Fiona Jeffery OBE
Fiona Jeffery, Chairman of World Travel Market, founded the charity Just a Drop in 1998.
In 1994 when I became Exhibition Director of World Travel Market (WTM) it struck me that if the travel and tourism industry did not protect the very product it was seeking to sell and promote, in the long term it would actually be in danger of destroying itself.
While not wishing to be alarmist, I felt that the industry was in denial about the importance that sustainability undoubtedly had on its long term success.
This concerned me for sometime and 18 years ago led to a responsible tourism initiative that ultimately has helped to change the way many people think about way we do business. It started with Environmental Awareness Day and six years ago, culminated in WTM World Responsible Tourism Day held in conjunction with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
The aim has been to educate, motivate and inspire travel and tourism companies the world over to review business practice. We want them to ensure that in their desire to promote their company services and destinations, they engage in a way that preserves cultural heritage, protects species, conserves environments and ensures local communities benefit.
It was when I was first thinking about this that I became a mum! And as anyone who has had children will know, this certainly changes your perspective on life. I started to question how I could encourage businesses generally, as well as in the travel and tourism industry, to give back to the work in which they operated – and dramatically improve the lives of children and communities.
At that time the words Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) didn’t exist but in many ways this was an early form of CSR. It was motivated by a sense that absolutely business has a responsibility to its shareholders, stakeholders and customers, but I also felt successful business should be able to do more and add value in a broader way.
The idea of a charitable initiative was borne – but it had to be global in reach and environmentally sound.
I then came across the horrendous facts surrounding dirty water. It’s the biggest killer of children under the age of five, a child dies every 20 seconds from diseases caused by polluted water and two-fifths of the world’s population do not have access to clean water close to their homes.
Yet the simple truth is that just £1.00 can deliver clean water to a child for 10 years.
And so Just a Drop was launched. The principle is, if each of us gives a little collectively we can make the world of difference and to date, the charity has helped improve the lives of over 1.5 million children and their families in 29 countries across the world, many of them in remote communities that the world had forgotten.
An important aspect of our work however is also ensuring that our donors have a real appreciation of the difference their support brings and how they are genuinely changing lives. All our projects are handled at a grass roots level and companies are able to sponsor their own project, which we find gives them a kind of unexpected fulfillment as well as additional gains involving staff, suppliers and customers.
The work of Just a Drop reflects a personal viewpoint that business should - as well as generate profit - add real value to society in a broader sense.
It’s a perspective that’s been supported by Reed Exhibitions from the outset and a number of our travel exhibitions including World Travel Market, Arabian Travel Market, AIME and La Cumbre work in partnership to support our fundraising efforts, helping improve the lives of people across the world.
If you would like to learn more or get involved with Just a Drop, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org