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Clarity brings safe water for all – a Kohler “innovation for good” initiative

Clarity brings safe water for all – a Kohler “innovation for good” initiative

It is hard to believe that more than 2 billion people have no access to safe water* in our privileged environments – where food, power and water are everyday staples.  It was this fact that inspired Kohler to develop CLARITY, a simple, affordable filtration system that can provide safe drinking water for those living in remote areas with no access to clean water.

Kohler Clarity – the safe water filtration system

CLARITY is yet another step in the company’s ongoing commitment to global health and sustainability.  A table-top ceramic filtration system, CLARITY was developed by Kohler in partnership with World Vision, iDE and Water Mission.  It can produce 40 litres of safe drinking water a day – enough for a small family.

The cornerstones of the design are that it be simple to use and maintain, inexpensive to acquire and run and easy to transport in some of the most remote and rugged terrains in the world.

CLARITY, a ceramic filtration system, removes more than 99 per cent of bacteria and protozoa from 11 litres of water every two hours.

Contaminated or dirty water is placed in the reservoir at the top of the unit which then uses gravity to filter down to the storage reservoir below.  The clean water can be kept safely in this reservoir and accessed by tap.

The filter cartridge contains some silver, for its antimicrobial properties, and is cleaned simply by rubbing gently with sandpaper to remove any sediment build-up.  Each cartridge will filter up to 5000 litres of water before replacement is required.

Enormous thought has been put into the environments and communities in which CLARITY will be used – the lid, for example, is embossed with pictographic instructions in consideration of those who are illiterate.

Transport can also be an expensive and difficult process in more remote areas – so both the CLARITY unit and its packaging has been designed to be as lightweight as possible.  One truckload of CLARITY filtration systems will contain 3600 units – enough for about 14, 400 people.

The easy to assemble and use CLARITY filtration unit stands about 60cms tall and weighs just 2.5 kg – and meets WHO standards for safe drinking water.

The CLARITY has already been used in disaster relief efforts for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.  Given that statistics suggest the incidence of water-borne illnesses can be reduced by 45 per cent through safe drinking water, and safe storage, the CLARITY is a life-changing development.

The Kohler CLARITY project has been a truly multicultural affair having been designed by a Kohler team in the UK, engineered by a Kohler team in India and produced in Kohler’s US factory.

At a local level, Kohler holds permanent stocks of the CLARITY in its Kohler NZ warehouse in preparation for a rapid response should there be further disasters in its regional South Pacific islands.

Go to for more details.

Other sustainability projects: Reinvent the Toilet Challenge – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Kohler has had an ongoing passion and commitment to utilise its high-end design and technology skills to make change for ALL, especially those who have less.  Having joined the Bill Gates Foundation, Kohler partnered with the California Institute of Technology in 2012 to develop a photo-voltaic toilet to provide a sustainable sanitation option to the 2.5 billion people around the world who don’t have safe sanitation.


*  WHO 7/2/2018

World Toilet Day – An interview with Jack Sim AKA Mr Toilet

World Toilet Day – An interview with Jack Sim AKA Mr Toilet

Recently we met up with Jack Sim aka Mr. Toilet, founder of the World Toilet Organization. Jack was kind enough to share with us what he is up to these days – and ohhh boy, is he a very busy man!


His reach and interests are far beyond saving the world with toilets, but to help eradicate poverty. So, we are doubly grateful for this interesting and inspiring interview. Thank you, Jack.

Let’s get started with some toilet-related questions:

Could you talk about the symbiotic relationship between toilets and men?

Eat, drink, poo, and pee – Natural as can be.

In 2013, the UN General Assembly declared November 19 as the World Toilet Day. Last Saturday it was celebrated in 193 countries. Have you ever imagined such a coverage when you started your quest for it?

No. I just wanted to do something to break the taboo on sanitation, toilet and shit because what we don’t discuss, we can’t improve.

Your work and efforts resulted in an award for Goal 6 of Clean Water you received in July 2016 from NOVUS while visiting the United Nations General Assembly in New York. What were your impressions?

We do not do our work to win awards but awards can help us do our work especially by bringing legitimacy to new communities of partners and supporters.

Watch Jack’s acceptance speech at the NOVUS Award Ceremony:

In 2014, you founded the World Toilet College (WTC) in India. How is this project coming along?

We started with the first World Toilet College in Rishikesh. Now starting the next two in Bangalore and Pune. Will also continue to grow it in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere.

Indian Toilet

Find out more about Kohler’s involvement with the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.

How many students have graduated? How long is the program?

These are short courses. Not significant yet but the numbers are growing.

Any plans to bring this idea to other parts of the world?

WTC can go everywhere. Just let us know where there are local entities to absorb it and we can talk.

How do you change the mind-set from investments in – for example – mobile phones, to improved sanitation?

We’ve a unique blend of humor and serious facts. We call a spade a spade. We made toilets sexy and politicians started to use it as a vote-winner after a while. Recently Premier Minister Modi [in India] won a landslide victory promising everyone a toilet. He’s building 110 million toilets now.

In August 2016, you attended Singularity University (SU) in Silicon Valley, USA. Singularity University is a global community who empowers leaders to address huge humanitarian challenges through technology. What was your initial project idea to help more than one billion people?

I went to SU to discover how technology can help facilitate the efficiency of the Base of Pyramid (BOP) marketplace. I discovered plenty of them. Now I need to mobilise resources to install them into BOP HUB. Not easy task as these require very deep investments. Still work in progress. The good thing is now I’m connected with the Singularity University fraternity and extended family. They’ve also asked me to come back to teach next year. So that’s good too.

What is the actual project that you are working on? And with whom? What is the progress since August? Why is it important to have “doctors in the bathrooms”? How can the individual costs (currently USD 6,100) for such technology be brought down?

My class project was a Toilet that can diagnose colon cancer. Our team has since formed a company in USA and research in on-going. See more details in the Singapore Straits Time – here.

Kohler is also working on bringing more technology into the bathroom and on increasing the user experience in the bathroom. We will certainly be watching this space and updating it with more news.

World Toilet Organisation

Let’s shift gears a little bit. Your focus is much wider than toilets. You are the founder of the BOP Foundation which started in 2011, to design businesses to end poverty. What are some milestones that you achieved since the beginning?

This one is even more difficult than toilets because it encompasses all development sectors from water to sanitation to education, housing, health, energy, livelihood, nutrition, finance, logistics, home appliances, entertainment etc. I did three BOP World Conventions to test the market and now constructing a 65,000 sq ft BOP Design Center in Singapore to become the de facto World Trade Center for the Poor in Singapore. This USD 10 million building will complete in July 2017 and it’ll be opened 24/7/365 to facilitate all time-zones and geographies to coordinate collaboration across the globe to design business solutions to end poverty completely.


How is the social development sector fragmented?

The social development sector is fragmented and inefficient because it was designed as an unsustainable charity model that will stop once the money stops feeding it. Donors funding also divide stakeholders, making them compete for money instead of collaborating. In the end, NGOs end up serving the donors instead of the poor.

And why is it necessary to facilitate and coordinate collaboration?
3+3+3= 9
We need the multiplier of synergies and not the zero sum game.

The third BOP Convention took place in Singapore in September 2016. What where the highlights of the three-day conference? At the convention you spoke about “how to end poverty exponentially.” Could you elaborate on this?

Our former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong came to open the event. He told me: “BOP is serious business. You’ve got to try to make it profitable for the businesses and they’ll invest.” He’s been the genesis of me to startup Restroom Association and World Toilet Organisation and now I’ll also work hard to make BOP HUB a success to alleviating global poverty.
Very big task, but very fulfilling spiritually.

World Toilet Organisation - BOP Hub

In 2017, you will open the BOP Design Center in Singapore. You call it an “accelerator center” not an “innovation center”. What is the main purpose?

All solutions for ending poverty already exist. What’s needed is to accelerate them in a scalable and integrated system so that everyone inside this ecosystem will enjoy faster, better, cheaper and easier speed than working in silos. This way we can change the global modus operandi of everyone from silos to ecosystems.

We started a Fortified Rice company called 45Rice which just got funded USD 1 million. We’re next starting a water filter company in India. And a Procurement company soon too. We welcome everyone to come and be tenants at BOP Design Center. It’ll be the most powerful hub with its pure focus on using business to end poverty. It’ll also be profitable so that it’ll be self-sustainable and grow to other locations on the globe.

What are the challenges and opportunities that you faced in relation to this project?

The challenge is to get everyone to trust one another. Currently they don’t. So as an honest broker I think I can design the incentives for everyone to want to work together because you not competitive anymore if we have an ecosystem and you are still working alone.

In May, you attended the Social Enterprise Boat Camp organized by ARCA. What take-aways did you have from this 4 day trip from Italy to Spain?

The Boat Camp was a great experience. But I think the important thing is how to follow-up after the meeting. There were some great ideas to set up collaboration between participants to build an ecosystem but I did not hear any follow up action yet.

If you have any free time, what do you enjoy doing?
I’m addicted to creating new crazy ideas, design and irreverent things naughty boys love to do.
I’ve a few hobbies now like disrupting the current educational model from rote learning to a School of Gumption.
We just started a 100 Voices group to get all parents, teachers, students, employers, entrepreneurs, and the Ministry of Education to dialogue on the future needs and create demand driven education that is fun. We’ll be doing Forum Theater early next year for this movement. And a book is now on the way. I don’t want to grow up. Adults are deteriorated children. It’s better to be a child-like person no matter how old you are. After all, I’m only 59.

How do you know how to create bronze sculptures?
Making sculptures are easy. Just draw it and send the drawings to the workshop and they’ll make it. I’ve made movies before and hope to make a Bollywood one. Written the story but haven’t found the funding and producer yet.

What do you cry about in the shower?
Life is beautiful and full every day. No need to cry. I’ve a wonderful family and my beautiful wife loves and forgives me for who I am. I just want to live out the remaining 7,400 days till 80 and die happy knowing I tried my best to make it useful.

Jack Sim - World Toilet Organisation

Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organisation

Again, Jack, thank you so much for sharing all this information with us. We could certainly continue this conversation for a long time – there are so many more questions to ask. We hope to check in with you again next year.

Kohler’s next steps for “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge”

Kohler’s next steps for “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge”

For more than two years now, Kohler has been collaborating with Caltech in the development of a photovoltaic toilet (that’s a solar powered, self disinfecting, waterless toilet) as part of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In response to this successful project, the Gates Foundation recently approved a two-year grant to Kohler to further design and produce five sustainable closed-loop flush toilet systems for field testing in various developing world locations lacking adequate sanitation. This new grant recognises Kohler’s dedication to improving global sanitation conditions and supports continued research and innovation of its toilet system.

“Our goal of creating a completely off-the-grid toileting system that is easier to transport and easier to maintain will allow us to place toilets in more locations around the world that have inadequate sanitation. And that allows us to improve the lives of more people,” said Rob Zimmerman, sustainability manager for Kohler Co.

The prototype unit is currently being field-trialled in India. Kohler will use the findings from this field study to further improve the new toilet system with the goal of making it a more cost effective and transportable unit. The toilet system includes a self-contained water purification and disinfection system that allows water to be reused – not requiring waste-water disposal.

“Kohler has a long standing commitment to environmental and community enhancement,” Zimmerman said. “We feel privileged to be able to use our position as a leader in the plumbing industry and utilising our talented engineers to help innovate new solutions to sanitation issues.”

Other Reinvent the Toilet Challenge blog posts:

Kohler donates toilets for artists to transform in support of World Toilet Day

Kohler’s commitment to delivering safe, sustainable sanitation

Kohler exhibits Reinvent the Toilet prototype at MOMA

Solar powered toilet heads to India’s Toilet Fair

Kohler assists with global “Reinvent the Toilet” challenge

Kohler invited to exhibit at MoMA in New York – Reinventing the Toilet

Kohler invited to exhibit at MoMA in New York – Reinventing the Toilet

Kohler will once again feature in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.  Uneven Growth – Tactical Urbanisms for  Expanding Megacities will be staged from November 22, 2014 to May 10, 2015 and will be accompanied by a publication showcasing the exhibition projects and essays by leading urban and architectural scholars.

With a global population expected to be around 8 billion by 2030 the exhibition is a collaboration of six interdisciplinary teams of researchers and practitioners to look at new architectural possibilities for six global metropolises – Hong Kong, Istanbul, Lagos, Mumbai, New York and Rio de Janeiro.

Kohler, in partnership with CalTech and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, developed a solar-powered water treatment/toilet project that will form part of the exhibition.  The toilet was the winning entry, from CalTech, in the Re-invent The Toilet Challenge sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The foundation mounted the challenge in response to the 2.5 billion people around the world who do not have access to safe sanitation.

Kohler supports "Reinvent the Toilet" Challenge

Kohler supports "Reinvent the Toilet" Challenge

The mobile restroom, equipped with a freestanding, self-contained wastewater treatment system powered by the sun generating both hydrogen and electricity, is equipped with Kohler toilets and bathroom fixtures that provide the essential interface between the user
and the waste system.

Kohler's "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge" goes to the India Fair

Kohler's "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge" goes to the India Fair

Kohler was originally featured in the MoMA in 1929 with an exhibition entitled “Modern bath and dressing room”.  Showcasing the bathroom of the future the exhibit showcased a black Universal bath and Deauville basin together with chrome Cellini tapware – teamed with finishes of black and pink tiles.

Kohler exhibits at MoMA 1929

Kohler exhibits at MoMA 1929 with "Exhibition of a Modern Bath and Dressing Room."

Solar-powered toilet heads to India Toilet Fair

Solar-powered toilet heads to India Toilet Fair

Kohler Co and Caltech’s joint development of a photovoltaic toilet, part of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, has reached the next milestone in its two-year collaborative journey.

To coincide with World Water Day (March 22) the two completed units were shipped to India, first to be displayed at the Delhi Reinvent the Toilet Fair and then to be installed and tested in India.

Kohler's toilet travels to Delhi for "Reinvent the Toilet Fair"

Kohler's solar powered toilet travels to Delhi for the "Reinvent the Toilet Fair"

The development of these next-generation toilets was in response to the 2011 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation challenge to develop a toilet capable of delivering safe and sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who are currently denied this basic necessity.  Each toilet is powered by solar panels and features a self-contained water purification and disinfection system that allows water to be reused and does not require wastewater disposal.

Every aspect of the toilet, from the carefully specified plumbing products inside to the colourful décor on the exterior, was chosen (with input from Kohler Co’s Indian team) to best assimilate the Indian culture.  This is to ensure fast and easy acceptance of the new technology by the Indian community.

Kohler contributes to "Global Reinvent the Toilet Challenge"

Kohler contributes to "Global Reinvent the Toilet Challenge" Kohler next generation toilet at Reinvent the Toilet Fair in Delhi

We’ll keep you up to speed with the next milestone on this journey in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Kohler assists in global ‘Reinvent the toilet’ Challenge

Kohler assists in global ‘Reinvent the toilet’ Challenge

With 2.5 billion people unable to access safe sanitation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the ‘Reinvent the Toilet Challenge’ inviting researchers to harness the latest technology to create a cheap, safe and hygienic waterless toilet.

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) took out the top prize ($100,000 in addition to the original $400,000) for a mobile restroom equipped with a freestanding, self-contained wastewater treatment system, powered by the sun, that generates both hydrogen and electricity.

Caltech Group with challenge prototype

“Reinvent the Toilet” challenge winners from CalTech

Kohler’s involvement in the project was the provision of toilets and other bathroom fixtures that provide the essential interface between the user and the waste system.

“It is exciting and certainly an honor for us to work with the Caltech team, who are true pioneers of their time,” says Rob Zimmerman, Kohler Co. sustainability marketing manager. “Kohler is known for pioneering innovative products and helping to advance technology, and through the Gates Foundation challenge, we get the opportunity to support others in their efforts to push traditional systems to a new level.”

Kohler supports "Reinvent the Toilet" Challenge

Kohler supports “Reinvent the Toilet” Challenge

In 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation started their Reinvent the Toilet Challenge with the intent of funding projects to address health and sanitation issues in the developing world. Reinventing the Toilet Challenge is an effort to develop “next-generation” toilets that will deliver safe and sustainable sanitation to the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have it. The awards recognize researchers from leading universities who are developing innovative ways to manage human waste, which will help improve the health and lives of people around the world.

The Caltech prototype is important from both a hygiene and sustainability standpoint.  All of the water is recycled within the treatment system or used for irrigation, and the waste is broken down for use as fertilizer and to generate hydrogen stored in fuel cells for energy.

Caltech "Reinvent the toilet" challenge

Caltech “Reinvent the toilet” challenge model

In December the Caltech mobile restroom, housed in a cargo container, will be shipped to India where several families will use it and researchers will be able to adapt the unit functionally and culturally.