How Who Gives A Crap founder Simon Griffiths made toilet paper sexy


The growth of Who Gives A Crap since then is evidence that consumers worldwide have become more conscientious: to date, over 300 million rolls have been sold to customers in 36 countries and almost $11 million has been donated to charity partners. High-profile investors include Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, former Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Canva co-founder and chief product officer Cameron Adams, and Athletic Ventures, an elite athlete investment consortium, all contributing to a $41.5 million funding round dollars in the past year.

Profit for the sake of purpose

But there is still more to do. Griffiths prides itself on its direct-to-consumer business model, but doesn’t rule out competing for space on supermarket shelves to go head-to-head with companies like Quilton and Kleenex, two of its biggest competitors.

Only about 15 percent of Australians do their shopping online, says Griffiths. “We have to be where the customer wants to buy us,” he says. “We’re missing out on the other 85 percent of the market.”

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These goals must be achieved without further depleting the world’s natural resources. A recent study commissioned by Who Gives A Crap revealed how many trees the world has to cut down just for toilet paper.

An older, much-cited study that is no longer available online put the figure at 27,000 trees per day.

“The number was massively wrong. The actual number of trees felled each day to make toilet paper is well over a million trees…literally flushed down the toilet,” says Griffiths. “It just makes absolutely no sense to me.”

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In the near term, Griffiths and his team are targeting growth by launching new products through their hair and body care products, Good Time, and by continuing to expand their eco-friendly toilet paper rolls into international markets. With warehouses in Australia, the US, the UK and the Netherlands, Australia accounts for less than 40 percent of sales.

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Supply chain pains persist

Standing in the way of these plans, however, are global logistics and supply chain nodes that have only recently begun to loosen.

The pandemic has been a mixed bag for the company: on the one hand, it opened up a new group of customers thanks to the panic buying triggered by COVID-19 in 2020, saw peak demand of 28 reels per second and a waiting list of half a million people.

On the other hand, it was virtually impossible for Who Gives A Crap to avoid international freight and shipping nightmares. “We transport relatively low-value, bulk products, which means we’re at the bottom of those impacted by supply chain challenges,” says Griffiths.

The worst is over, but he predicts another wave of consumer price hikes as Russia’s war in Ukraine keeps energy and other crucial input costs high for any business.

“I think the big question is: do you have any price changes that need to happen because of the supply chain [disruption] happened and that means things will go back to normal now? Or will things like the energy and livelihood crises continue to push prices higher?”

Who Gives A Crap was among companies earlier this year forced to raise the prices of its products by as much as 15 percent, but the founder says he has no intention of raising prices again.

The pressure on the industry is obvious. “There is a toilet paper company in Germany that has gone bankrupt [the other] Week. We will see a lot more of that in the coming months.”

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