What happens when a company empowers its associates to think creatively and innovate with a social purpose? You find yourself with a potent strategic framework for solving for some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.
Innovation for Good at Kohler began in 2011 as an internal incubator for employees eager to find ways to innovate in response to global challenges. Today, what started as a grassroots effort has been formalized into an essential company business unit composed of engineers, marketers and designers working collectively to find new business opportunities that not only benefit the bottom line, but also leave the world a better place.
The success of Innovation for Good is in the ideas and passions of Kohler associates. To further empower associates to share and develop ideas, Kohler established the Innovation for Good I-Prize competition, where employees and/or teams develop products, technologies, and business models that address a social need. Each team pitches ideas to a panel of judges in a “Shark Tank”-style competition. Winning ideas get incubation funding to further develop their concepts with the goal of commercialization. Since 2018, I-Prize teams have tackled issues from safe water and sanitation to industrial waste recycling and hygiene. Such themes are driven by the UN's Sustainability Development Goals to create the greatest social impact. As the I-Prize celebrates its fourth year, the focus is on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, given the urgent need to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Innovation for Good has also delivered products and services that are being deployed around the world. Four notable outcomes include:
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Kohler WasteLAB, which turns landfill-bound waste into beautiful tiles for the home
Kohler Relief Trailer, which provides portable showers to people in crisis — such as in New York City during COVID-19, and Los Angeles for people experiencing homelessness
Intelligent Power System, which powers water filtration sites with a combination of solar energy and generator power; it has been used by Water Mission at a water filtration site in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and in refugee camps in Uganda
Kohler pour-flush toilet, which provides a safe latrine option for communities lacking plumbing infrastructure
Innovation for Good serves as a model for what is possible when you align business goals with the urgent need to protect our environment and humanity. This is especially true when you consider Kohler’s commitment to Believing in Better, which is the company’s strategic lens for making decisions and developing programs that address some of the world’s greatest challenges. To learn more about this program, visit Innovation for Good.