Plumbing manufacturers should look at a new market: the poor, said Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization. Sim addressed members of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute March 16 during their spring meeting in San Diego.
“The poor is the new customer,” he said. “There are 2.5 billion toilet-less people in the world. Understand the needs of the poor customer.”
During his presentation, “Seeing Sanitation as a New Opportunity,” Sim discussed a pyramid that had wealthier nations at the top and underdeveloped nations in Asia and Africa at the bottom. The bottom of the market potentially represents $1 trillion in business, he said.
“The top of the pyramid has gotten smaller because housing starts are down,” Sim said. “The poverty market is very vibrant. You can make money while improving people’s lives.”
The 2.5 billion people without proper sanitation represent more than 40 percent of the world’s population, he said. Diarrhea kills someone every 15 seconds; most of these are children younger than 5 years old. High-intensity intestinal worms infect 133 million people.
Sim’s WTO wants to raise awareness of the need for proper sanitation because too many people around the world do not talk about toilets due to embarrassment or shame, he said. Among the WTO’s goals are for interested parties, including manufacturers, to work together to address the problem of improper sanitation. The group also wants to bundle integrated solutions that would include lower-cost products, financing, training, installation and maintenance.
Unrelated to Sim’s presentation, and taking place the day before the meeting began, PMI members and staff volunteered on Habitat for Humanity’s G Avenue project in National City, Calif., near San Diego. PMI’s team assisted with foundation preparation, retaining wall construction, irrigation system installation and other tasks.
“PMI and its members play a critical role in providing safe, clean drinking water and sanitary conditions,” said PMI President Lee Mercer, director of product compliance for Moen. “This directly and positively contributes to healthy lives and livelihoods for people across the globe.
“This is the first year that we’ve included a hands-on opportunity, allowing members to personally contribute their time. It’s a way for us to give back, leave a positive impression and remain connected to the community hosting our meeting. We hope to incorporate similar activities into future meetings.”
PMI volunteers on the project included: Barbara C. Higgens, executive director; David Hagopian, director of strategy and technology; Peter Jahrling, director of design engineering, Sloan Valve Co.; Sally Remedios, product compliance manager, Delta Faucet Co.; and Matt Dos Remedios, production planner, American Faucet and Coatings Corp.
Ken Kosman, chief construction officer for the San Diego Habitat for Humanity, later spoke at meeting to thank PMI for its volunteers’ efforts and a $500 donation, and for its members’ ongoing and past donations of plumbing products and materials. San Diego Habitat for Humanity has constructed more than 100 homes throughout the area.
Also on March 16, representatives of various plumbing organizations engaged in a lively roundtable event to identify mutual goals and solidify partnerships. They were asked to address the issues that "keep them up at night" concerning the plumbing industry. The panel included Mike Adelizzi, American Supply Association; Peter Censky, Water Quality Association; Mary Ann Dickinson, Alliance for Water Efficiency; Gerry Kennedy, Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors; John Koeller, Koeller & Associates; Steve Lehtonen, GreenPlumbers® USA; and Ralph Suppa, Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating.