Fiona Jeffery OBE is the Founder and Chair of Just a Drop, an international development charity bringing safe water, sanitation and hygiene projects to some of the poorest communities around the world.

In 1998, having recently become a mum, Fiona learnt that, shockingly, a child died every 17 seconds as a result of drinking dirty water, yet just £1 (at the time), could provide safe water to a child for nearly 10 years. Fiona felt that she had to do something, and as a new Exhibition Director at World Travel Market (WTM), one of the world’s largest business-to-business travel shows, the timing was perfect. Fiona was keen to bring more purpose and meaning to WTM, beyond its commercial potential, ensuring it added value, both socially and environmentally, and gave back to communities across the world.

Fiona had always believed that businesses should “be more than just good at business but should drive and affect change by taking direct responsibility for doing the right thing.” So, channelling her social conscience into the development of other initiatives that would both make a difference and enhance commercial advantage, came naturally – an attitude that’s perhaps more prevalent today, but was extremely rare at the time.

In acknowledging that in using the world as its livelihood – by sending people on holiday – Fiona recognised the industry was perfectly placed to give something back to the destinations and communities they operate in across the world.

“My first concern was for the environment. Unless we protected the very product we sought to promote; we’d destroy both our own business model and the environment. I launched a programme called Environmental Awareness Day in 1996, which over a decade and a half evolved into World Responsible Tourism Day, with the aim of protecting the planet and creating better futures for all, through tourism. However, in those early years, very few people were interested in environmental issues. So, whilst maintaining a focus on the environment, I identified a cause that couldn’t be ignored, which was environmentally sound, with a global reach and would directly impact children and communities across the world and be something the industry could really get behind… so, Just a Drop was born.”

Believing actions speak louder than words, Fiona combined her role at WTM with guiding Just a Drop through its early years when the organisation was run solely by dedicated volunteers. Convincing industry players to donate generously to the cause took determination, but under Fiona’s direction, the travel industry has donated millions to Just a Drop and remains a major and committed supporter to this day. In fact, Just a Drop is widely perceived as part and parcel of the industry – a great achievement in itself.

As an effective and dedicated Chair, Fiona continues to volunteer her time to the charity – directing fundraising and communications and in-country projects and programmes, while utilising her experience and contacts to continue to drive Just a Drop forward, together with her team of dedicated staff, trustees and volunteer project engineers and officers.

Since the launch of Just a Drop at WTM in 1998, the charity has grown considerably, reaching more than 1.5 million people across 32 countries with access to safe water and sanitation. Furthermore, through the development of a holistic approach, involving broader programmes of work such as menstrual hygiene management, food security and micro-finance, Just a Drop supports 11 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including water and sanitation, quality education, gender equality, no hunger and climate action, which further supports communities, helping to life them out of poverty and create brighter futures.

 I’ve always believed, from small acorns, grow oak trees... I hope one day Just a Drop will grow to become an impressive oak

Outside of Just a Drop, Fiona is active across many other roles, including Member of UN World Committee for Tourism Ethics, Chair of the Africa Travel & Tourism Association (Atta), and Senior Partner in PR firm Finn Partners’ Global Responsible Tourism PR Consultancy. Until recently, she was also Chair of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards World Travel & Tourism Council  (WTTC), and in 2012, was awarded an OBE for services to Travel and Tourism.

Wearing several hats can be challenging, but there is synergy across all of Fiona’s roles – with sustainability, travel and the environment at the heart of each.

Though free time is scarce, Fiona loves being a mum to two (now grown-up) children and likes to practise Bikram yoga. And, like all those in the travel industry, Fiona has a wish list; to see the gorillas in Uganda, install solar energy in villages in the Himalayas, visit Vietnam, explore the Slovenian capital Ljubljana and to tour Scotland in a campervan, all with her “extremely supportive” husband – “so long as we can see it through the mist, as my mum would say…”