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Why doing good is good for business

Who Gives a Crap CEO Simon Griffiths said the water and sanitation issues facing the developing world are enormous, but that with the right attitude, and a dedication to doing good, the story can be turned around. 

Speaking to delegates at Ozwater’21, Griffiths said overcoming big challenges requires thinking differently, and wholehearted dedication to making a positive impact. 

“Today, there are two billion people without access to a toilet. This is a massive problem. It’s devastating in terms of the health and economic impacts that come from not having access to clean toilets,” Griffiths said. 

“People end up going to the bathroom in water that is then used to cook, clean or wash. This results in diarrhoea related disease, killing about 700 kids under the age of five every single day. 

“We know the solution. We need to build more toilets, provide access to sanitation and education.”

And he set out to do just that. To date, Who Gives a Crap has since donated more than $8 million to international development projects focused on access to water, sanitation and hygiene. 

Griffiths said the success of his company has a lot to do with reimagining the future, bringing ideas to life and innovating. But the key learning he has taken from his time as a not-for-profit co-founder is about doing good.

“Doing good is good business. What our journey has shown is that doing good is the absolute best way to build loyalty in your customer,” he said. 

“A marketing skeptic could probably say that the donations we make are similar to a marketing budget, they are a tool to acquire new customers and retain existing ones, too. That’s not how we think about it. 

“Our donations are a core part of our DNA, and that will never change.

“Our customers are very vocal online about our social impact and our environmental impact. Regardless of how our customers find us, what they remember and share the most are the good that we do as a company.”

Griffiths said the business of doing good is also great for culture, which is primarily about purveying happiness. 

“When we think about culture, we are often thinking about how we can optimise for happiness. Our belief is that when our team is happy, they are at their most productive, their most resilient and their most helpful,” he said. 

“Happiness in the workplace comes from autonomy, mastery and purpose, which is something we have in spades at our company. We make sure that all of our company metrics measure to that greater good that we have as an organisation. 

“Every company has purpose, regardless of who you are. Finding what your company’s purpose is and what your personal purpose is, is an amazing way to optimise what happiness looks like in your organisation. 

“Purpose is also our anchor when the sailing gets rough. It’s what grounds us.”

And while doing good is great for business and culture, Griffiths said it isn’t always easy. 

“We get asked a lot about the conditions of our factories and what we do with the other 50% of our profits. These are fair questions; the point is that when you commit to doing good, you get held to a higher standard than someone else who is just in it to make a profit,” he said. 

“You’ve got to figure out how to tackle that challenge. We do that by going out on our front foot and providing as much information as possible to our customers so that they can answer some of these questions themselves. 

“We communicate that we are reinvesting as much as we can back into the business so that we can, ultimately, build more toilets.

“When we get this right, we build a very high level of trust in our customer base. Our customers start defending us, promoting our work and supporting us within their communities.”

Griffiths said his advice for any company, in any sector, is to be in the business of delight. 

“We sell toilet paper, but we also sell delight,” he said. 

“How can we make the moment someone opens our box of toilet paper so enjoyable that they will want to take a photo and share that experience with someone else? If you get this right, you’ve got a customer for life.”