Can a 30 minute documentary be so inspiring that it leads to a global initiative spanning more than 50 countries? The answer is yes - that exactly how Atlas Copco’s charity initiative, Water for All, was founded in 1984.

Imagine yourself having only two TV channels. One of them is showing the evening news, the other a documentary about an ongoing drought in Peru in South America. On this particular March evening, two colleagues from Atlas Copco’s office in Sickla, Sweden, happened to choose the latter and found themselves deeply affected by the suffering lack of water had inflicted on a population of people living high up in the Andes mountains. When they met the next day, they started talking about what they had seen and both felt very strongly that they could make a difference. They started planning a fundraiser for their fellow employees with the hope of collecting enough money to help the area featured in the documentary gain access to water. Five months later, in August 1984, the organization ‘Vatten åt Alla’, Water for All, was founded.

The company noticed the dedication of its employees and promised to match whatever amount the employees were able to raise. With the help of an external partner, a project was eventually implemented in Peru but everyone immediately thought, "Why stop here? We can do more." And indeed we have. Since 1984, Water for All has spread across the globe, always at the initiative of a volunteering employee willing to run the organization in his or her country. Up until 2011, the company continued to match the money raised by its employees, but since then they give twice as much. Together we have contributed to millions of people gaining sustainable access to clean water

Here in the UK, our story started in the 2000’s. Taking the Water for All initiative from Atlas Copco Group Centre in Sweden, a committee of dedicated employees was formed and the search for a partner commenced. In 2011 we started working with Just a Drop, with the first project based in a remote part of Romania called Dobrovat. Since then, our successful partnership has enabled us to reach 16,491 people through 14 projects across 5 different countries. 

So, how does it work?

The Water for All UK & Ireland committee is made up 14 dedicated employees from a cross section of the businesses under the Atlas Copco umbrella. We all share the same passion for supporting the initiative and are lucky that the Atlas Copco businesses are all incredibly supportive of our efforts. The basis for our funding comes from voluntary employee donations through our salary sacrifice scheme – where employees can sign up to have an amount deducted from their salary each month.

All donations received in this way are then double matched by the company, meaning that for every £1 donated by the employee, the charity received £3.

The committee meet twice a year with Just a Drop to review existing projects and select new ones.

Water for All is a great cause! To be able to provide the bare essentials (drinking water, sanitation and much more) for those who need it is incredible.” says Alex Hatt, co-chair of the Water for All UK Committee. “The most special thing about it, is that it is an employee led initiative; I am confident we are making a change and I’m excited for the new projects in the future!”  

Whilst 2020 provided some real challenges for us all, the Water for All UK & Ireland committee were able to celebrate some successes. We successfully completed two projects, A Primary School in Uganda and a Self Help Group Rock Catchment in Kenya. These projects alone will provide clean water and sanitation to nearly 4,000 people.

Our partnership with Just a Drop was recognised by the Third Sector Business Charity Awards as a finalist in the ‘Charity Partnership - Property & Construction’ category. These awards recognise the outstanding work carried out by charities and voluntary sector organisations, and the companies that support them. Unfortunately we didn’t win the award this year, but to reach the final list is an amazing achievement that we are very proud of!

2021 is set to be a busy year for us too. We have 5 more projects underway with Just a Drop in Kenya, Uganda, Cambodia and India. These projects will improve the lives of so many and give us all something we can be proud of.

Find out more about the work that Atlas Copco have been supporting here!