Listen: Simon Griffiths chats to Laura Bennett about the life-changing benefits of toilet paper.
It’s amazing how good toilet paper can be. Especially when half the profits it raises goes towards saving lives in developing nations.
That’s the winning formula of ‘Who Gives A Crap’, the unique Aussie brand founded by the humanitarian entrepreneur Simon Griffiths.
The business sells environmentally friendly toilet paper in Australia, and directs half of the profits towards building toilets in the developing world. In the simplest way, it’s providing a solution to one of the most crippling problems in the developing world.
Nearly a Third of the World’s Population Have No Toilet
Simon chatted to Hope 103.2’s Laura Bennett about the business, which at the end of 2015 had sold enough loo roll to give 120,000 people access to a toilet for a year.
“It all started when we had spent a bit of time in the developing world and realised how huge the sanitation problem was,” he said.
“Roughly 30 per cent of the entire world, 2.4 billion people, don’t have access to a toilet,” he said. “That’s hard to understand or imagine for us living here in Australia, but it creates huge problems.”
The lack of toilets leads to:
- Diarrhoea-related diseases
- Struggling health care systems (filling half the hospital beds in sub-Saharan Africa)
- The death of about 1,400 children under five years old every day
Making Toilet Paper Seriously Fun
Despite the enormity of the world’s sanitation problems, as Mr Griffiths said, “no-one likes to talk about it”.
“It’s always been the elephant in the room when it came to development aid issues, because toilets are a bit icky and gross and it’s kind of embarrassing to talk about it,” he said.
“We saw this awesome opportunity to work with a product we all need, and use it to help people in need, and start engaging people in a conversation around the sanitation issue in a way that was really fun, rather than it being disgusting and gross.
“More people in the world have mobile phones than toilets. Think about that next time you’re texting on the loo!”
“We looked around at the toilet paper landscape and realised that everyone else was talking about puppies, pillows and feathers, which are completely unrelated to toilet paper. So we thought, let’s actually talk about what the product is there for, but do it in a way that’s fun and enjoyable rather than just skirting around the edges.”
By marketing its colourfully-wrapped toilet rolls and tissues with light-hearted slogans like “every wipe counts” and “toilet paper so soft it’ll make your bottom smile”, they’re capturing the attention of everyday consumers. They’re also raising awareness in people who might not usually make a contribution to international aid.
The business also promotes fun factoids such as “more people in the world have mobile phones than toilets. Think about that next time you’re texting on the loo!”
“Every roll that we’re selling is providing someone with access to a toilet for a week,” Mr Griffiths said. “The more toilet paper we can sell the more toilets we can build which is why our company exists.”
The Great Impact of Water and Toilet Aid
Who Gives A Crap works with Water Aid, an international non-government organisation that provides access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene around the world.
They also provide education on how to stay clean and avoid disease.
“The places we’re doing work with water aid are typically very regional, rural environments, which the individuals that are in those environments, don’t necessarily even have an understanding of why it’s important to wash your hands,” he said.
“It’s been quite amazing to see the work first hand.”
They’ve also saved 23,000 trees, 4,300 tons of greenhouse gases and 54 million litres of water by making their products with environmentally-friendly processes.
Turning Business Know-How Into Social Change
Simon Griffiths studied economics and headed into a corporate career but quickly realised that he wanted to make more of a difference in the world.
“I found that what I was interested in wasn’t business problems, but social problems,” he said. “So I did work in the developing world and discovered I wanted to create businesses and use the proceeds to solve the problems I was really passionate about.
“At the time no-one was doing it but it seemed like a logical next step in the way businesses should be thinking about their products.”
His previous ventures have included Shebeen, a non-profit bar in Melbourne that funds projects in developing nations, and the click-and-search-to-give website, ripple.org, which has now redirected its resources into WaterAid.
Humanitarian action is a growing trend in the business world.
“People are starting to understand that it’s possible to earn a financial return with a business but also still have that positive social impact as well,” Mr Griffiths said.
He recommends The Lean Startup for people interested in starting a charitable business.