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Theory of Change: Who Gives A Crap

In the Theory of Change series, we break down Giant Leap’s impact thesis for each investment: how we think they’re blazing trails in tackling our most pressing problems.

Who Gives A Crap (WGAC) is a consumer goods brand that sells a suite of sustainable, beautiful toilet paper and tissue products delivered to your door, and donates a portion of profits to water, sanitation and hygiene (aka WASH) organisations.

Their brand is built on a combination of “feel-good” and irreverent humour that dates back to the very birth of the business (WGAC launched with a crowdfunding campaign that involved founder Simon Griffiths sitting on a toilet for 50 hours). It has changed not just the toilet paper game but mainstream investors’ views of social enterprise.

Impact is in their DNA, with the WGAC impact team sharing this mission statement:

“Impact is at the core of our business, and in the next 10 years, we hope to make open defecation a thing of the past. At the same time, we aim to save more than 10 million trees through our sustainable product choices.”

Here’s the breakdown of Giant Leap’s impact thesis for our investment in Who Gives A Crap.

Products that don’t smear the planet

The current toilet paper industry is putting a real smear on the planet.

In a recent report, WGAC estimated that 1m trees — almost 45 Sydney Opera Houses worth of acreage — are cut down every day to make toilet paper. This results in up to 180m tonnes of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere every year, the equivalent of 39m petrol powered cars on the road. To make matters worse, much of these trees are sourced from ancient forests like Canada’s Boreal Forest and Sweden’s Great Northern Forest, which cannot easily be replanted, destroying biodiverse ecosystems that store carbon in a stable environment.

The much greener solutions are recycled or bamboo toilet paper, which produce 50% and 30% fewer emissions than virgin trees respectively, up to 90% less water, and are both easily replaced. However, despite the writing on the bathroom stall, the sustainable materials trend has been going the wrong way for some incumbents, with Kimberly Clark reporting that use of recycled materials for toilet paper dropped from 30% to 23.5% between 2011 and 2017.

WGAC changes the game by offering products made exclusively from recycled paper sourced from schools and offices, or sustainably sourced bamboo. They’re currently saving hundreds of thousands of trees every year and have a roadmap to tens of millions.

Building toilets with every roll

Access to hygiene and sanitation facilities such as toilets and showers is a foundational human need alongside food and shelter.

Poor sanitation is linked not just with transmission of nasty diseases, but it also negatively impacts social and economic development due to the impacts of anxiety and risk of sexual assault. Despite this, the World Health Organisation estimates that some 1.7b people, or 1 in 5 humans on the planet, don’t have basic sanitation services, such as private toilets or latrines.

WGAC is the toilet paper brand that builds toilets, donating 50% of profits to water, sanitation and hygiene (aka WASH) organisations — including WaterAid, Sanergy, and Lwala — that build hygiene facilities for those without. To date, they’ve donated a whopping $8.3m to fund a variety of WASH projects in countries like Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, Kenya and India, impacting an estimated 10,000 people.

The (roll) model effect

WGAC has also been a pioneer for social enterprise, demonstrating how a strong impact mission can result in rapid, scalable growth.

In addition to sustainable products and WASH projects, they’re B Corp certified, with ethical procurement practices including sourcing bamboo locally from small-holder farmers in China that grow bamboo on the outskirts of their property to supplement income.

The fact they raised over $40m from a combination of impact and mainstream investors blazes a trail for other mission-driven founders to launch scalable for-profit businesses, and encourages incumbents to do better or risk customers, employees, and investors jumping ship.

Our Theory of Change

If we invest in WGAC then they will be able to offer sustainable products to more people while directing capital to WASH projects, ultimately saving 10s of millions of trees and meaningfully contributing to the elimination of hygiene facility poverty worldwide.

Key impact metrics

  • Virgin trees saved
  • CO2 emissions avoided from deforestation
  • People impacted by toilets built in developing countries

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