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Amid Bribery Scandal, Wal-Mart Contest Attracts Christians

Apr 25 2012
T. J. Foltz says his clean-water nonprofit works because 84 percent of Americans shop at the superstore chain.

This month, the bottled-water company Humankind Water beat out over 4,000 other products to reach the "top ten" in an American Idol-style contest run by Wal-Mart called Get on the Shelf. The contest pitted start-up companies and entrepreneurs against each other, as voters submitted a million votes in total to tell Wal-Mart which product they would like to see, as the title suggests, on the shelf of their local superstore.

Now, the top 10 products are competing against each other again, in a second round of voting that ended yesterday. The top three finalists will be carried on walmart.com, and the overall winner will also "get on the shelf" in select Wal-Mart stores.

Get on the Shelf is the first contest of its kind by a major retailer, according to The Wall Street Journal's Market Watch. It's also an opportunity, says Humankind Water founder T. J. Foltz, to help right one of the major wrongs in our world: the lack of clean drinking water.

We've seen the statistics so many times we've almost become immune, Foltz says. Some 10,000 children die every day from a lack of clean drinking water. Sitting on his couch one morning two years ago, praying, Foltz says he came up with an idea: launch a bottled-water company that gives 100 percent of its net profits toward clean water efforts around the globe.

Foltz's background isn't in business or marketing. "I've spent most of my adult life in youth ministry," Foltz says, although he's also worked for Scripture Union and the philanthropic adviser Geneva Global. And Foltz did not set out to make Humankind Water overtly Christian.

"We very intentionally did not put crosses and hallelujahs all over the bottle, because we wanted anybody with a heart for philanthropy to buy our water," Foltz notes. "At the same time, however, anybody who Googles 'T. J. Foltz' will find a youth speaker."

"There are areas of the world where people are literally dying for a drink," Foltz says. Meanwhile, the bottled water business is a multibillion-dollar industry—if some of those billions of dollars of profit could be moved to support clean water for those who don't have it, "we could virtually eliminate the clean-water crisis."

Clean water efforts ranked number 1 out of the 10 most cost-effective aid strategies, according to Christianity Today's February cover story. And Humankind Water is partnering with water relief organizations whose track record is already proven: Water Missions International, Ethiopian Rainwater Harvesting Association, Ugandan Water Project, Living Water International, and Blood:Water Mission.

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Amid Bribery Scandal, Wal-Mart Contest Attracts Christians