Natalie Campbell MBE is an award-winning social entrepreneur, broadcaster and co-CEO of Belu water. Belu is celebrating its 10 year anniversary with WaterAid this month which has seen them donate £5m of their net profit to date. They’re certified carbon neutral and have transformed 333,779 lives through access to clean water and toilets.
We chatted to Natalie about Belu’s ethical business practices, the next big thing in sustainability, and her advice to young female leaders:
Belu is celebrating its 10th Anniversary supporting WaterAid, can you talk through what it feels like to be at the helm of the brand during this momentous time?
It is an absolute privilege to join a business with such a longstanding and credible partnership. While I can’t take any credit for past performance – it belongs to the team – I am a passionate custodian of the next 10 years working hand-in-hand with WaterAid to end water poverty and bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to everyone, everywhere.
Over the last year we have refined our purpose to align our social and environmental goals, Belu’s new purpose is to ‘change the way the world sees water’. This is about water, but also responsible production and consumption and tackling the climate emergency through responsible operating models that regenerate the environment and don’t damage it. WaterAid also has a huge climate commitment, I’m excited about what we will create to get us closer to this goal.
What are some of the key milestone markers that you’ve created for WaterAid at Belu?
So many, 330,000 lives transformed over the last 10 years in communities all over the world. Belu gives away all net profit, pre-pandemic that was over £1m in 2018 and 2019. It will take us a while to recover and get back to that level of profit but we’re ambitious about making it happen as part of our global growth strategy. The upside of growth and making more money is that it directly correlates to how much good we can do. Belu is a win-win business for people and the planet.
You’ve been championing sustainability and ethical business practices for a while now, can you talk about what’s been your biggest challenge to date?
Back in 2011 when I started my agency A Very Good Company – brands, investors, consumers – they didn’t get it as they do now. So many people said you can’t do well as a business and do good or they said the sole purpose of a business is to deliver shareholder value and employ people/pay taxes (as their good deed).
We’re in a totally different place now, consumers are demanding more from the brands they spend their hard-earned money with. They are demanding more morals, values and transparency. It’s the start of a golden age for real responsible or purpose-led businesses. It’s also harder for brands to greenwash and get away with it, household names have been eviscerated overnight because they have been ‘found out’ for not being who they say they are.
You were recently awarded your MBE in October 2020 for services to entrepreneurship – congratulations! How did this feel?
Thank you! It feels great to have public acknowledgement for doing what I love and championing social entrepreneurship and better business practices.
What are your ambitions for the future for Belu – what does the next big thing in sustainability look like?
We’re taking our filtration business, Belu Filter in Action global. Our first outpost is Hong Kong and we have built up a brilliant customer portfolio already – Mandarin Oriental, Upper House Hotel and DoughBros are part of our founding collective. Sustainability is big across the APAC region, Singapore has set up an ESG Centre of Excellence to look at policy opportunities to make sustainability a key economic metric. These state level changes make our growth inevitable. We’ve also launched a sustainable tonic and mixer range, firstly we’re using green glass which is easily recycled in the U.K. and it contains at least 70% recycled material.
People think cans are great but we don’t have enough infrastructure to easily recycle cans in this country so a large amount is shipped out to the EU or goes to landfill in other countries or worse still, simply incinerated. Add our WaterAid partnership and our heavy focus on ethical supply chains – we can really champion our range as the most sustainable.
It’s incredibly empowering to see women taking on important leadership roles at key businesses – what advice would you give to the next generation of young female leaders looking up to you?
Know yourself, be yourself and look after yourself. It’s my advice to anyone with leadership aspirations. We’ve been fed a very alpha and hyper-masculine behaviour narrative of successful leadership for decades. This results in workplaces built on fear, low-empathy and winner takes all attitudes.
Like the movement towards sustainability, there is an awareness that this culture is wrong and will not be tolerated by top talent. For leaders willing to do the work and really figure out what makes them tick and why they show up to work everyday, success looks very different. I believe it is more rewarding in the long run. It’s important to say the alpha culture I’m referring to is not gender specific, it’s representative of a moment in time that is being phased out by millennials and Gen Z. My other bits of advice, be paid what you’re worth based on the value you bring, do not settle for less and sit at the proverbial table with conviction, you have a voice so use it meaningfully.
For more information on Belu Water, see here.