To transform usage,
start with user experience.

With the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Firmenich
India, China, Kenya, South Africa

In many low-income urban communities, toilet usage is a misunderstood and critical issue with impacts across security, gender, incomes and health. Risky practices, such as open defecation, can be more widespread than the use of “safe” toilets. If every day millions choose a more dangerous solution, there must be good reason. Archipel&co worked with Firmenich and the Bill & Melinda Gate Foundation in four countries to understand, document and quantify the role of cleanliness and malodour in the daily sanitary decisions of low-income urban residents.


Understand the barriers,
test solutions.

Are stinky toilets deadly? They are if malodour reduces toilet use and drives people to defecate in the open. What impact might an innovative odour technology have by encouraging the use of available toilets?

Archipel&Co designed and delivered a study in ten low-income settlements across India, China, Kenya and South Africa to better understand how malodour technology, developed by Firmenich, could encourage low-income urban residents to adopt safer sanitation practices.


We used our inclusive market research methodology, Community Voices. We trained and employed young adults from disadvantaged communities to interview their peers, an approach proven to deliver more accurate and differentiated data, as well as income creation and a valuable international experience for young professionals. The study provided strong evidence and quantified the positive impact of improved odour and cleanliness on sanitary behaviours.
Up to 81% of users reported a bad experience using community toilets. Bad odour and lack of cleanliness were consistently cited as the number one problem with these facilities.
Between 31 and 64% of respondents do not use the toilets provided and instead opt for practices such as open defecation. Most justify this by citing the poor conditions of the sanitary facilities provided (bad odours, lack of cleanliness and waiting time were the leading problems).

When toilets are clean and treated with Firmenich's odour control technology, around 35% of people with unsafe sanitary practices said they would be willing to start using the facilities, and up to 70% of existing users said they would be willing to pay more (from already stretch domestic budgets) for access to a better toilet. In addition to these declarative responses, we executed a 6-month test to observe the change in user behaviour in real-life conditions: it showed a 16% increase in traffic in the toilets that had been treated with the technology.
Archipel&Co continues to work with Firmenich and other partners to investigate this issue further, in order to help solve the global sanitation crisis and deliver SDG 6.

Key figures

5 600 people interviewed at 10 sites.

81% Up to 81% of users report having had a bad experience
when using a community toilet.

Bad odours are consistently cited
as the main problem with community toilets.

+16%increased traffic in community toilets cleaned
and treated against bad odours.