For the very first time, Who Gives A Crap, a beloved social toilet paper business, invites investors to grow their business and impact. We spoke with CEO and Co-Founder Simon Griffiths to find out the rationale behind the decision and how it will change the way the business operates.

Talk to any budding social entrepreneur and there’s a good chance they’ll mention Who Gives A Crap as a business they admire.

Launched nine years ago by Simon Griffiths, Danny Alexander and Jehan Ratnatunga, the company is guided by the belief that the business world can and should actively participate in social change.

The founders said the business was less about selling quality toilet paper and more about achieving their goal of ensuring everyone has access to clean water and toilets.

The company donates 50% of its profits to charitable partners work on drinking water and sanitation projects. To date, he has successfully funneled over $ 10 million into charity.

The company now sells its toilet paper, paper towels and tissues in 40 countries and employs 135 people.

So far, the company has never been self-funded, which Griffiths said was “incredibly unusual” for a high-growth startup. The reason is that they wanted to prove that their business model actually worked and that it was becoming profitable as quickly as possible so that they could donate.

The decision to involve investors was not taken lightly, with specific criteria set to ensure the right people were brought into the business.

The eco-friendly company’s first round of funding, which raised $ 41.5 million, has attracted some of Australia’s top investors, including Tech billionaire and founder of Atlassian, Mike Cannon-Brookes, Kate Morris and James Height of Adore Beauty, and Didier Elzinga and Doug English of Culture Amp.

But how is this investment going to change the way Who Gives A Crap does business? And what does an investment like this signal for the broader social enterprise sector? We sat down with Griffiths discover.

What triggered the need to attract investors?

We’re eight and a half deep and have been booting for most of that time. We are incredibly proud of what we have done and all the millions of dollars we have given. But there are still two billion people in the world who do not have access to adequate sanitation. If you explain what we need to do as a business to be able to solve this problem in any meaningful way, that means our donations run into billions of dollars instead of millions of dollars. And that means huge amounts of growth. We could continue to grow and start the way we did, but felt it was time to accelerate the path that we are in the process of taking external capital to help us take it further and hopefully it, faster too.

Every big decision we make in the business is made through the lens of how we have the most impact, and this one was no different. It was really about thinking about the long term impact we can have as a business and using the capital and expertise of the people we put around the business to help us pick up the pace. to which we can achieve this impact.

And what will be the impact of this investment on the way you operate and the impact you can create?

It really allows us to continue what we’re doing, but at a faster pace, like expanding into new markets. We are currently going to Europe and Canada, Europe being the first [predominantly] non-English speaking market we entered. It becomes a more capital intensive process because we have to think about translating and supporting in the local language, and all of those things that when we went to the US and UK we could just do it with. our existing team.

Likewise, we are rolling out new products for the first time in many years. Developing new products is a very laborious process and requires a lot of testing to be successful. Then [we’re creating] new marketing channels, so we’re starting to expand into a variety of different channels as we move into a full marketing funnel.

And can you tell me about the investor selection process?

The three criteria we used were therefore mission alignment, in-depth consumer expertise and patient capital. It was also about having investors who made us feel secure and supported.

Alignment with mission is evident for a business like the one we have, because without our mission we would not exist.

We were also looking for people with in-depth consumer expertise. Ten years ago, we probably could have found investors aligned with their mission, but they wouldn’t necessarily have known how to create and grow international brands. But what has us so excited about this funding round is attracting investors who have a deep understanding of what it’s like to build, internationalize and create global brands.

And then the final piece was patient capital. Usually, when you invest, you’re essentially signing up to sell the business or to do an initial public offering, and that’s usually over a five to seven year period. And that’s just not what we want to do, it’s not the way our business operates. [We have a big 30-year vision that we’re executing against.] And so, patient capital allows us to run over a much longer horizon to see through the vision the way we need to do it justice.

The mission and purpose of Who Gives A Crap is really important. How will you ensure that this is not compromised by involving investors?

This is yet another reason why we did this later rather than before. I think it’s a lot easier to walk away from your mission early than it is years later, and that may be because you are bringing in investors who are potentially not aligned with the mission of the organization.

By doing this later, it means that our vision is very firmly established. It’s very clear what that looks like and everyone in our business can express it as well as our investor base. And so that leaves less chance of having misalignment because everyone is very clear about what we’re doing. But the other element is that I think by doing it later what we have shown is that the goal is actually the special sauce in our business, and without having the goal and the gifts built into our company, we could not have grown to where we are today. We appealed to investors who deeply understand this phenomenon.

Another consideration is that suppose things went wrong, our mission is written into our constitution, and it is very difficult to change it. So it’s not just a 50 percent vote to make changes, we did it to make it a much higher hurdle to overcome. You would not currently be able to change our model without the three founders voting in this direction, and we are by far the majority shareholders of the company.

An investment of this size is obviously a big moment for the social enterprise sector. Do you think that achievements like this show a greater interest in the sector?

Totally. Our business model has always been to combine philanthropy with traditional business tools to create something stronger than it would be without the philanthropy built into it. In a way what we have done is bend the physics of capitalism because we have shown that by giving away your profits you can actually build a business that is more successful in the long run. And it’s fundamentally going in a different direction from how capitalism was thought of in the decades before us. It’s super exciting, and I think the point we’re trying to make is if you can do it with toilet paper, you can do it with just about any product.

And what does that tell you about how do people choose to consume everyday products?

To be able to get to where we are, I think it shows that there is this big change in the way consumers consume. If you think back to where we were in 2010, Tesla had just gone public and was worth $ 1 billion, carbon neutrality was a concept used by environmentally conscious small businesses, reusable water bottles and coffee cups were used by a very small proportion of the world.

Fast forward to 2021 and Tesla is the world’s most valued automaker, some of the world’s biggest brands like Apple and Nike plan to go net-zero, and everyone is using coffee mugs and bottles. reusable water. The world has massively moved towards sustainability over the past decade. It feels like we are at this huge tipping point from how sustainability was 10 years ago around companies that have ethics and values ​​embedded in who they are.

Consumers are asking more than ever who they buy from. And what we have shown is that consumption exists and that it has changed. The capital markets are really starting to kick in and see this change as well. It’s super exciting when you think about what the decade ahead will look like with this shift in consumption, but also the shift in capital that’s going to come and help accelerate it as well.

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