Bringing the Lessons of Clean Sanitation Home

By Sanjay Banka, Banka Bioloo CEO, and Pedro Cortez, Business Call to Action

Having access to clean toilets is not just a basic human right – it’s also a health necessity. But in India, nearly 50 million people[1] lack access to adequate sanitation, increasing the risk of water contamination and diseases for these individuals.​

Banka BioLoo, which produces environmentally-friendly bio-toilets, looks to the communities where its products are present to measure how they’re improving lives by raising hygiene and sanitation standards in children’s schools

Having access to clean toilets is not just a basic human right – it’s also a health necessity. But in India, nearly 50 million people[1] lack access to adequate sanitation, increasing the risk of water contamination and diseases for these individuals.

Inspired to try and tackle this entrenched problem, Namita and Sanjay Banka founded Banka BioLoo in 2008. The company produces environmentally-friendly bio-toilets, installing them in places where conventional toilets cannot be made available. Banka BioLoo uses a bio-digester technology that makes it possible for users to manage waste onsite and reduce dependency on resource-consuming sewage infrastructure, while decreasing the risk of sanitation-related diseases, which particularly impact children under the age of five.

Having installed 10,000 bioloos in 20 different states over eight years, Sanjay observed many changes in the communities they were working with, such girls feeling more comfortable using latrines and a decrease in recurrent waterborne diseases. He wondered if there was a link between providing basic ecological toilets and an improvement in other indicators of a better standard of living such as better performance in school, more awareness on hygienic practices and so on.

“Users were very enthusiastic about using the bioloos every day. In the past, girls would not come to school during their menstruation days as they would find it difficult to use the toilet during school hours. After the installation of bioloos in these schools, girls didn’t miss school as they now had a bioloo that ensured better hygiene as well as dignity, and a sense of personal well-being. This is incredibly inspiring to us and motivated us to find a way to measure this impact in a scientific manner,” said Sanjay.

To find out, Sanjay started designing an impact survey to understand how the bioloo customers and users were experiencing the product, and find out to what extent they felt their lives had improved. In the past, Sanjay had briefly explored the possibility of conducting a comprehensive impact measurement exercise. Lacking the resources to engage experts in the field – especially as an enterprise doing it for the first time – the idea never progressed.

As a member of Business Call to Action, Sanjay had the opportunity to sign Banka BioLoo up for the Impact Champions programme, an initiative to help companies understand, prove and improve their social and environmental impact. His main goal in conducting an impact measurement study was to understand the effect of bioloos on the lives of children in the schools where they were installed. To assess this, the company will survey school children with a focus on girls aged between 12 and 15.

“While interacting with a few parents, they explained how their children were learning about good sanitation and hygiene practices after experiencing our bioloos. Overall, there appears to be a strong multiplier effect of this knowledge from the children to their families and communities. We hope to concretely assess the extent of our impact,” he said.

The process of impact management with BCtA requires Banka BioLoo to invest time and effort in mapping out how they are currently addressing social problems and opportunities with their business activities, and how the company is contributing to the long-term positive solutions they were hoping to. Over the last few months, Sanjay has researched existing evidence and identified gaps that need to be addressed to improve and scale up his company’s impact.

“The data will help us understand the use and experience of Banka BioLoo’s services. It will help understand how, and what kind of impact, our bioloos have on the school children and their families. The data should also help us improve our offering and make improvements in our business operations or strategy,” he said.

The biggest realization Sanjay had during this programme was understanding how essential impact management was for the performance of an inclusive business. It not only allows organizations to quantify their social impact, but also highlights opportunities for secondary markets that companies can explore, improvements in product design, and deeper customer engagement. Impact management ultimately becomes a vehicle for driving business growth by maximising value for low-income customers.

[1] The National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey 2018-19 reported, as on March 5, that the number of Indians defecating in the open has come down to under 50 million, from 550 million in 2014

Editor’s Note:

This article was previously published on Business Call to Action and is reproduced with permission.

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