On World Water Day, Anders Jacobson, co-founder and chief executive of Blue AB, the sustainability-focused holding company that owns Volvo Ocean Race Official Water Provider, Bluewater, talks about the benefits of partnering with Volvo Ocean Race.
How did the partnership with Volvo Ocean Race come about?
The partnership emerged from an earlier relationship between Bluewater and 11th Hour Racing prior to this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. During the Race start in Alicante, the dire water shortage in Cape Town resulted in the news that no municipal water would be available in Cape Town in the Volvo Ocean Race Village.
After an approach from the Race organisers, we offered to use our innovative water purification technology and distribution solutions to treat non-potable water to generate safe, pure drinking water and thereby also avoid the need to rely on single-use plastic bottles to hydrate.
In just under three weeks, we succeeded in delivering four water stations that were each able to deliver 8,000 litres of pure drinking water every day. The end result also meant that we helped avoid the use of tens of thousands of plastic bottles during the stopover.
When we were subsequently asked if we wanted to expand our partnership with the Volvo Ocean Race, we leapt at the opportunity to become Official Water Provider, Race Sponsor and Sustainability Program Partner.
What opportunities did the partnership with Volvo Ocean Race offer Bluewater?
The partnership gave us a global platform and reach to talk about the issues and solutions to the plastic crisis and highlight how our clean water generation and delivery technology help solve such problems at a local point-of-need level.
Partnering with the Volvo Ocean Race provides a credible platform to showcase how Bluewater’s unique technology can provide access to clean drinking water from many different sources of water, many considered non viable in the past such as brackish water. And, importantly in line with our business vision, it also supports our ongoing mission to reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles to save and protect planetary and human health.
How will you be activating the partnership at upcoming stopovers?
There was a huge debate about single-use plastics in Hong Kong during the Race stopover and so we engaged with the local community by demonstrating there are solutions available already now if human ingenuity is used -- and there is the willpower to achieve change. We continue to maintain that commitment elsewhere. For example, at the stopover in Itajaí, Brazil, we will show how to tackle the big local problems with non-potable drinking water. And, at the Newport stopover, we will address the problems relating to the water infrastructure in the US, ranging from ageing deliver systems to lead in water. There is a global water problem that manifests itself in many different ways and the Volvo Ocean Race enables us to talk about impacts and opportunities.
You’ve spoken at the Ocean Summits in Cape Town and Hong Kong. How were those experiences?
The Ocean Summits present a major opportunity to talk about the issue of plastic pollution. For us at Bluewater, it offers the chance to create and lead a movement that talks about how we can harness human ingenuity to come up with solutions and take action to help solve this problem.
At the end of the day, it comes down to how you can get individuals, businesses and governments to come together to tackle the problem because that’s the only way you can change behaviour. The Ocean Summits offer a powerful platform and compelling narrative to continue that journey.
Has the partnership led to new business opportunities?
The Volvo Ocean Race in Cape Town was a great place for us to showcase how we could support their management of the drought crisis. Today we are now working in partnerships with the organisers of other South African events to provide sustainable water solutions that do not put any pressure on the municipal water source.
After being part of the Cape Town Ocean Summit and stopover, we were able to complete an acquisition of a water solutions company in South Africa that has a strong and complementary offering to ours. Thanks to that acquisition, we are now able to provide an even broader range of clean drinking water solutions, from events like the Volvo Ocean Race to the hospitality sector such as hotels and restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as for residential use.
In Asia, Bluewater met with a number of business leaders and other key stakeholders through the Volvo Ocean Race and we are now talking about how we can work together to drive forward the plastic-free agenda with a number of pilot projects.