Water Dispenser & Hydration Association saw the industry in a buoyant mood at AGM

Mark Cross, Deputy Chair of the WHA with Jon Wicks, Chairman

There was a strong attendance at the first in-person Annual General Meeting of the Water Dispenser & Hydration Association (the WHA) since the body’s formation in January 2020.

Held on 22 September 2022, a day before the Government’s mini budget, the event heard from the WHA chairman, Jon Wicks of BWT UK, who said that the industry had bounced back strongly to now stand at £183.8 million in value.

Mr Wicks said: “We are experiencing an eventful year with the pressures of strikes and labour shortages which face all businesses, inflation and energy costs surging, a backdrop of war in Ukraine and hybrid working even as more people have returned to employment.”

He added that, after a strong summer for the sector, economic challenges are significant. “We need to brace ourselves for uncertainty ahead.”

“The WHA’s vision and our legacy is that we are the authority on water dispensing and hydration products in both the commercial and domestic environments. We are expanding the portfolio of products we represent which now include integrated tap systems, hospitality and high-volume dispensers, bottle filling stations and boxed water dispensers. As a result, we are expanding our Code of practice and updating our standards to encompass these developments.”

Phillip Atkinson-Clow, general manager of the WHA together with Matt Stimpson of Thirsty Work, jointly delivered a presentation which examined how the WHA can benefit members. Phillipa Atkinson-Clow said: “The role of the WHA is threefold. To set standards that meet and often excel regulations. To provide high quality industry specific training to help meet those standards. And to carry out annual audits so that you know you are meeting those standards, and so does everybody else. This means that being a member of the WHA really has meaning.  It isn’t just a badge bought off the shelf – you’ve had to work hard to attain and maintain those standards – and so we aim to set you apart from everyone else. These are the foundations of your membership.”

Mr Stimpson added: “We believe that the WHA and its training and audits can help motivate your people at a time when staff attraction and retention is crucial. We know that people feel valued when sent on a [training] course, when their company selects them and makes the training something to be valued.  They learn and return feeling motivated and wanting to use their new knowledge in their jobs. This is just one of the ways in which the WHA benefits members.”

He also spoke of the ways that audits can be used as an opportunity to upskill employees, helping them learn from more senior people.

Other speakers at the event were WHA Deputy Chair, Mark Cross, speaking about ‘Sustainable Hydration’; Darren Wilson, Chair of the Technical Committee, delivering a technical training and audit update; and Steve Charles of Quest talking about expanding business knowledge. In addition, Nigel Elwick, the Chair of the WHA’s Marketing & Communications Committee, chaired an open discussion on industry issues.

The occasion provided an opportunity to promote the industry’s CSR programme by supporting WHA’s chosen charity, Just a Drop. The event had raised nearly £2000 to be put towards the next African borehole which will deliver clean, safe water to yet another remote community in Zambia. Donations came from WHA member delegates and from companies, all of which are members, donating in exchange for an exhibition stand at the event. They were AA First, Abbeychart, Blupura, Crystal Mountain, European Watercare and Partners &.