The Toilet Paper that Builds Toilets

Around 2.3 billion people worldwide (roughly 40% of the global population) do not have access to a toilet and almost 300,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That’s around 800 children a day dying from diseases which are completely preventable given access to toilets and sanitation products.

More people around the world have mobile phones than toilets. Australian company Who Gives A Crap is trying to change this. Founded in 2013, as a for-profit social enterprise, the company sells its own brand of toilet paper which is made from bamboo and does not contain any inks, dyes or scents. However, getting started as a small social enterprise was not easy as the market for toilet paper is dominated by large multinationals.

The company’s co-founders had to think innovatively. The initial capital of $50,000 to start the company was raised following an innovative crowdfunding campaign in 2012, IndieGoGo, in which company co-founder Simon Griffiths sat on a toilet for 50 hours straight. By taking a seat (as opposed to a stand), Griffiths said “it was a serious pain in the bum” but it helped the start-up cover first round production costs and get going.

In an interview with Australian Ethical, Griffiths discusses what he calls “consumer driven philanthropy” and the approach of the Who Gives A Crap co-founders to just get started and learn from mistakes made along the way. He says “when we started out, the challenge was that we were operating in a space that was only just starting to emerge globally, so there wasn’t really anyone experienced enough to help us or talk through what we were doing. It was more about getting in there, doing it, and making a lot of mistakes along the way.”

50% of its profits are used to build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world and its impact has been substantial. To date Who Gives A Crap has donated over $1.8 million to its charity partners and saved many trees from being knocked down, as well as large amounts of energy and water. Every roll of toilet paper is providing a person in a developing country with access to a toilet for about one week and every dollar invested in sanitation yields $5.50 in increased economic prosperity.

Who Gives A Crap also has lofty ambitions to continue growing and increasing its positive impact. Plans exist to enter new markets (Who Gives A Crap toilet paper is already available in the United States), open more distribution centres, hire more staff, develop new products and find innovative ways to improve their existing products all while giving more people access to toilets and sanitation products. Some of Who Gives A Crap’s current partners include WaterAid Australia, Sanergy, Shining Hope for Communities and Lwala Community Alliance.

As Griffiths notes “people are thinking about where their money ends up and what that means for them, which is really exciting.” Consumers are increasingly concerned about sustainability issues and the impacts the products they purchase and use have had or can have on the environment. Next time you use the toilet why not consider how many people lack access to toilets and how you could make a small but meaningful impact?


Image courtesy of Flickr. Originally published by S&S on June 18, 2019.


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