Canadians Deliver Clean Water to Kenyan Village

By Sarah Au, senior brand manager – Clorox Canada

When I joined Clorox Canada and began my career in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry six years ago, I’d have called you crazy if you told me my job would bring me to a remote village in Kenya and a pet goat.

But that’s exactly what happened.

I named my goat “Maji Safi”, which means “clean water” in Swahili. She was a gift from the kind people of Irkaat, Kenya.

Sarah Au of Clorox Canada with her pet goat, Maji Safi.

Selling filters, changing the world

Most of us graduate and want to change the world — immediately. I know I did.

I also believed big change starts small, so it would take time to be able to implement real, sustainable change. Then I realized that as a marketer in the CPG industry, I touch millions of people who use our products every day.

That inspired me to push our Brita brand in Canada to stand for something bigger, to have an ambitious purpose. That purpose is clean water, not just in Canada, but everywhere.

And so our Brita® Filter for Good program was born. I call the model “Purchase with a Purpose.” Basically, every specially marked Brita purchase provided one year of clean water to someone in Kenya. No longer was it about one person trying to change the world herself. Brita Canada, in partnership with Me to We, had empowered other Canadians to help change someone else’s life for the better.

After just one year, Canadians have paid to build a borehole in Irkaat, Kenya, simply by purchasing Brita products. This borehole — essentially a well that taps into the local aquifer — has given more than 55,400 Kenyans access to clean water.

Watch this video to learn more about our Filter for Good program and how we’re helping one village in Kenya.

The residents or Irkaat, Kenya, celebrate their new village borehole.

Show, don’t tell, the importance of clean water

The United Nations has called access to clean water a basic human right. It’s something many of us in the developed world take for granted.

That’s why the Brita brand decided to travel to Irkaat, Kenya, to share personal stories of how access to clean water is changing lives.

I knew Beatrice Mutai, a 13-year-old from Irkaat, Kenya, was the perfect person to tell this story to Canadians.

Before we built the borehole in Irkaat, Beatrice couldn’t go to school. She was one of the many young girls who spent up to eight hours every day hauling vats of water weighing over 40 pounds each 10 km. from the nearest water source, and she made this journey twice a day. Since digging the borehole, which we located next to the village school in Irkaat, Beatrice and girls like her are able to go to school.

We brought her powerful story to life in a Virtual Reality experience and 360-degree video. We built a booth in a popular mall in Toronto, enabling Beatrice to tell her story directly to millions of Canadians, showing them the impact their everyday purchase decisions can have.

Watch the 360-degree video and hear Beatrice’s story.

A scene from the Brita Filter for Good 360-degree video featuring Beatrice, a girl from Irkaat, Kenya.

Small choices, big impact

Big change starts small.

For Beatrice and her friends and neighbors, the life-changing arrival of a clean water source started with everyday Canadians buying a Brita product.

For me, I have Beatrice, the community of Irkaat and the Clorox Company of Canada to thank for not only injecting purpose into our brand, but also into my life.

The day I spent in Irkaat — meeting the young girls who can now go to school because they no longer spend eight hours every day hauling water, receiving my pet goat “Maji Safi”, taking a drink from the borehole Brita Canada made happen — is the most important day of my life to date.

And based on the success of Filter for Good’s first year, Brita Canada has already committed to a second borehole project.

This is just the beginning.

This project taught me that doing the right thing for the greater good, for the business, for your consumers and for yourself can sometimes be one and the same. And that people like me and you can ignite real change, right here, right now.

See how we brought Beatrice’s story to life for Canadians:

Watch the 360-degree video here

Young Kenyan girls collect water at a source 10 km. from the village of Irkaat.

Sarah Au watching the borehole being drilled.