Is corporate gifting the secret to changing the world?
What’s it really like running a water bottle company that wants to help disadvantaged people access clean water? Alex Nash from Yuhme talks to us about how the corporate gift market could be his secret weapon.
Thu 9 Aug 2018
We get through a million plastic bottles a minute around the world. Let that sit with you a minute (there goes another million).
But for all the doom and gloom there are a number of brands who are tackling our thirst issues head on.
Yuhme doesn’t just sort you out with a gorgeous reusable water bottle, it turns sugar cane into a BPA free material to do it - and for every bottle you buy you’re funding long term water projects in one of the most parched places on the planet - the Central African Republic.
Having launched in 2016 as a fairly high end reusable bottle option, based in Sweden, the founders, husband and wife team, Alex and Alexandra Nash, are on the cusp of breaking America with their stylish, sleek bottle.
The ace up their sleeves they say is the corporate gift market, a world of thank yous and staff presents, free joining gifts and Christmas baskets, that in the States alone is worth $60 billion a year.
It’s a world not many of us think about, but as Alex Nash points out - it is one that can make a huge difference, instead of selling one bottle - he can sell hundreds to one company - which means larger lump sums to sink more wells in Africa.
“We’re working with Stena in Sweden who are looking for 1,000 bottles to give staff and they’re such a big client we want to take them out to meet Water For Good, who we partner with in the Central African Republic, so they can see that their purchase has funded their own well.”
It is helping to form this personal, visible connection between the client and the charity’s projects that Nash believes is key to their long term success and helping their mission to change the world,
“We do most of the work for the clients, but to get them out there seeing the impact of their cash, is really powerful. Big companies are busy, they might want to help but not have time. If they can buy an eco-friendly product that ticks all their boxes, then that’s a good win all round.
I think it’s very important to come and see what we’re doing and actually speak to people and see the difference of what you’re doing. Then you understand that everyone is an equal and everyone needs clean water. Here in Europe it’s so easy and you don’t even realise...”
Taking bulk orders is also a bigger help to the charity on the ground, who get to invest larger sums of cash rather than the drip drip of smaller donations.
“It doesn’t seem like a lot of money for people who are buying the gifts but it is a lot of money to those on the ground. We’ve done all the due diligence so all the corporations need to do is buy the product and then they can go and see the impact of the money, which has a big impact back on them - being able to see it on the ground, it’s life changing.”
The Nashes were clear from the outset, that their product had to be beautifully designed, in limited edition runs, made of bio-plastic and had to have a clear giving back message.
Yuhme work with an understanding factory in Sweden who import sugar cane from Brazil. It’s grown on water efficient, ethically trading farms there then the ethanol from the sugar cane creates a bio plastic in Sweden. The whole process is carbon neutral thanks to the byproduct bagasse which gets turned into steam and then electricity to run the factories.
They decided to work with Water For Good because of its focused goal and long term sustainable approach,
“60% of well projects have failed because people come and dig a well and leave, so when the well breaks no one knows how to fix it. Water For Good train up local people, who have to be involved in funding and help with labour for the well and they train crews of local people to maintain and fix them. They only work in one country and this gives them a big advantage. It makes it clearer and simpler for us and for the corporations who work with us,” Nash explains.
For individuals who buy a Yuhme bottle, the mission statement is clear - each bottle buys six months of clean water for a family, which is real tangible difference that one person can make.
But with corporate gifting, they can expand that difference - corporations can build their own wells.
“Everyone buys things for their employees during the year,” he says. “They buy them Christmas presents or a present before everyone breaks for the summer in Sweden, anniversaries and celebrations - so why not buy something that pushes your brand out there in a socially conscious way? We can adapt with logos and names whatever you want - and you get to have this real, physical, important impact on the ground.”
And while Nash is experimenting with new designs and a possible second product, their bottles are about to be sold in America through Amazon and corporate gifting resource, Gifts For Good and he’s lining up British corporate clients to capture the current desire to move away from single use plastic. Brighton College has ordered one for every student and member of staff.
For him, getting involved in corporate gifting makes sense - it’s a huge market stuffed full of corporations wanting to at least start down the sustainable road.
“Some people think that big corporations are bad or evil and I don’t think that’s true, he explains.
“I think a lot of it comes from media, you don’t hear about the things they do and they do move slowly. Most of those big companies started out as small companies with good intentions in the beginning, some lose their way but there’s lots of big companies that are doing good stuff and we focus on those.
Once we’ve got out again to Water For Good this autumn, hopefully with Stena, we’ll have lots of video and interviews with people on the ground to show other brands - it’s a pretty convincing case for other companies to get on board.”
So if your company gives you a Yuhme bottle next year, you’ll know how it came to be in your hand. Like all good ideas, it started with a couple of people and snowballed.
Don’t forget though, #pebblesmakeripples. Everyone can help make a difference and you don’t need to wait for your company to act. Pick up your own Yuhme bottle here.