Social enterprise keeps commuters happy and healthy with free water

July 31, 2013

Edwin Broni-Mensah

Guardian Professional, Wednesday 31 July 2013

As this wonderful hot weather continues, the GiveMeTap team have been gearing up to launch a new campaign to help people beat the heat. My idea for the latest GiveMeTap campaign, MindTheTap, was born last summer, during the London 2012 Olympics. I was catching the tube during rush hour and it was unbelievably stuffy, hot and just uncomfortable. The whole tube was littered by empty plastic bottles and the newspapers were also full of stories about dehydration on public transport. I realised that our GiveMeTap scheme could help busy commuters stay refreshed to and from work.

Every summer I would read and see TfL's "Beat The Heat" campaign, which encouraged people to stay hydrated, but I would often wonder why free water was not provided near entrances to ensure no one ever fainted from dehydration. TfL's top tips for keeping safe in the heat includes carrying a bottle of water and this is exactly what we help the public do, through the GiveMeTap bottle and water scheme.

No business can stay stationary. We must all constantly move forward, responding to the issues we are faced with. So as soon as the heatwave arrived in the UK, seeing tube temperatures rise to almost 35 degrees, we saw the ideal opportunity to create and launch MindTheTap. The campaign will help to keep Londoners hydrated and more comfortable on their daily commute. Previously, we targeted cafes along busy high streets in UK cities to allow people easy access to water on the go. Now, we've redesigned our recruitment plan to focus on partnering with cafes and shops that are within four minutes of tube stations in Zone 1. As part of our recruitment plan we first targeted cafes that were in and around the hottest and busiest stations on the Victoria line. We then worked our way across each line in Zone 1, which resulted in us partnering with over 40 cafes in one week.

To maximise the campaign's impact we've utilised technology to guide our strategic decision-making. For example, we enhanced our online mapping functionality to observe where searches for "Taps" (café partners) were being made so that we could understand where the demand for the scheme was. We approached cafes in this area and requested for them to become "Taps" and also stock the GiveMeTap bottles in store. Our website and iPhone app, both of which previously allowed you to find taps in your location, will now also allow you to find taps by your nearest tube station. All these technology developments could have cost us over £20,000 but I am very fortunate to come from a computer science background, programming since I was 16. We hope all this will contribute to consumers' changing their mindset about water, as it will become easier and easier for them to obtain it. Now GiveMeTap bottle users can easily top up their water bottles before and after boarding trains on the underground network. This is all in line with our mission of making water more accessible to people on the go.

To ensure that our campaign is beneficial to our café partners we created an online map that promoted their businesses to the general public. The campaign is helping to increase footfall, attracting commuters into their store with the offer of free drinking water. Many were keen to jump on board a scheme that would allow their café or eatery to be discovered by passers-by. GiveMeTap is all about creating win-win situations: free water for the public, free footfall for cafes. This is a key example of how business can benefit the wider community, engaging customers with their local stores.

GiveMeTap's interaction with the public has experienced a ripple effect since our last campaign. We are climbing up the ladder, especially through securing corporate deals for GiveMeTap bottles in offices. Earlier this year, Deloitte purchased 5,000 bottles for staff across the UK. Due to unbelievable demand, Deloitte has now purchased another 7,500 bottles. This means 12,500 staff have our bottles, and are therefore healthier and more hydrated people. Furthermore, Deloitte reported that it has managed to reduce its plastic cup waste by 20% in just five months.

Once we secured our partnership with Deloitte, we gained credibility among other firms who realised the value of our scheme for their own corporate social responsibility. We now have obtained bottle orders from departments at the universities of Manchester, Exeter and Cranfield, The Do Lectures and Elstat. Corporate deals have become really important as they enable large-scale distribution of GiveMeTap bottles which can change the lives of people here and abroad.

In Wa, a town in the Upper West Region of Ghana, GiveMeTap has completed the building of our latest water project. We built a water borehole, which means 850 people in the village of Kpakpalamuni have access to clean, flowing water. Visiting these people and seeing how awful their water supply was before we provided the water borehole is really motivating. For every person we help gain easier access to water in the UK, another person in Africa gets clean water too. This is what GiveMeTap is all about: Water for you. Water for Everyone.


Edwin Broni–Mensah is the founder of GiveMeTap.