How a water filter company turns a profit while helping Central America’s poor.
Like many social enterprises, Ecofiltro started out wanting to help the rural poor in Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America get access to clean water without much thought to making money. The company makes a water filtration device that families could use to purify their water instead of having to boil it. But CEO Philip Wilson soon realized that changing the entity into a for-profit company actually helped him realize his social goals. In part, he decided not to look at the rural poor as objects of pity for whom help is limited by the extent of donations – the typical template of the area’s NGOs and foundations – but rather as potential clients of a financially sustainable business. Ecofiltro’s strategy was to start selling to the relatively better off urban residents and using profits from this market to subsidize an installment payment plan for the rural poor. Ecofiltro is now profitable and expanding in the region.
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