KAREN LYNCH BELU
CEO of social enterprise, belu water
Karen Lynch has been CEO of social enterprise, Belu Water since 2011. Under Karen’s leadership, Belu launched a new business model focused on exemplifying environmental standards in the industry and investing all profits into the charity WaterAid.
Belu offers the most ethical choice in water service from bottled mineral water to filtration systems, refillable bottles and carafes to the UK’s Hotel, Restaurant and Catering sector. To date, the business has given over £4million to WaterAid, transforming over 260,000 lives worldwide with access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.
What was your main motivation to carve your organisation with a social conscience?
I believe in a better and more inclusive world. One where all businesses have taken responsibility to do more than just make money, they help solve the world’s problems at the same time.
Social Enterprise is my passion and the model I believe in because it is an exemplar of this, it proves the theory possible, and it inspires mainstream business to do more.
How do you tackle the highs and lows of running an organisation?
Highs and lows are the norm in any business. The impact of these is greatest on the people. A transparent and safe culture where it’s safe for someone to say they are feeling a 5 or a 2 out of 10 is a non-negotiable for me. Without this how can you focus on supporting the individuals that make the business, when they need it. I, personally, am at my best when a crisis is coming as I want to see the team through this. It sometimes drives them but I almost always find a way to see a huge positive and opportunity where others see only the problem. I believe every negative has a positive, and that a crisis can shift attitudes and action and leads you to new ways of operating that were unimaginable before.
As social entrepreneur I know I drive at a high pace and I realise that sometimes I should manage that pace better. I need to remember ‘More marathon less sprint’ and a mantra of think more and do less is one many of us should remember more often.
What is the one book we should read, podcast we should listen to or piece of art we should encounter to better understand the world of social enterprise?
If you ever have a moment of doubt that the challenge to social enterprise is worth it, then read Moneyland (Oliver Bullough). That said, you’ll never walk through London with the same thoughts about wealth ever again.
What are you interested in that most people aren’t and should be?
Every year I say I don’t have time, but I always do because I’m addicted to growing vegetables. It has changed our whole attitude to eating and we no longer eat meat. I have to confess I can be competitive. Would you like to see a photo of my 56lb marrow?
What’s a project you’ve dreamed about but haven’t started yet?
I dream of being able to play the guitar well and sit on a balcony in Spain and entertain myself with my accomplished playing. Right now, I am stuck on the first few chords.
What’s the most ridiculous think you have ever done in the name of Social Enterprise?
In some ways, everything we do is seen as a bit wacky. The way we approach potential partners is bold and brave yet seems to work. Maybe they are just bowled over by our cheek? My view is that we have to think differently, to change the rules of the game and achieve faster and better progress.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
My husband, Scott is incredible and full of brilliant advice. I’d also recommend people look up Ikigai – it’s the Japanese way of being that helped me figure out my purpose in work and life. That sweet spot when you’ve found something the world needs, something that you’re good at and enjoy doing, and something you can get paid to do.
Just for fun – If someone made a film of your work, who would you ask to play you?
It would have to be a musical, set somewhere exotic and I think Beyoncé would be the perfect choice for me (and Mr Lynch 😉)
Tea or G and T?
G and T Henricks on cucumber, I don’t do caffeine.