ACU (Australian Catholic University)

ACU Alum

Issue 5, Spring 2013

Just add water

Just add water

Ever considered starting your own company? Shirley Godlewski spoke to new graduate Mark Patchett, who has transferred his business qualification into real world practice by establishing socially and environmentally conscious organisation – Waranu Water. 

Mark Patchett does not like Australia’s love affair with bottled water.

Having established an online water filtration start-up company, Mark provides customers with pure drinking water products that can help reduce plastic bottle waste and contribute to not-for-profit community projects. The Waranu Water business concept was developed during Mark’s final semester of study at ACU.

As a concept he developed to put theory into practice, Mark created business plans of all types to better understand the real world mapplication of his studies. Inspired by companies that had a positive social impact while also being profitable, Mark was made aware of the devastating impact of impure water from a friend’s experience working at an orphanage in Cambodia.

“Sebastian and I have been friends since high school. We have always shared an aspiration to make a change in the world, knowing the great impact that giving to those less fortunate.”

When Sebastian returned from Cambodia and shared his experience with Mark, together they drew on Sebastian's family background in the health food and water system industries to develop an idea of selling a product that could provide am health benefit to Australians, but also support underprivileged communities.

The concept of Waranu Water was established based on the core business values of sustainability, health and community.n Mark’s commitment to promoting the elimination of bottled water is strengthened by the exorbitant costs and impact this common item has on the environment.

“People are willing to pay for a convenience that has a unit cost that is absurd,” said Mark.

“The environmental impact of plastic bottles from the production, packaging, distribution, to the BPA chemical related concerns and the low percentage that get recycled, it is all too great to ignore.

"By providing people with an accessible and extremely high quality way to purify water, the need for plastic water bottles is also removed.” With every purchase of a water filtration product, Mark and Sebastian also direct part of the proceeds to be used to fund not-for-profit community projects that  help promote accessible drinking.

“We have partnered with two amazing not-for-profit organisations, See Beyond Borders and charity: water. With See Beyond Borders, we are helping to provide remote schools in Cambodia with clean, safe drinking water.

"And as a benefactor of charity: water, our proceeds directly help provide clean water to a greater number of developing countries.” Keeping in mind the footprint operating a company can create, Waranu Water is an online business instead of a store.

Consequently a lot of time and energy has been devoted to establishing a strong digital presence for the company. “A lot of our business operation runs itself, so we are able to focus a lot on our online marketing strategy. This is great, so we can focus on communicating to people about the range of benefits of pure water.

“A challenge for us is a large percentage of the Australian water filter market consists of people who already know about our products and what they offer. As we also want to communicate to the mass market, we can’t preach about water filters and their value, instead we need to communicate in a valuable way.”

Waranu Waters engages social media and their website to share with customers and the everyday Australian, valuable information about being socially and environmentally responsible.

“We post and tweet content about promoting ways to eliminate plastic bottle waste and reduce your footprint. We have also recently released an e-book about ways to be more environmentally friendly and consequently more effective with household costs.

"With Waranu Water, we are a company that wants to make a difference, with social responsibility and engagement as core to our business, while also providing
a drip feed of relevant and valuable information online.”

Has bottled water lost its cool?

The bottled water fad continues to decline as Melbourne Fashion Week organisers= banned plastic water bottles at this year’s event – replacing them with reusable aluminium bottles and refilling stations. BPA, which has been in commercial use for making plastics since the 1950s, is getting a lot of bad press in toxicology and science circles.

BPA is known to leach from plastic containers into their contents. Concerns were raised when the chemical was detected in the urine of 95 per cent of humans sampled in the US (including pregnant women), with higher levels in children. BPA has been linked (in animal studies) to health problems including developmental and reproductive concerns, infertility, obesity, hypertension, ndiabetes, thyroid concerns and attention deficit disorder.

Breast and prostate cancer have also been reported in animal studies. Opinions vary about the health risks of BPA. In some quarters, toxic effects in high-dose animal studies are not considered suitable for human risk categorisation. ACU Professor of Toxicology Chris Winder\ said that action was ramping up to ban the chemical.

“Canada’s food regulator has banned its use, calling it a toxic chemical, and the US and EU are looking to reduce the level of BPA products being sold. “BPA is on its way out. The bad press is causing drink manufacturers to look for other plastics. Within 10 years most regulators will have taken steps to do something about it and within 20 years it will be gone,” said Professor Winder.

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