What happens when communities lack proper sanitation? How can a toilet change someone’s life?
Kimberly-Clark is a founding member of the Toilet Board Coalition, a group of leading companies, government agencies, sanitation experts and non-profit organizations, which aims to develop commercially sustainable and scalable solutions to the sanitation crisis.
The Toilets Change Lives program is just one example of Kimberly-Clark’s community investments. In 2014, we invested $35.8 million in product and cash donations, accounting for 2.2 percent of our net income. See our Sustainability Report for more details on how Kimberly-Clark helps to support communities where families get the essentials they need to grow and thrive. Mauricio Troncoso, vice president and managing director for Western Europe, is one of the people championing Kimberly-Clark’s efforts in sanitation. He recently answered questions about the Toilet Board Coalition and the company’s newest initiative: Toilets Change Lives.
Q: What is it about? Is Kimberly-Clark getting into the toilet business?
We’ve actually been in the toilet business all along, particularly with our family care brands such as Cottonelle, Andrex and Neve. Through the Toilet Board Coalition and our program, Toilets Change Lives, Kimberly-Clark is working to ensure everyone has a safe, clean and dignified toilet experience – which, unfortunately, many people in our world today do not.
Q: Giving people a better toilet experience sounds nice, but is it necessary?
In some places women have to wait all day to go outside, in the darkness, just to have privacy. Girls miss school every month because menstruation becomes too hard to manage when you don’t have proper facilities. And children miss school because of the spread of disease and infection from a lack of basic sanitation. Such stories are simply not acceptable in the 21st century. This issue is not just affecting the health and hygiene of these communities, but also their futures.
Q: This is probably a very small group of people we’re talking about, right?
People are often surprised to learn that one in three people do not have access to proper toilet facilities. For some, their only toilet is a rundown latrine that is unsanitary and lacks adequate privacy. And one billion people around the world do not have access to sanitation at all, forcing them to defecate in the open.
Q: What are some of the challenges to this issue?
Spending on sanitation has lagged behind spending in other sectors for a long time. But it has been proven that for every $1 spent on sanitation, there is a $4 return. And then you start seeing real impact – girls stay in school longer and economic activity increases because fewer sick days are taken.
Another problem we face is that sanitation solutions have been rejected in the past because they’ve been too difficult and expensive to build and maintain, and because they were unpleasant to use.
Q: How can Kimberly-Clark help?
Our company’s vision is to lead the world in essentials for a better life. We believe access to proper sanitation is absolutely essential to a better life.
The nature of our business gives us a unique understanding of the toilet issue. We understand the importance of what happens between those walls. We know it’s not just about hygiene, but safety and dignity. And with consumer understanding, we’re in a position to make a lasting difference by helping entrepreneurs set up sustainable business models.
Q: What is Kimberly-Clark doing about the problem?
Together with the Toilet Board Coalition, we’re identifying entrepreneurs and helping them create business plans. We’re lending our marketing and supply chain expertise. As a company, we are committed to innovating ideas that add value, so we’re helping entrepreneurs acquire technology that allows toilets not to smell and which uses disposable bags that are biodegradable – technology that these entrepreneurs would normally not have. We’re also giving them expertise on how to run a business. The idea is that if you can get thousands of entrepreneurs around the world starting sanitation businesses, they will find a way to make it accessible and part of people’s lives. They will also have a business to support them, which they don’t have today.
Q: What's the future of safe, clean sanitation?
There can only be one answer: 100 percent access. For everyone. That should be the end result. I don’t know how long it will take. But we will get there, because there is no other acceptable answer.
Q: How can I make a difference?
I would ask people not to turn a blind eye to this issue. It’s not sexy to talk about toilets, but it’s a real problem. And you can make a difference.
Last year, our Andrex brand of toilet tissue in the U.K. introduced a special program in which a portion of all sales went to UNICEF’s Community Led Total Sanitation program, which is educating rural communities in Angola about the need for improved sanitation and developing solutions, from digging private latrines to building separate toilets in schools for girls and boys.
People all around the world will soon be able to have choices like this, which really makes a difference.
We would all like to change the world. This is an issue that, if we do it right, will change someone’s world.
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