The world continues to grapple with the critical issue of sanitation, and the inability of current sanitation systems to keep pace with burgeoning population growth and rapid urbanisation. According to UN reports, more than 2 billion people worldwide do not have access to basic sanitation facilities. In 2015 many of those without sanitation were in India. In 2019 we are starting to see progress via innovative new approaches to sanitation by governments and businesses. India is now leading the charge, with the success of its ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ and the launch of the ‘Jal Shakti Ministry’.
India’s ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ has been revolutionary in bringing about behavioural change amongst consumers, industries and entrepreneurs, paving the way for the growth of new sectors and supply chains in the Sanitation Economy. This is a clear example of building advocacy around sanitation and setting a precedent that can be emulated globally.
India has showcased how a swift transformation in the sanitation sector is possible with speed and scale. With the world now undergoing massive socio-economic, environmental and digital transformations, sanitation systems cannot be left behind. Building a robust Sanitation Economy provides a viable and profitable avenue for safe, sustainable and resilient sanitation while delivering new resources and information to drive economic growth and development.
As resources become scarce, sanitation systems globally can become new reservoirs for renewable resources, materials, and data. Toilet Resources are the only resource that grows with a rising population. In fact, the Toilet Resources of our current global population are amount to 3.8 trillion litres of renewable resources per year. This presents a vast opportunity for businesses and organisations across the world, to tap into unexplored resources.
The Sanitation Economy has emerged from this unexplored territory, which is turning toilet provision, products and services, biological resources, health data and information to monetary and social benefits. The potential is immense. The Toilet Board Coalition has estimated the Sanitation Economy market to be worth about $62 billion in India alone!
To fully realize the benefits of the Sanitation Economy it will be necessary to facilitate pathways to achieve scale. One pathway includes bringing new technologies into the sector including digital technologies for smart sanitation approaches. Smart Cities can replicate an array of new opportunities via smart sanitation approaches. Cities can establish Sanitation Intelligence through smart public toilets, smart treatment and smart health – integrating sanitation systems into newly developing smart city infrastructure to provide better services at lower costs to cities and citizens.
Secondly, various sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing, with their massive workforce offer another avenue for the proliferation of the Sanitation Economy. By making use of Circular Sanitation approaches to unlock resources such as water, nutrients and renewable energy – using Toilet Resources for tangible benefits, can have a significant social, economic and environmental impact.
Sanitation needs to be an integral part of every company’s sustainability agenda. Companies, across sectors, now have the responsibility to provide safely managed sanitation to their employees, throughout supply chains and in communities where they operate. In doing so, companies can radically impact the achievement of SDG 6 – universal access to water and sanitation by 2030. Sanitation Economy approaches enable companies to recover the costs of sanitation and make sanitation a net value proposition.
Thirdly, establishing standards for public toilets and the safe use of Toilet Resources can help governments, business supply chains and cities to ensure access to sanitation services safely and sustainably. Standards for the use of data from sanitation systems can lead to the emergence of actionable Sanitation Intelligence, which can then be used to ensure sanitation access, the formation of a more efficient sanitation system management, and the emergence of new information about human health and behavior.
The Sanitation Economy has the potential to drive the next wave of innovation, economic growth and development by converting previous unaffordable costs of sanitation into sustainable and resilient business opportunities.
Business, governments, and investors all have an important role to play to scale up the Sanitation Economy in this next decade to help achieve SDG 6. Continuous improvements in Sanitation Economy ecosystems via innovation and support for the scale-up of emerging business models via innovative investment mechanisms will be needed to realize business and development benefits. Initiatives like the Toilet Board Coalition’s corporate accelerator program – support entrepreneurs by providing mentorship, partnership, and the visibility to scale their Sanitation Economy businesses.
By 2025 we envision more cities and businesses providing 100% access to 5-star sanitation; with full reuse of the toilet resources generated; making Sanitation Intelligence data open-source to global monitoring systems to ensure continuous improvements, and for sanitation to be recognised globally as a human right.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.