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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Quenching Thirst in Guatemala One Family at a Time

To prepare for this year's Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO) competition, we're catching up with some of our favorite entrepreneurial ventures from competitions past ...

One of the most difficult areas of the world to find uncontaminated drinking water is in rural Guatemala. Seattle-based start-up Ecofiltro has created a simple filter to provide clean drinking water, employing local artisans and potters to manufacture the product. Selling for only US$2, the filter provides an affordable, life-saving service for some of the world’s poorest, and engages and revitalizes the local economy through job creation. When the Ecofiltro reaches its end-of-life, the product is 100 percent biodegradable.

“I always thought contaminated water was a big problem in countries like Guatemala and a limiting factor in helping rural families grow out of poverty,” said Philip Wilson, CEO of Ecofiltro. “I found Ecofiltro to be the right product that was culturally accepted and would be used on a massive basis if it was delivered sustainably to rural populations.”

“There are billions of consumers at the bottom of the pyramid and if you have the right product or service at the right price that will provide value for the poorest of the poor then you can make money and do good at the same time. These traits are not mutually exclusive,” he added.

The company breaks free of the charity-centric approach to international development by creating a sustainable business model benefiting all involved parties. Rather than just give away the filters for free, families invest in the product and take ownership over their previous water problem.

Ecofiltro won the 2012 SB Innovation Open after presenting its offering to a group of social and sustainability investors, executives from leading companies, top brand consultants and their peers. As part of the perks of victory, the company was awarded a free pass to a future Sustainable Brands conference and consultancy time with investors, designers and communications professionals.

Sustainable Brands ’13 will unite the brand, sustainability and design communities at Paradise Point in San Diego, CA, on June 3-6.