At first glance this campaign reminds you of the 1980s bar scene and may elicit an eye roll. But in too many parts of the world, the thirst for water and hours put into collecting it trumps political correctness. To that end, the Belgian brewer Stella Artois has partnered with Water.org to launch an eye-catching campaign to halt one of the most onerous tasks faced by women in developing nations: the hours-long daily route of hauling water, usually by foot, over long distances. The “Buy a Lady a Drink” campaign opened last week at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
Indeed, this cause marketing campaign is a knife in a massive gunfight as NGOs, private companies and governments try to find ways to expand access to clean water in an era of growing water scarcity. Nevertheless, more knives like that of Stella Artois’ initiative are needed. The statistics are overwhelming. At least 760 million people lack access to safe, secure and clean water. Women and children spend about 140 million hours a day collecting water. And while mobile technology has opened more economic doors, one disturbing fact is that more people worldwide own a cell phone than own a toilet. Stella Artois’ campaign, which enlists Water.org’s founders Matt Damon and Gary White, is a step in raising awareness about this massive problem.
The campaign started with Stella Artois donating US$1.2 million to the cause. The company is raising additional funds through the sales of artistic limited-edition beer glasses. Water.org says the purchase of one glass, at US$12, is enough to provide one person clean drinking water for five years. As of now the 20,000 put up for sale in the U.S. have completely sold out.
The campaign also features several videos highlighting what women and children endure in securing water for their daily needs. One of them features the story of a woman in central India who makes six trips a day on foot—time that could otherwise be spent growing crops, handcrafting goods or even making sure children complete their homework.
Water.org already has a strong track record of providing market-based solutions to the lack of clean water worldwide. Moving beyond simply digging a well (which too frequently fail or fall into disrepair too soon after they are installed), the NGO has focused on microfinance programs that lend assistance to projects such as building private toilets to gaining access to municipal water taps. As of last fall, Water.org has invested US$10.6 million in almost 450,000 loans across nine countries. Considering the fact water scarcity is one of the biggest threats to global economic and political stability, more efforts such as this Stella Artois-Water.org partnership need to be on the drawing board.
Based in California, Leon Kaye has also been featured in The Guardian, Clean Technica, Sustainable Brands, Earth911, Inhabitat, Architect Magazine and Wired.com. He shares his thoughts on his own site, GreenGoPost.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Image credit: Water.org