean water projects. (2) Profits from One Vitamin Enhanced Water go towards planting vegetable gardens and fruit trees in Africa to provide communities with enough vitamins. (3) Profits from One Careplast plasters go towards ambulance bikes and medical kits, to increase the access to healthcare of communities living in remote areas. (4) Profits from One Eggs go towards chicken farm projects, providing people with a sustainable source of food and income. (5) Profits from One toilet tissue and One Handwash go towards provision of sanitation supplies and hygienic toilets to stop the spread of waterborne diseases like diarrhea. (6) Profits from One Condoms go towards HIV projects.
C. What makes this company really inspiring to you and why would you trust it?
Three elements of the company appeal to us as inspiring.
First, the very fact that it is a mission controlled company, not interested in maximizing profits solely for its shareholders, but rather increasing profits to have more money at their disposal for their humanitarian projects in developing countries.
Second, the prizes the company has won in the past, including Social Entrepreneurship Awards, Fellowships, and an honorary doctorate for its founder, provide reasonable evidence for us to believe in the soundness of the concept. The possibility to look through all the implemented projects online, adds additional credibility.
Third and most importantly is the company’s founding story. It’s a story about a few friends, who had learned about the fact that one billion people worldwide have no access to drinking water. But they did not allow themselves to be discouraged by the daunting size of this humanitarian problem. They did not justify their inaction by shifting the responsibility to governments and international organizations. But rather they asked what they could contribute to the solving the problem. Up to today, one has provided 7.8 Million USD for projects, improving the lives of over one million people in developing countries.
They have clearly made a difference.
D. What are the possible challenges facing the company in the future?
To carry the venture into the future, management has to think about two main challenges. First, they have to ensure that their projects do not create dependencies of the communities involved, but rather continue to enable them to create their own livelihoods. In this case, they are not vulnerable to a possible decrease in company profits, resulting from shocks in consumer demand for the company’s products. Second, as the company continues to grow, it will more then ever need to balance long-term and short-term considerations. In the short-term, higher profits, will mean more instant relieve for communities in developing countries. In the long run however, it might be better to foster higher growth by reinvesting revenues, enabling the company to provide a higher amount of project money in the future, but at the same time compromise on current development projects.