Who knew that bathroom humor could pay such dividends and do so much good? Turns out, three guys who love toilet paper did. When Simon Griffiths, Jehan Ratnatunga, and DannyAlexander learned that more than 2.4 billion people—roughly 40 percent of the world population—didn’thave access to a toilet, they wanted to do something about it, so they started a toilet paper brand calledWho Gives a Crap. You might say they “gave a crap” about people who were “up a creek” and needed some help.
The three TP lovers launched their company in July of 2012 with a crowdfunding campaign onIndiegogo. The company’s website (whogivesacrap.org) features the original video of Griffiths, the CEO,sitting on a toilet in the middle of the company warehouse, stumping for donations. He sat on the thronefor 50 hours because that’s how long it took to raise the $50,000 they needed to stock the warehouse. Lessthan nine months later, they were shipping their first rolls.Who Gives a Crap is summed up succinctly in its social media bios (with help from creative emojiusage): “Good for your bum; Great for the world; 100% bamboo & recycled TP; 50% of profits donatedto help build toilets.” Onwhogivesacrap.org, the company describes itself as a toilet paper company thatbuilds toilets.The company’s main products are two types of toilet paper: the first is 100 percent recycled toiletpaper, and the second is their more premium 100 percent bamboo toilet paper, which is slightly moreexpensive. The company also sells forest-friendly paper towels and tissues. All products come with a 100percent guarantee, meaning you can send them back for a full refund if you aren’t satisfied. Most of WhoGives a Crap’s business is done via direct-to-consumer shipping in Australia, the United States, and theUnited Kingdom, but the products are also available at wholesale locations in those countries and at selectgrocery stores.The official mission of Who Gives a Crap is to ensure that everyone has access to clean water and atoilet in the lifetime of its founders. Today, the number of people without access to sanitation facilities isat two billion. Contaminated water contributes to more than one million deaths globally per year. To fightthis problem, Who Gives a Crap uses 50 percent of their profits to build toilets and improvesanitation inthe developing world.How is the business of “giving a crap” going? To date, the company says it has donated 10.8 millionAussie dollars to the following organizations: Splash, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor, Water forPeople, WaterAid, Sanergy, Lwala Community Alliance, Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), andInternational Developmental Enterprises (iDE). All those organizations are involved in delivering cleanwater and sanitation to people in developing countries.As the demand for Who Gives a Crap TP has grown, so have the donations. In their first year, thecompany made enough money to donate a modest A$2,500. In 2021, that number was $2.5 million. In2020, when pandemic-driven toilet paper buying went through the roof, they donated $5.85 million. Afterthat insane one-year spike, the brand is now back on a more predictable growth plan, and plenty ofinvestors see that growth potential. Reports say that Who Gives a Crap made $20 million in profits in itsfirst nine years of existence and, in late 2021, the company secured $41.5 million in its first round offunding.
Their investors have been chosen carefully. Griffiths told Smart Company that the team had “a 30-yearthesis” and that he was looking for “patient capital” that was aligned with the mission of giving back. Indeed, many of the investors—even a collection of Aussie athletes—came because they wanted to be involved in a company doing good, becoming built-in influencers! Who Gives a Crap also prides itself on being sustainable, creating products that are plastic-free and made from recycled materials or bamboo, which grows quickly. In 2020, it announced a carbon-neutral shipping program that involves the company purchasing carbon offsets that benefit forestry projects. Those efforts, the company says, come at no extra cost to consumers.
Their do-good business model meant they had to be a startup that actually made money so they would be able to give it away. Clever, humorous marketing and messaging have always played a key role in that accomplishment. The company is not afraid to tell its audience about the good it is doing and that its charitable contributions are driven by the consumer’s choice. Still, Who Gives a Crap makes an effort not to proselytize. The recycled rolls are wrapped in paper packaging that is bright, vibrant, and fun, while the bamboo-based rolls have a more premium lookin black, gold, and white. In 2018, the company evolved its packaging and updated the logo, spending their time, as they say, “making the W look like a bum.” The last few rolls at the bottom of each shipment are wrapped in red paper and branded as “Emergency Rolls” with messaging reminding you to reorder so you don’t “risk getting caught with your pants down.” Even10 years on, a bit of potty humor is always involved. The company website uses catchy copy that gives the brand a distinct tone of voice. Two home page sliders are prime examples: “Delivered to your door. Well, to your front door. To your bathroom would be creepy.” And: “Nice bum! It deserves some seriously soft toilet paper.”In its email marketing and on social media, Who Gives a Crap maintains this consistent tone of voice. Their company newsletters are written using the same toilet humor and dad jokes found on the website and packaging. In short, they sound like a buddy, rather than a company simply trying to get you to click the BUY NOW button. If you sign up for the company newsletter, they will give you $10 off your first order. You’ll receive $5 off your next order if you refer a friend, and your friend will receive $5 off as well. The personality remains on the brand’s Instagram and Facebook accounts, where they have nearly300K followers each. Their posts include sustainability-minded messages and product beauty shots, of course, but also posts such as an illustration showing six easy exercises to do on the toilet, a guide to naming your toilet, and a question about how many followers use their phone on the toilet. As one might expect of a company with a mission to save lives, culture is important at Who Gives a Crap. In an online interview, cofounder Danny Alexander said the company isn’t necessarily recruiting people who have worked at nonprofits. Instead, they are aiming to build a pool of talent that is focused on “solving the big problems of the world,” finding employees who will be capable of making decisions based on the values shared by the company. Even their job descriptions spell out what to expect if you should apply for a position at Who Gives a Crap: a three-to-four-week interview process with nine hours spent interviewing and doing paid project work. The messaging on the job description is cheeky, too, encouraging applicants to “Come roll with us.” Get it? Unsurprisingly, there is one personality trait required for every job posted on the website: that you give a crap.