The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News, 23 May

In this episode, how a rush on toilet paper has benefited charities around the world and the animals continuing to make the most of lockdown.


toilet block Photo © Supplied: Roughly 40% of the world’s population don’t have access to a toilet

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The World Nomads Podcast: COVID-19 Travel News

As governments around the globe impose lockdowns and people self-isolate, coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit the travel industry hard. The World Nomads Travel Podcast has suspended its regular destination episodes and, in their place, offering a round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines, including the future of travel.

What’s in the episode

00:36 Coronavirus cases on the rise

03:07 The animals continuing to claim back the planet

04:18 How Who Gives A Crap came to life

07:04 So much more than a toilet paper company

10:30 How much toilet paper were selling per second?

13:49 Thanks for wiping with us

Quotes from the episode

“…we are in the toilet paper business, and we realized that we were in a fortunate position, all things considered. But our partners who are working in some of the most challenging environments in the world were not in the same position. They're tasked with trying to figure out how to continue to promote sanitation and hygiene and water access in environments where it's incredibly challenging with very few resources.” - Danny

Who is in the episode

Danny Alexander is the Co-Founder & Chief of Product and Purpose at Who Gives A Crap, “…selling good lookin' forest friendly toilet paper, paper towels and tissues in 36 countries and donating 50% of our profits to help build toilets for those in need. As much as we love toilet paper, the reason we’re in business is the impact we’re having on the world.”

box of toilet
Who Gives A Crap is much more than a company that sells toilet paper. Photo credit: Supplied 

Resources & links

Kim: In this episode, how a rush on toilet paper has benefited charities around the world and the animals continuing to make the most of lockdown.

Insert show intro

Kim: Hi it’s Kim and Phil with you our chat with Danny from Who Gives a Crap shortly but first some grim figures surrounding coronavirus Phil?

Phil: The World Health Organisation has expressed concern about the rising number of new coronavirus cases in poor countries. At the time of recording more than 4.9 million people worldwide have been infected by the virus, with more than 320,000 deaths.

Meantime cases in Brazil have jumped with US President Donald Trump considering imposing a ban on travel from Brazil. In fact, Russia and Brazil are now behind only the United States in the number of reported infections.

And while some countries have lifted restrictions life is anything but normal with many once packed restaurants in Italy, as an example, facing financial ruin because of social distancing rules.

On a lighter note we are all enjoying the animal stories that have been surfacing since the pandemic and we’ve come across an article, which we will share in show notes on 13 animals making the most of lockdown. It includes the horses that took over a city in Turkey, the penguins taking a stroll in Capetown, and the alligators caught window shopping in South Carolina.

Kim: Now remember when the pandemic started and there was a rush on toilet paper?  Ethical toilet paper brand Who Gives a Crap reported a near 1000 percent rise in sales, which was great news for the charities it supports which we will hear about shortly during my chat with co-founder Danny Alexander. First question Phil, how did they come up with the idea of creating a toilet paper company?

Danny: Oh boy. So my co-founder Simon actually had the idea. He was looking for an idea to essentially start a business and have as much impact on the world as possible. So he was looking around for a product that everybody used that we could somehow tie an impact story to. And of course, he walks into the bathroom and saw a roll of toilet paper and said, "That's it, we'll start a toilet paper company. We'll sell toilet paper, that'll help build toilets. And we'll call it Who Gives A Crap." And so he called a few friends, one of whom was Jehan, our other co-founder. They all said, "You have to do this, go for it." And then I ended up meeting both Simon and Jehan a couple months later. They basically had pitched the idea to a business plan competition. And I was there mentoring and teaching how to bring your idea to life. And I absolutely loved it. And so we became partners then, and the rest is history.

Kim: Can you tell us what you've managed to achieve since the company was founded?

Danny: Yeah, I mean, so the original idea wasn't actually just to help build toilets. Essentially we were trying to solve two major challenges. One of those challenges was of course, a social challenge. So we were hoping to help provide sanitation to everyone on the planet, which is a no small feat, but 2.3 billion people in the world don't have access to a toilet currently. And so we donate half our profits to help address that. The other major challenge that we were hoping to address was an environmental one. And we looked around us and realized that the traditional way of marketing environmentally friendly products was all backward. They were all more expensive. You had to go to a natural food store to buy it. They all had a leaf on the front. And none of them seem to work very well. And it was just an all-around this negative experience.

And so we wanted to flip that on its head and make an environmentally friendly option the most delightful choice. So with fun branding and great packaging and competitive pricing, convenient delivery, all of that, we wanted to make sure that all of our customers had no excuse not to buy an environmentally friendly option. So between the two of those we've helped save thousands of trees, if not much more, from being cut down to make toilet paper. And we've also donated over $2,500,000 to date. And we're actually about to make our next donation in the next month, which will be by far our largest donation ever. So we're doing all right.

Kim: You are. And as a client, I love the paper, I love the packaging and I love the newsletter. I can't wait to drop into my inbox.

Danny: I'm glad. Yeah. It's interesting. We, of course, as I'm sure you know, toilet paper has been top of mind for a lot of people over the past couple of months. And when we originally sold out in Australia, after the panic buying began a couple months ago. We actually took out our first full-page ad in the newspaper the day after we sold out. And that might be counterintuitive because we didn't have any toilet paper to sell. So why bother taking out a full-page ad? But I think at that moment, we all rallied around the idea that we're actually not just a toilet paper company, we're in the business of providing delight. And sometimes that's through toilet paper and sometimes it's through our communications and just making people feel good about deciding to wipe with us. And so, yeah, I'm glad you enjoy the emails. I don't write them anymore, I'm far from that. So I always love getting them in my inbox to and seeing what our team has to say.

Kim: Yeah. Even ideas there and what to do in quarantine. So you mentioned selling out of toilet paper, which is one of the reasons why I reached out to you because I really am keen to know what effects the pandemic had on your business.

Danny: Yeah. I mean, first, we're in a very fortunate position I think, all things considered. But it's impossible to ignore the situation we're in globally is affecting all of us. Whether you're in a toilet paper business or any other business. So our first concern has been our team and our customers and our partners and making sure all of them are safe and happy and doing well. And so we've implemented a lot of new benefits and programs. Obviously all of our team are working from home now. I think that's been our main focus and it's been high stress the last few months, I think we all feel it in the air. But our team is doing well.

So going beyond our team, I think, we did sell out toilet paper globally within the first couple of weeks after the pandemic started to spread. We're just now getting back in stock in all of our markets, it's been a pretty crazy couple of months. We've continued to fulfill all over subscriber orders along the way. So we've still been producing and shipping toilet paper and trying to build up our reserves again so that we can sell on the site. So we had a few record sales days, which was great. And now we're starting to get back to "normal". but because of all the increase in sales, we're really excited that our next donation will be substantially larger than anything we've ever donated before. This has been our biggest year ever and we're really excited to share that with our customers in the next month.

Kim: Great. We'll get to chatting a little more about the charities. But speaking to a toilet paper expert, were you surprised when the orders started flooding in? Because I know we were kind of blown away that there was this panic buying of toilet paper at the supermarkets and fights and arrests.

Danny: Yeah. Well, humanity never ceases to surprise us, right? I think we were surprised on the one hand, but we weren't surprised at the other. So we had seen similar behavior in Hong Kong and Singapore in the days leading up to the selling out in Australia. So we knew it was a possibility. And we understood a little bit more of the dynamics, I think, than some people might. So we understand the different supply chains for the toilet paper you use at home and the ones you use in the office. And we realized that if people were going to be spending more time at home, they were going to be using a lot more toilet paper at home. So that explains a big portion of why people were all of a sudden consuming massive amounts of toilet paper that they weren't before.

And so we weren't surprised in that we saw it coming, but we were surprised to see how quickly it happened. From one day to the next in Australia, we were selling a normal day. And then the next day, it was 12 times the normal day. And then the day after that it was 20 times the normal day. And we had to pretty immediately go sold out. At one point, I think we were selling 26 or 27 rolls of toilet paper a second, which is just impossible for me to get my head around how much toilet paper that is. Yeah. I think hopefully things are normalizing a bit, we've made great efforts to get back in stock on our end, but we've also worked with a lot of our charity partners and other organizations to make sure we're helping get toilet paper to the people in need first and foremost.

Kim: That is an amazing stat. And yeah, with your charity partners, given that you were selling so much toilet paper immediately you gave $100,000 to be split across four of your partners. Who are they?

Danny: Yeah, we did. So we've donated to several organizations over the years. And when all of this happened, we reached out to many of them and basically tried to understand what they were going through and what support they needed. As I said, we are in the toilet paper business, and we realized that we were in a fortunate position, all things considered. But our partners who are working in some of the most challenging environments in the world were not in the same position. They're tasked with trying to figure out how to continue to promote sanitation and hygiene and water access in environments where it's incredibly challenging with very few resources.

And so we made a pretty urgent donation to WaterAid Australia, as well as WaterAid America. And then we also made two donations to Lwala and Shofco, which are two of our partners that operate out of Kenya. And so all of them are really kind of, pivoted their model to really focus heavily on hygiene and how that relates to sanitation and water. So you can imagine what it's like to encourage people to wash their hands in an environment where they don't have access to water. It's a really challenging thing. And so it's really important for us to support them.

Kim: Absolutely. Well, one of World Nomads footprints projects is WaterAid supporting water and sanitation in Papa New Guinea. So there's a bit of a crossover there between us and you.

Danny: I love that.

Kim: Yeah. In this world of sort of ecotourism, sustainable, and ethical travel, I have been to a couple of hotels that like to operate sustainably and they use your toilet paper.

Danny: Yeah. That's an interesting thing that we've learned over the years. I wish I could say it was by design, but one of the things that I love about the early days of Who Gives A Crap is that people started to catch on without us doing any advertising. And one of the things we learned was that one of the main sources where people found out about us was at cafes and restaurants and other establishments like that. So over the years, we've realized that it's really important for people to be able to try the product. And so we've really tried to work closely with hotels and other retail partners and wholesale partners that we can actually not only help them improve their environmental footprint, but also give our potential customers an opportunity to try us. And it's been really successful for us so far.

Kim: So just in closing, it's business as usual for you guys at the moment.

Danny: In terms of availability of toilet paper, we're getting back to normal now. So yeah. All things considered, we're relatively back to normal.

Kim: I really appreciate that.

Danny: Love it. Thank you so much, Kim. And thanks for wiping with us.

Kim: Love it. Bye.

Danny: Cheers. Bye.

Kim: Bye.

Kim: Links in show notes

Phil: To get in touch with us email and thanks for all the feedback from those enjoying these episodes while we temporarily hit pause on creating our destination episodes.

Kim: Next episode affiliate partners Becca and Dan from Half Half Travel


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