Every year, two worldwide advocacy events fall under the radar for millions around the world: Global Handwashing Day on October 15 and World Toilet Day on November 19. My work at LIXIL, home to kitchen and bath brands American Standard and GROHE, reminds me why these days are important but also how easy it is to turn the other way if you are not directly affected. However, one in four people still live without access to a basic toilet and two in five do not have basic handwashing facilities at home. These numbers are staggering; these issues are often ignored and brushed aside because they are thought to be unproblematic in the United States.
Many Americans are surprised to learn that there are more than 2 million Americans who lack access to running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater services. These people are the most vulnerable and include communities of color, lower income in rural communities and tribal communities across the United States. For example, in Lowndes County, Alabama, much of the population lives below poverty level and three out of five children have been diagnosed with Hookworm, a problem that had been eradicated in the United States and something you only see in developing economies.
We have a commitment to improving sanitation around the world and that includes the United States, so we partnered with State government agencies, academia and the U.S. government to find a solution. By collaborating, each organization contributed their expertise to achieve a common goal. LIXIL contributed water efficient products and brought in private sector resources to leverage new innovation and technology for an old problem. Together we created a successful model that works for the community and solves a societal issue that plagued the county for many years.
To date, we have installed an innovative sanitation system in five homes and will continue to use where appropriate for the remaining 100 homes in the program. In the spring of 2022, we will host a policy forum to discuss how public/private partnerships can address sanitation problem across the United States.
I continue to reflect on ways in which we can further improve lives across the globe. As leader of LIXIL Americas and a world citizen, these events remind me of the responsibility we have to provide proper sanitation and safe hygiene globally.
COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of handwashing and hygiene – and the inequities of those who have access to proper sanitation versus those who do not. We need to do more to ensure everyone has access to healthy sanitation products and facilities – our future as a global society depends on it. We must improve water infrastructure to address the needs in the United States.
Innovating for Impact
LIXIL's efforts to help the underserved have been a priority through innovations such as the SATO Tap and Toilet, a novel handwashing station and plastic pit latrine pan, respectively, that aims to improve sanitation and hygiene.The SATO Tap was recognized by TIME as one of the Best Inventions of 2020, and it has already allowed millions in underserved communities to live safer lives. The SATO toilet – a blue, plastic pit latrine pan that uses minimal amount of water to flush and helps clean waste safely – continues to keep diseases at bay in communities that are desperate for safer sanitation, and over 5 million units have already been shipped to 41 countries across the globe and has improved sanitation for 25 million people. Other efforts, such as the Make a Splash! partnership with UNICEF offer ways for children to have better access to sanitation and hygiene, too.
Call to Action
The UN SDG 6 goal requires a lot more work and collaboration if we are to accomplish access to water, sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030. We must continue to challenge ourselves as individuals, as members of our communities, and as plumbing industry leaders to improve the sanitation and basic hygiene needs across the globe. Let's work together towards practical solutions. I know we can reach these goals and continue to improve lives around the world.
Trey Northrup is Leader of LIXIL Americas,a global market leader in water technology products and home to the American Standard, GROHE and DXV brands.