Alumni facilitating economic development
in emerging economies
Justin DeKoszmovszky ’99, MBA ’06:Combating Disease in the Poorest Big Cities
In Nairobi, Kenya, roughly 150 residents share each of the communal bathrooms that serve the city’s poorest neighborhoods. But when it comes to cleaning them, none of those 150 people is in charge. The bacterial nightmare that results helps spread dysentery and other diarrheal diseases that are deadly to newborns and young children.
The situation is reminiscent of the filth that afflicted European cities before the age of modern sanitation. Now SC Johnson has moved into the void by co-creating privately run sanitation “microfranchises” to clean up Nairobi’s communal restrooms. If the system works in Nairobi, it could create a template for disease management in the burgeoning slums of the emerging world’s big cities, and create jobs in the process.
“For the first time in the history of the planet, the majority of people are living in cities. And the majority of the new urban migrants are going into slums. If you don’t have sanitation systems in place, garbage and excrement just pile up, says Justin DeKoszmovszky, SC Johnson’s manager for strategic sustainability in developing markets. “Our Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson believes that part of being a responsible company is working hard to play a role in solving the world’s problems. He is very supportive of these efforts in Kenya.”
SC Johnson’s solution is elegantly simple. The company created an organization called Community Cleaning Services, or CCS, which provides startup advice and supplies to help entrepreneurs open neighborhood sanitation services. It’s a win — families served by these entrepreneurs pay up to 75 cents a week to assure clean facilities and SC Johnson gains a new market for its cleaning products. Everyone benefits.
To launch the ventures, CCS donates gloves and rubber boots to the new sanitation companies. Cleaning supplies are provided in bulk, well below retail costs and in a closed-loop system that eliminates packaging waste. The arrangement minimizes up-front costs for cash-strapped entrepreneurs. “They live hand-to-mouth,” DeKoszmovszky says. “The money they make Monday will buy Monday night’s dinner. So it was important to make sure these businesses were profitable for the cleaners on day one.
“We’ve got a commitment to do this pioneering work. And we’ve got the global reach. If we can come up with a business model that works, we can quickly scale it up,” he says.”