Lixil has launched an initiative to support countries with poor sanitation across Asia and Africa. The company also believes the effort will strengthen its brand internally and in emerging markets.
The Tokyo-based housing products company, which competes with Toto in the manufacture of premium toilets and bathroom equipment, will operate a ‘buy one/give one’ campaign from April, donating plastic toilets to people without access to adequate facilities. Under the ‘Toilets for all’ banner, for each Lixil ‘shower toilet’ sold in Japan, the company will donate a plastic ‘green’ toilet—the SATO—to a community in a designated country.
The program is a first for Lixil and will run in collaboration with the Japan Association for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Habitat for Humanity, WaterAid and BRAC, a Bangladesh-based international development NGO. The company, which is also a Gold Partner of the Tokyo Olympic Games, aims to provide better sanitation to 100 million people by 2020. So far, it has installed around 1 million SATO units across 14 countries, according to a company statement.
Lixil sees indirect benefits from championing such a cause. At a press conference in Tokyo, president and chief executive Kinya Seto indicated that internal branding is a motivating factor. He said helping improve living conditions in poorer countries will help instill pride in Lixil’s employees.
“Creating a united identity is not easy,” he said. “We have made various efforts but this can help employees feel the company is on the right track, so everyone has a sense of affinity. This is to transform a small sense of affinity into a bigger one.”
The Lixil brand is relatively new and is the result of the merger of several companies, including Inax and Tostem. It also owns American Standard and Grohe. Seto said uniting the mindset of employees is important and something that social contribution can help achieve. It’s also a way to raise awareness of Lixil in developing markets, where more people will one day be able to afford to buy its products, he suggested.
“People in local communities will remember the SATO and that is important branding,” he said. “By providing low-end toilets, when those countries develop, they will remember Lixil and feel some affinity and love for the brand through this toilet.”
Seto noted that people in Japan have little knowledge of the problems poor sanitation causes in developing countries. Lixil will run TV advertising around the initiative in an effort to grow understanding among domestic consumers. Last year, the company sold around 200,000 integrated toilet units in Japan. Seto said if the campaign is successful, Lixil will consider expanding it beyond Asia and Africa.