For a company whose primary business centers on water, the fact that 780 million people around the world lack access to safe water and 2.5 billion lack improved sanitation is unacceptable.
Part of Kohler’s Innovation for Good® initiative, an internal innovation incubator, the I-Prize encourages Kohler associates from all disciplines to innovate and develop new business solutions that address important global issues—in particular, safe water and sanitation, reliable power and responsible production and consumption. These are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 6, 7 and 12.
James Bourne, a project engineer at Kohler Mira in the UK, was inspired to find a low-tech handwashing solution after traveling to Indonesia with World Vision staff and witnessing the lack of access to adequate hygiene in the city of Ende on Flores Island. James observed that in the summer months, village water supplies dry up and families have to walk long distances to gather water from wells and streams several miles away. In addition to a need for changing the basic infrastructure, he recognized that the children and adults alike would benefit from increasing their handwashing frequency to reduce the spread and devastating effects of waterborne illnesses.
During his two months in the field, James and the World Vision team provided solutions and educated local communities about the benefits of frequent handwashing. The team created and installed prototypes for a group handwashing facility which provided valuable information on how to improve and refine these solutions so that they could be implemented and make a real difference at a school.
When James returned to Kohler Mira, he was determined to continue working on addressing the handwashing challenge at the household level. He formed a team, created a commercial prototype, developed a business plan and pitched his idea at the Kohler Innovation for Good inaugural I-Prize competition.
Ultimately, James’ passion, determination and ingenuity to be part of the solution helped his team win incubation funding at the I-Prize which will support further development of his handwashing station.
Like James, over 200 Kohler associates representing a diverse array of departments from Kohler locations around the world have participated in the I-Prize challenge, eager to pitch their innovative business solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Since 2018, seven projects received incubation funding to help them continue to test, validate and launch their innovations—important, purpose-driven work that keeps us pressing forward and innovating for the greater good.