Challenges for companies starting to work in sanitation

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  • neerajjain
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India Sanitation Coalition - SuSanA India Chapter Thematic Discussion on Corporate Engagement in Sanitation: Challenges for companies starting work in sanitation

Companies have been keen to invest in sanitation for some time now and for several reasons. Since the Companies Act was amended to make it compulsory for them to spend 2% of their net profits on corporate social responsibility, sanitation has been one of the areas of attention. After Swacch Bharat Mission was started in 2014, there was a renewed interest in the area. However, many say they do not know what to do and how to do it.

Some of the issues I have encountered are that
· Companies find it easiest to build infrastructure but realise soon they do not have the wherewithal to look after it.
· They are not acquainted with low-cost or appropriate toilet designs so end up making expensive toilets
· They are not aware of the various aspects of sanitation such as changing behaviour to create demand and sustain use, water contamination from poorly made toilets, hygiene and how to involve communities
· They focus on one aspect such as toilets in schools but do not see the bigger picture where the entire community’s needs have to be addressed through other means
I would like to hear from you what you think of these challenges. If you have other issues that can become challenges for companies wanting to work on sanitation, or from those that are already invested in this area, please send in your comment.

You can post your comment on the forum by following this link: bit.ly/2eVWxkE . Please login and do so. Or you can email your response to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

I look forward to an interesting discussion. Please send your comments by 27 November, 2016.
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  • secretariat
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  • SuSanA secretariat currently allocates 2 full time person equivalents of time from members of GIZ Sustainable Sanitation Team: Arne Panesar, Cecilia Rodrigues, Shobana Srinivasan, Mintje Büürma, Finn Staack and intern Salua Moussawel.
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Re: Challenges for companies starting to work in sanitation

Dear all

We are starting the second topic under this thematic discussion. Neeraj Jain, Country Program Leader for PATH in India, will be posting his initial comments tomorrow. This topic will be open till 27 November. We request you to send in your comments by either logging in or emailing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Meanwhile, if you have further comments for the first topic, on case studies of companies working on sanitation, please feel free to add them on the Forum.

on behalf of Nitya Jacob
SuSanA Secretariat
Posted by a member of the SuSanA secretariat held by the GIZ sustainable sanitation sector program
Located at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Eschborn, Germany
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  • magdalenabauer
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Re: India Sanitation Coalition - SuSanA India Chapter Thematic Discussion on Corporate Engagement in Sanitation: Sharing your experiences

Dear all,

I am Magda (shortly called Maggie) and currently interning with the SuSanA Indian Chapter, working closely together with the India Sanitation Coalition. I am a student of Heidelberg University, where I focus on Political Science, especially in the South Asian context.

Although I am far from being an expert , I would like to contribute to Neeraj´s initial challenges from my first experiences with CSR activities related to sanitation.

When corporates think about CSR they also expect some kind of benefit for their company - may it be to have a good name and be well known allover the country. Companies are striving for concrete goals and numbers they can show. They want a project to be accomplished by 1-2 years and then show a successfull outcome.
In the sanitation sector, specially in India, this might not be satisfying both for companies and beneficiaries.

Corporates have to realize that change cannot happen over night and that the process to become ODF is an ongoing and complex topic, simply building toilets in one village will probably not lead to the expected outcome and creates frustration.

I guess it is in the hands of the people already working in sanitation for a long time to engage corporates "softly" to this issue and guide them to implement the appropriate meassures and do so not only FOR the people but WITH them together.

The challenges should not be faced by corporates alone, so PPP could be a good way to overcome this challenge.



I am really interested in other opinions as I usually can tell experiences desk-based research or talks.


Maggie
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  • nityajacob
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Re: India Sanitation Coalition - SuSanA India Chapter Thematic Discussion on Corporate Engagement in Sanitation: Sharing your experiences

The hardware set of activities are the easiest for anybody to comprehend and execute. Therefore, for companies it is the simplest activity to survey a village, pick out houses that do not have toilets, and make them. It also gives them long-term branding as they can place their logo on the doors.

What is not so simple is the complex procedure of engaging with these communities through staff volunteering schemes, understanding their needs and then providing suitable solutions. Changing behaviour is one such complex task. Operation and maintenance of facilities, linked to behaviour towards 'gifts' is another.

These are some areas I feel companies can bring their expertise on non-hardware activities to bear. They find the concept of behaviour change alien, but let me try to draw a parallel with what companies are familiar with. Changing consumer behaviour through advertisements in the mass media, point of sales and incentives to shopkeepers are some tactics companies use to create a market for their products. This translates into public announcements over the mass media on the benefits of sanitation, posters on making and using toilets at places where people gather, and getting shopkeepers who stock their products to talk about sanitation and hygiene.

Staff engagement can help the government and NGOs working the field solve problems such as supply chains, payment bottlenecks and a shortage of human resources. Project management expertise that companies use in their regular businesses can be adapted for sanitation projects. If there is a problem of branding their contribution, companies should remember that people recall who helped them and would welcome support in non-tangible forms. Adding their logo to communications collateral, the ODF plaques in panchayats and other visible signs of presence should be acceptable to the panchayats and companies.

District administrations struggle with a shortage of people at all levels. Typically, there are one or two people in a block tasked with sanitation. These people could use help either from company staff who volunteer their time, or from trained volunteers. Companies can sponsor training programmes.

For sustaining ODF, the new challenge, companies can sponsor melas in and around their factories for panchayats that have become ODF in the previous quarter or six months. These celebratory occasions can cement behaviour change and are an excellent branding opportunity.

Data is a big challenge in sanitation for companies and the government. Both can work together to gather reliable data on how panchayats are sustaining their ODF status. In the villages where companies work they can use their staff's voluntary time to check if people are using toilets. There are simple indicators that can be given to their staff, who can then either use a register or smart phones to gather information and upload it to a server.

Another challenge is technology. "What do we make?" My advice is use the simplest technology that people would accept but make the toilets well. A twin leach pit toilet that's made well is much more acceptable to people than a fancy toilet that is poorly made. Put in tiles, a water storage facility and tap for ablutions and hand-washing. Septic tanks can be used IF they are made properly so get your masons trained on how to do this. If they do not know how, you can refer to a manual on how to make a septic tank well. Putting multiple chambers increases their efficacy at little extra cost so think of methods to solve the problem of faecal containment and disposal.

When working on sanitation, think of the challenge of improving health. Other plans and projects can flow from there. What is the problem? How can we solve it? Who will pay? Who will look after the infrastructure? Who will use the infrastructure?
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  • pkjha
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Re: India Sanitation Coalition - SuSanA India Chapter Thematic Discussion on Corporate Engagement in Sanitation: Sharing your experiences

Dear All

Improvement of environmental sanitation in India is quite challenging due to its full spectrum of socio-economic and cultural variation. Sometimes it is more a cultural issue than technical or financial.
In India, two pit toilets is predominantly used in all states without taking into account ground water table of the area and its possible contamination. For the selection of appropriate sanitary toilet and sustainable sanitation, the criteria by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government( MDWS) of India needs to be followed.
A revised book on Technological Options for on-site Sanitation for Rural Areas is in the process of release by the MDWS. Draft copy of the book is available on the site of the Ministry at www.mdws.gov.in/sites/default/files/Fina...ite%20sanitation.pdf
I provided consultancy to Water Aid India to prepare the book for the Ministry. The book contains applicability, advantages and limitations of several technologies with bills of quantity. Hope it will be helpful to many professionals and local governments to implement technologies suitable to different hydro-geological conditions.
I fully agree with Nitya that implementation of households toilets would be effective only when adequate social issues are taken into consideration with proper awareness, motivation, behavior change.
Regards

Pawan
Pawan Jha
Chairman
Foundation for Environment and Sanitation
Mahavir Enclave
New Delhi 110045, India
Web: www.foundation4es.org
Linked: linkedin.com/in/drpkjha
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  • sunetralala
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Re: India Sanitation Coalition - SuSanA India Chapter Thematic Discussion on Corporate Engagement in Sanitation: Challenges for Companies

Dear All,

In my experience, I feel the biggest challenge is know ‘how’ to intervene in sanitation. Expanding, how does a company go about designing, siting and making a toilet that is in keeping with Swacch Bharat Mission norms? There is a ton of information already but much of this is opaque to companies as it has been written in technical, sector-friendly language. Therefore, when they set out to do something, they face the challenge of how to do it.

This how factor extends to both software (behaviour change, project planning, monitoring, streamlining supply chains) and hardware (suitable toilet types, proper construction). Operation and maintenance sometimes forms part of the problem mix but few bother, assuming it is the beneficiary’s responsibility. For individual toilets it is, but for institutional toilets, another mechanism is needed.

Some suggestions:

At the grassroots level, companies can refer to existing behaviour change frameworks on the website of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS) or use their own marketing expertise. This aspect is all about selling the concept of sanitation, after all. Companies can also bring in their expertise to plan and execute projects – they can start small, taking a cluster of panchayats in consultation with the local government, and scale up as they gather experience. Setting up supply chains is part of this process. They can also incubate a local business to make and install toilets and effect behaviour change. The business can also take care of solid and liquid waste management in the villages. They can help monitor construction and use of toilets using a mobile app.

Several IT companies have a national footprint and have worked successfully with the government to streamline processes such as Aadhar, passports, licensing, etc. These can help develop apps for monitoring use that those working at the grassroots can use in the field. They can provide the IT backbone for this as part of their CSR activities.

Institutional toilets, those in schools, health centres and other public buildings, are an opportunity for branding and visibility. Companies can use existing toilet designs that are more than adequate, ensure they are well made and maintained. If they pick panchayats near their factories, they can take responsibility for maintenance for several years. This will help improve public facilities in rural areas that are usually in a very bad shape.

Regards,
Sunetra Lala
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  • Marijn Zandee
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Re: Challenges for companies starting to work in sanitation

Dear all,

I find the "forced CSR" concept quite intriguing. In my view, under this system, the government effectively levies a 2% tax, but lets the companies choose how to spend it. I guess it could be debated if that is a more efficient way of spending the corporate money than using a traditional taxation route.

Anyway, regarding challenges for companies. I think it would be good to clarify the question a bit more. Are we looking for challenges for companies who want to run CSR projects (essentially making them semi-NGOs for that CSR budget)? Or do you want to discuss the challenges for companies who want to become actors in the sanitation market?

With regard to the latter, Dorothee Spuhler and myself tried to do some initial work in a document that can be found in this thread: forum.susana.org/component/kunena/167-ma...omments-wanted#18970

In the document we tried to sort out the various relations between the main stake holders in the commercial sanitation sector, and their main motivations and challenges. As we were not aware of this Indian corporate law, we did not include it in our model. However, please have a look, and we are still very open for suggestions for improvements.

Regards

Marijn
Marijn Zandee

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  • sesindia
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Re: India Sanitation Coalition - SuSanA India Chapter Thematic Discussion on Corporate Engagement in Sanitation: Sharing your experiences

I agree with the view of Jacob. In my view companies shall focus on software activities such as changing attitudes, behaviour and norms of the community over the long term, at least 10 years. Since corporates have resources with management expertise, they can easily develop strategies for changing behaviour, etc., by training on life skills such as decision making and negotiating. Branding is inevitable but it can be done through awareness and capacity building programmes too.

Thanks,
Sandeep
SES
sesindia.org
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Challenges for companies starting to work in sanitation

The India Sanitation Coalition is an excellent forum for discussing challenges companies face, and some possible solutions. As a place to seek solutions and partners, ISC is well placed to help both companies wanting to invest in sanitation, as well as organizations looking for support.

I would recommend getting in touch with ISC's secretariat who can help point companies towards suitable information resources.
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  • selfi
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Re: India Sanitation Coalition - SuSanA India Chapter Thematic Discussion on Corporate Engagement in Sanitation: Challenges for companies starting work in sanitation

Sanitation entrepreneurship is one of the model that already done in East Nusa Tenggara Timur Province (Indonesia).

Plan International Indonesia supported by Australian Aid making models in 10 regencies and the best practice from one district (Manggarai Timur- Borong) to combat with 5 pillars of Community Lead Total Sanitation (CLTS).

So, CSR would engage the community through sanitation entrepreneurship by:
1. Support the skills to make the toilet stuff with low cost,
2. Support the sanitation entrepreneurs to create association in order to advocate the price, marketing and skills and regulations.
3. Collaboration in planning and budgeting with the national and government to support sanitation.

Overall, still need work hard regarding gender bias and disability needs as well as the community mindset about sanitation.

Regards,
Selfina
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  • nityajacob
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Re: Challenges for companies starting to work in sanitation

Interim Summary:

I have put together a short summary from the comments people have posted on the Forum.

The biggest challenge is getting companies to focus on 'soft' activities such as skilling and behaviour change. Owing to their intangible nature, companies under an obligation to spend CSR funds on sanitation prefer to invest in hardware that they can count and label.

Making toilets seem to mean putting up a costly structure as companies are not well versed with the low-cost government designs. This does not always have to be the case since twin leach pit toilets can be made well in about Rs 12000 - 15000 depending on the type of soil and superstructure.

Other aspects of deciding where to place a toilet so it does not pollute water sources, a suitable type for the local geology and teaching people how to maintain it are also areas where companies face challenges. This applies to toilets for individuals, schools and other institutions. At ISC's meetings some people have said they would like to make school toilets and have asked for information on designs, maintenance and government schemes.

There is also an expectation that hygiene- and sanitation-linked behaviour change will happen overnight and is measurable. Both are wrong since behaviour change takes time and cannot be measured by conventional metrics. Sustaining behaviour change is a bigger challenge as innumerable researches on sanitation have shown.

To pick a suitable type of toilet, companies can refer to this publication - www.mdws.gov.in/sites/default/files/Fina...ite%20sanitation.pdf .

For training, there are guidelines for training masons

For behaviour change, there are several documents on the ministry's website:
Sanitation and Hygiene Advocacy and Communication Strategy Framework 2012-2017

Several states have developed their own guidelines based on these so it would be good to check with the sanitation mission director before starting work.

Companies sometimes run into problems with local suppliers. This analysis provides some insights into how to set up a sanitation business model.
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  • neerajjain
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Re: Challenges for companies starting to work in sanitation

Dear all,

Thank you for your inputs. This is interesting discussion. Apart from a lack of knowhow I feel companies also face the challenge of entering the 'development' sector. Their CSR wings or foundations are familiar with this but the companies themselves are not. It is fundamentally different from their style of doing business as the goal is not to make money but improves the lives of others.

This needs a fundamental change in thinking. Development activities can take years to accomplish their task. Measurement metrics are social and human development indicators that are harder to measure in the short term. Community engagement needs a non-business approach, rather a partnership-building approach. While companies are 'giving' money or expertise, they have to see recipients are equal partners.

What I am trying to say is companies working on social and rural change will need to change their time horizons and approaches. Usually 3 years is the minimum, though this may be too short for the full project life-cycle. Successive engagements in 3-year blocks may be needed. During the project it is essential they build social capital that can then take over their assets and work. This applies to sanitation as well.

Regards
Neeraj
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