By Erin McCusker, Leader, SATO
A decade ago, we asked a question: how could American Standard – a leader in toilets – bring its expertise to solve the challenges faced by the over four billion people lacking access to basic sanitation? Our journey led the first two members our team to rural communities in Bangladesh to understand their sanitation needs and issues.
After designing and prototyping alongside households, and with the helping hands of many colleagues in the American Standard offices, SATO was born. Our first product, the SATO pan, launched in Bangladesh with RFL, our strong local manufacturing partner, in 2013.
Today a part of LIXIL, an industry-leading water and housing manufacturer with brands that touch the lives of more than a billion people every day, SATO not only continues to strive to create a better life, every day through innovations in affordable sanitation and hygiene solutions, but also delivers on LIXIL’s purpose of making a better homes a reality for everyone, everywhere.
The concept of SATO products are simple, but address a great need. We are proud to say that our solutions can be found in 44 countries around the world, reflecting the global demand and need for these products. The reach of SATO in our ten years came with the support of like-minded partners. From our first partnership with RFL, the Bangladeshi manufacturer which produce our first SATO Pan and distribute it through their robust and well-knit retail chain, to our subsequent partnerships with BRAC, iDE, UNICEF, PSI, Water for People and many others – we depend on each other to create awareness and demand, help plug the last-mile delivery gap, and ensure quality sanitation and hygiene solutions reach the households who need them most.
We have come a long way. As we celebrate our ten-year anniversary, we feel an immense sense of pride for improving the lives of over 35 million people and counting.
Personally, when I think of SATO’s journey, and the lives we have impacted, I reflect on the individuals and entrepreneurs driving the impact in each community. Local masons and retailers are introduced to our award-winning products and use them to grow their own businesses, creating local jobs whilst directly improving the sanitation and hygiene of their communities, unlocking immeasurable health, social and economic value.
The world is looking to 2030 to achieve safe sanitation and hygiene for all. Although a lot has been done, we still have a long way to go. Countries around the world are working to establish new and ambitious national targets for sanitation, and safely managed sanitation is a priority. Even in Bangladesh, where SATO products began, the latest UN data show that coverage of safely managed sanitation in Bangladesh is at less than 39%, or only 1 in 3 people. Access to a handwashing facility with soap is only 58%. The impact of inadequate sanitation and hygiene is multi-faceted: costing billions for communities, and we also know that 40% of girls still miss three days of school during menstruation.
There is a lot of work to be done. We know that the private sector – including SATO – plays a crucial role in meeting these goals. We continue to invest in consumer-centric innovation, expanding our portfolio beyond the simple SATO Pan for a direct-pit solution to now encompass a range of off-set pit latrine solutions for both single and twin pit to enable safely managed sanitation. We recognise the importance of accessibility, launching a raised seat, our SATO Stool, to improve the experience of children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, as well as creating options based on consumer preferences. Finally, in response to the COVID pandemic, SATO took the step to enter the hygiene space and created the award-winning, easy-to-use SATO Tap handwashing station. With the critical need to accelerate to 2030, SATO’s full range of products now meet the needs of nearly every household, and can solve the challenge faced by schools and institutions.
With all that we have achieved together over the last decade, we know that together with our valuable partners, we can unlock the immeasurable health, social and economic value that improved sanitation and hygiene provides, enabling all to live a better life, every day.
Here’s to 10 years of SATO, and the decade of acceleration and transformation to come.