Simon Konecki, 36, co-founded ethical bottled water company Life, which aims to give 1,000 litres of clean water to communities in the developing world for every litre sold in the UK (through its sister charity drop4drop.org). Until 2005 he worked at Lehman Brothers as a senior trader.
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What was the first donation you can remember giving?
I was about 13 and it was around Christmas. I had £10 to spend and I was walking through Brighton. I saw a hobo. He was in a bad way and I gave him that tenner. And then I got home and my dad said: “You’re crazy. He’s just going to spend it on drugs.” But I think he needed it more than I did that day.
What’s the cause closest to you now?
The world’s water crisis. In 2005 my employer sent round an email saying that they would double any money that you gave to charity. I thought that was a good idea so I looked into a lot of causes and the world’s water crisis should be pretty easy to solve: $30bn to give 1bn people water is nothing. So I decided that that would be it. And that’s what I have been doing for the past five years, any way I can.
Is there a standout moment from your giving?
It feels like we’ve just got such a long way to go. I can’t get excited or feel proud of what I’ve done just yet. We’ve given 200,000 people clean drinking water but it’s all or nothing really. I guess I’ll get excited when we get to just a few people left without water.
Do you think charities can learn from the business sector?
Completely. I didn’t donate much to charity because I didn’t know what I was getting for my money. When it comes to drop4drop, if someone gives me a pound – in fact if someone gives me a penny – I can tell them where that’s gone. I can tell them the date it’s gone. I can show them on Google maps. If you want people’s trust and you want to spend their money, you’ve got to give them value. And I think that’s something the charity sector’s kind of missing.
Which other charities do you really admire?
There are so many good charities. Every cause has got its leaders and I admire anyone who dedicates their time to helping others.
What do you get out of your giving?
It’s a satisfying career on all sorts of levels. I can be competitive and ambitious – rebellious – all the things that I would like to do in a normal business life, the main difference being that the beneficiaries of it are people who are just screwed. And those people are screwed because of us, really. I feel guilty.
What changes would you like to make to the charity sector?
Well, I’d like to see problems getting solved. You know: having serious targets and solving them. Fixing these problems is the reason why we’re here. I’m sure it is.