As a result, the Student Union, one of the biggest social businesses I know and one that looms large in my life as my wife works for them, will lose around £32,000 of profit a year. This in a business which tends to make around £30,000 profit a year.
It's a pretty extreme example of what, in my head at least, is the difference between a social business which takes what it does seriously, and your average business with a corporate social responsibility strategy. This decision hurts. It has clear environmental benefits, but represents a big financial hit for the Union as it loses income and has to invest in new water fountains. One Water – a social business which supplies the Union shops – will take a big hit too – particularly if other students follow Leeds's example.
Perhaps I'm a bit cynical, but I think there are few businesses which would take such a big decision off their own back. Let me know if I'm out of touch, but CSR tends to be a bit of an add-on – and will often focus on initiatives which also have a positive financial impact (eg saving paper).
And, for all I've questioned whether ownership matters in social business, this is clearly one example where ownership matters a lot. The Union – strapline Not For Profit, Just For Students – is technically owned by the University's students – and it's students who ultimately make the big decisions.