#88 – How to Turn a Sustainable Product into a Sustainable Movement

with Matt Wittek, CEO & Founder of Fill it Forward

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88 - Matt Wittek-Fill it Forward

How do you turn a sustainable product into a sustainable movement? This is the question that social entrepreneur Matt Wittek, who is on a mission to inspire the world to reuse, has been asking himself since 2012 when he founded Fill It Forward, previously Cupanion. Since 2012, Fill It Forward has funded hundreds of clean water projects, benefiting communities across the world in an effort to alleviate the global water crisis.

Working with multiple charity partners, they are able to maximize the impact by facilitating better hygiene, sanitation, and education in high priority communities. Matt and his team have worked with retailers, food service operators, universities, and brands to promote the use of reusable products, which are now used by millions of people around the world, helping to eliminate single-use products from our landfills.

While Fill It Forward originally began as a product-focused company that sold reusable water bottles, they have since innovated in the giving and technology spaces through launching the Fill It Forward app. Every time a consumer refills their own water bottle, they have the ability to give clean water to someone in need. How this works is a consumer places a sticker on their reusable water bottle. Each time that sticker barcode is scanned in the app, Fill It Forward contributes to a number of clean water projects around the world that are making global environmental impact.

The Fill it Forward App and Bottle. Every time you refill and scan, a contribution is made to a charitable project around the world.

 In the era of COVID-19, when consumers are primarily staying at home, you can still give a cup of clean water by refilling your water bottle at home. As a result of this impact of the growing use of reusable bottles, over the past 10 years, Fill It Forward has been able to fund 209 clean water projects, reducing much ocean pollution, keeping five million single-use items out of the world’s waterways.

In our episode, we discuss the earliest days of Fill It Forward (then Cupanion), what it was like to start the company and ultimately pivot to what it is today, now nearly a decade in business. We talk about what really unlocked the traction in growth for Fill It Forward as a company. It’s not just how they position the org charts and their supply chains; it is something much more meaningful: innovation in the giving space through their Forward program. As well, we talk about the issue of single-use waste and their mission of inspiring the world to reuse, and what lessons and understandings Matt has come to now while actively attempting to tackle this issue through his organization.

Wittek (front left) and the Fill it Forward Team Showing their Support on National Women’s Day 2020.

“Understanding that no matter how hard we tried, we were not going to solve this problem on our own was something I am very thankful we understood early on. We were just going to play a role. Our aim was to figure out what role that would be.” -Matt Wittek

Topics Discussed: 

  • Fill it Forward’s journey and environmental Impact
  • Lessons Matt has learned through actively persuing his and his company’s mission
  • How behavior has changed in the reuse space
  • The momentum driven by Fill it Forward’s innovations in giving 
  • The impact of taking risks financially

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