"[In the developed world], we don't even realise how much water we consume every day," says Roca's Victor Schoone

"[In the developed world], we don't even realise how much water we consume every day," says Roca's Victor Schoone

With scores of people lacking clean water and sanitation facilities around the world, Roca, the Spanish bathroom manufacturer is embarking on a mission to make water accessible to the underserved communities around the world. The firm's country manager for the Middle East explains why innovation is pointless if it doesn’t benefit humankind

Victor Schoone; photo: Aasiya Jagadeesh
ITP Media Group
Victor Schoone; photo: Aasiya Jagadeesh

What do you want to achieve through your campaign, No walking for water?

No Walking for Water is one of the initiatives of the We Are Water foundation, a non-profit organisation, which aims to contribute to the resolution of the problems derived from the lack of water and sanitation facilities around the world. This campaign is one of the many activities at the foundation. The aim is to create awareness and raise funds to enable people, who currently have to walk miles, to get access to water. In the developed world, we can turn on the faucet and get immediate supply. Walking, for us, is something we do as a leisure activity, whereas in other parts of the world, people have to walk for hours to survive. The interesting thing about the blue barrels is that it makes people realise what lengths some of the less fortunate have to go to for water. We only realise the effort when we pick up these barrels that transport up to 15 litres of water. On the other hand, we don’t even know how much water we consume every day.

How crucial is social responsibility to your firm?

Roca is the founding member of the We Are Water foundation. It is a family-run business. They realised many years ago that we need to be actively involved in solving the problem of lack of clean water. For more than 50 years, the company has been developing products that save energy and water. All the Roca factories are sustainable factories. In 2010, the family wanted to take a more active approach to solving this problem. It has two main objectives: one is to develop projects in countries where there is a lack of sanitation and water, and the other is to create awareness, so we change our behaviour towards water consumption, and try to consume as little as possible. All these endeavours contribute towards making this planet more sustainable.

How does it add value to your existing business and marketing strategy in the region?

As Roca is a global company, all the units around the world are involved in developing such projects. Since 2012, we’ve been carrying out several activities, mainly on World Water Day (it falls on March 22, 2019 this year), when all our business units around the world are involved in this initiative. In Dubai, the first activity we carried out was called “You eat water”. It was related to water footprint, which is determined by the kind of food we consume. We all know that meat has a much higher footprint than pasta or vegetables. We organised this in front of the Dubai Aquarium in The Dubai Mall.

Samer Deeb and Victor Schoone

We also screened a documentary called Aral, The lost sea by director Isabel Croixet at the international film festival in San Sebastian. This documentary was about the disappearance of the Aral Sea, which practically evaporated because of bad water management. The way we behave at home, in agriculture and industries has a major impact on the planet.

Since then, we have been promoting the No Walking for Water campaign. In the first year, it was held at The Walk in Jumeirah Beach Residence, attracting both locals and tourists. Now, we have taken it to the public schools in Dubai to raise awareness among children at a grassroots level.

We have even taken it to Oman and it generated curiosity among the residents there. Then, we launched a competition in Dubai in collaboration with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, which tasked the participants with designing a picture of their water saving efforts. Through such initiatives, we want to involve the stakeholders.  

What percentage of your annual revenue do you spend on these activities?

We have developed 49 projects in 21 countries so far, directly helping half a million people. There are projects that cost as little as €6,000 and then there are projects that cost up to €100,000.

People can see how much they can contribute to a real project. Sometimes, with NGOs, you don’t know what happens to your money once you have made the contribution. But here, at We Are Water foundation, you can donate to a particular project, and you can see how much funds are still required to reach the objective.

How do you uphold your commitment to the environment?

Roca’s design management is focused on delivering products that really have a benefit for the environment, but also for the user. You always want to ensure that the experience of the end-user is a pleasant one. We live in a developed world where we always aim for a better quality of life.

We don’t mind contributing but if the products you use help you to consume less, directly or indirectly, then that is better for everyone including the environment.

We recently developed a project, which is a concept to build a public toilet that is easy to build with local materials and also addresses other challenges that such toilets face, such as lack of ventilation, and pollution of the ground water.

These toilets are designed in such a way that when they are built, the construction will allow for continuous and heavy usage, and the way the drainage is designed, will avoid pollution of the ground water. The tap in the design helps improve sanitation and hygiene standards.

This article first appeared in the March 2019 edition of Commercial Interior Design under the headline, Walking the Walk.

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