Not many people would publicize spending 50 hours on the toilet. But for Simon Griffiths, it’s all in the name of business.
The millennial CEO is quite content raising eyebrows as he boosts both funds and awareness for his social impact start-up.
Griffiths is one-third of the founding team behind “Who Gives A Crap,” an Australian company that aims to improve sanitation in the developing world by selling sustainable, everyday hygiene products. For every product sold – such as its flagship toilet paper made of 100% recycled materials – the company donates 50% of its profits to building toilets for those in need.
Founded in 2012, the company was inspired after Griffiths and co-founders, Jehan Ratnatunga and Danny Alexander, worked with humanitarian organizations across the globe and realized a problem two billion people still face – not having access to a toilet.
The trio wanted to support that basic human need by selling something everyone needs: toilet paper.
According to the company, the idea came to Griffiths while he was in the bathroom using toilet paper. Selling toilet paper to make toilets seemed like the perfect answer.
“There’s still two billion people without access to a toilet, that’s why we donate half our profits to help provide access to clean toilets and clean water,” Griffiths told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”
After two years of developing an eco-friendly and comfortable product, the trio raised $50,000 via crowdfunding to pay for their first bulk production.
For their campaign, Griffiths sat on a toilet seat in the team’s empty warehouse and pledged via a live feed that he won’t get up until the team had secured its full target of $50,000.
“I’m sitting down for what I believe in, and I’m not getting up till I’ve got some toilet paper,” he said in the team’s crowdfunding video on Indiegogo.
Griffiths spent 50 hours on the toilet, but the campaign was a success. The founders raised the full sum needed for their first bulk order, delivering their first product in March 2013.
Since then, the company has expanded into the U.S. and the U.K., opened its first European warehouse and is about to launch in Canada. It also expanded its range of products to bamboo tissues, paper towels, and a new reusable and washable towel, the Dream Cloth.
Who Gives A Crap was built with the aim of improving sanitation services in developing countries. Specifically, it aims to provide toilets in communities that have never seen one, and improve waste disposal so that fewer people are affected by water-borne diseases.
“I can’t imagine going a day without a toilet, let alone the rest of my life,” said Griffiths, describing toilets as a basic human necessity.
To date, the company has donated over 10.8 million Australian dollars ($7.8 million) to sanitation projects.
The trio are also big believers of adopting sustainable business practices.
One of their objectives is to become net zero, which is when organizations eliminate more carbon emissions from the atmosphere compared to the the amount they produce.
That mentality comes from being mindful when making big decisions. The company decided to relocate its factory operations from Australia to China, because shipping from China would be eight to 10 times more carbon efficient, according to Griffiths. The company says that all its shipping is already carbon neutral. To be carbon neutral means the company pays for carbon offsets equal to the carbon emissions produced, so that there are no net carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
The flagship toilet paper itself is also made of recycled post-consumer paper – or used paper from offices, schools, or notebooks. Each roll is then wrapped in colorful printed paper and the whole product is plastic free.
Crowdfunding aside, Who Gives A Crap has been self-funded for most of its nine-year journey.
But earlier this month, the company successfully raised $30 million in external funding from investors including venture capital companies like Verlinvest, The Craftory, Jamjar Investments and Grok Ventures.
Griffiths said the increased backing would enable the company to help more people in need.
“When we think of the goal and the problem we’re trying to solve … if we’re going to put a serio
us dent to that problem, we need to be accelerating the growth that we’re seeing today and try to reach as many people as possible,” said Griffiths.
“This capital will help accelerate the path that we’re on and the path to create impact,” he added.
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