By now, it’s de rigeuer for most corporates to engage in some sort of philanthropic programme, resulting in long-term relationships that often prove mutually beneficial, both for fund-raising and PR and branding. It’s fair to say, however, that “sexy” causes make for better media exposure – think Fendi’s restoration of the Trevi Fountain, Rolex’s arts mentorship programme (which has engaged participation from the likes of Martin Scorcese, Michael Ondaatje and David Hockney), or Montblanc’s Hugh Jackman-fronted Signature for Good campaign benefitting Unicef literacy programmes.
While water falls under the somewhat in-vogue issue of sustainability, it’s not quite luxury-brand lure. It’s a common-denominator product, often a faceless issue and it’s hard to create a strong brand DNA linkage in the way that it makes sense for a writing-instruments brand to support literacy and education. But that doesn’t mean it’s left by the wayside – and here, we spotlight a number of luxury brands that have made it a point to contribute to making safe, clean water a human right, not just a luxury.
The Macallan & Lalique
Back in 2010, before it was truly cool to save the world, Lalique celebrated the 150th anniversary of Rene Lalique’s birth by creating a one-of-a-kind decanter housing precious The Macallan 64 Years. This bottle embarked on a world tour, travelling from London to Paris, Moscow to Hong Kong, Seoul to Beverly Hills, where bottles of the aged Macallan was auctioned, before the unique decanter itself was auctioned off in New York for a record-breaking US$460,000, all of which went to charity:water, an organisation whose business model is based heavily on brand tie-ups and who gives 100 percent of all donations to water projects.
The watch and jewellery house may be better known for its arts programmes, but it has also been quietly supporting Water.org, an H2O NGO co-founded by actor Matt Damon, along with a number of other water- and sustainability-related activities. One ongoing initiative specifically targets water and sanitation in Ethiopia, aiming to give almost 30,000 people access to clean water in a sustainable manner as well as bolstering local micro-enterprises that set up public sanitation facilities and supporting hygiene education programmes.
Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar Land Rover’s philanthropic initiatives lean towards harnessing the company’s engineering prowess, and thus include the creation of mechanical steps to help mobility-impaired horseback riders, solar-power initiatives to illuminate energy-starved regions, and a partnership with ClimateCare in which smart technology was used to design an activity that delivers safe water to schools in Kenya using LifeStraw water-purification technology.
Absolut vodka’s premium line, Absolut Elyx, ties sales of its products to provision of clean water via Water for People. For each bottle consumed, the company donates one week of safe water to a person in a region of stress, the idea being that Absolut would like to fill the tumblers of the affluent without leaving empty glasses behind for those in need. Besides water, the mega-brand is also known for its Absolut Art Fund, and works with suppliers on a local level to ensure fair employment standards.
Toms philanthropic programmes, which are fully integrated into the company’s primary business model, shook the industry when first introduced. The company’s bread and butter continues to be its comfortable and stylish espadrilles, with a buy-one-donate-one concept that means a pair of shoes is donated every time one is sold. The idea extends to its sunglasses line, with funds going towards prescription eyewear and eye surgery, but the company’s coffee brewery – built into some of the boutiques around the world – works along the same lines. For each bag of Toms Roasting Co. Coffee sold, 140 litres of safe water (a week’s supply) is donated, with the website touting that 450,000 contributions have been made as part of the campaign.