In April and May, 2011, more than 877,500 LifeStraw® Family water filters were distributed to approximately 90% of all households in the Western Province of Kenya. The distribution program, called LifeStraw® Carbon for Water, is providing four nearly an entire community of 4.5 million residents with quick access to safe drinking water at home.
The program is led and solely funded by Vestergaard Frandsen (VF), a Swiss-based company that specializes in disease control textiles, including LifeStraw® Family water filters, in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation. VF’s expenses are being reimbursed by carbon financing. This funding model gives companies in developed countries potential revenue, in the form of carbon credits, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. Carbon credits can then be sold to carbon credit buyers that want to reduce their carbon footprint or improve their environmental stewardship. The revenue generated, in large part, will be re-invested into the program to make it sustainable over a 10-year period.
In the "LifeStraw® Carbon for Water" program, residents in Kenya who receive LifeStraw® Family water filters no longer have to treat water by boiling it using wood, which generate greenhouse gases. This behavioral change is expected to produce more than two million tons of carbon emission reductions annually. After the first six months, 1.4 million tons were produced.
As the supplier of the water filters and implementer of the program, Vestergaard Frandsen earns the carbon credits. Since the company only gets paid for performance (i.e., emissions reduced) it has a strong incentive to invest the revenue it earns back into the program – to maintain and replenish the LifeStraw® Family water filters and to educate residents on proper and consistent usage. The program is ambitious and visionary. It is eight times larger than any other registered project in the Gold Standard voluntary market. It is also the first that directly links low-carbon development with access to safe drinking water and positively impacting health outcomes.
The goal of the LifeStraw® Carbon for Water program is to provide a sustainable point-of-use solution to the water problem that plagues more than 1.2 billion people lacking access to clean drinking water, most of whom live in developing countries. LifeStraw® Family water filters purify water in the home. The instant microbiological filter delivers at least 18,000 liters of U.S. EPA quality drinking water, enough to supply a family of five with cleaning drinking water for at least three years.
The Western Province of Kenya was chosen in collaboration with the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation to implement this unique program because it builds on previously successful integrated health initiatives and is representative of other markets that would benefit from this type of program. LifeStraw® Family water filters were given to nearly all residents in the communities of the Western Province of Kenya. Vestergaard Frandsen will repair or replace the filters when needed, at no charge, for a period of at least ten years.
Role of Carbon Financing
Each emission reduction credit represents one ton of carbon dioxide not emitted into the atmosphere. The carbon credits can then be traded in the marketplace, and are mainly sold to carbon credit buyers that want to reduce their carbon footprint or improve their environmental stewardship.
There are two types of carbon credits. Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) are predominantly for the mandatory compliance market. These are regulated under obligations included in the Kyoto Protocol which exists within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Another type of carbon credits, called Voluntary Emission Reductions (VERs), are generated for voluntary markets. The "Carbon for Water" program is registered and will be regulated as a voluntary project. In February, 2011, following a rigorous validation process, Vestergaard Frandsen obtained approval for the "Carbon for Water" program from the Voluntary Gold Standard. This is one of the leading international certification systems for VERs and it only accepts renewable and end-use energy efficiency projects that actively promote sustainable development.
Start-Up and Sustainability
Up to 877,500 LifeStraw® Family units were distributed to 90% of all households in the Western Province of Kenya. Distribution took place over a six week period in April and May, 2011. Through a province-wide door-to-door program, LifeStraw® Family water filters were installed in homes without access to safe municipal water sources. This distribution is coupled with training and education for the recipients.
Monitoring by an accredited independent auditor takes place every six months to verify use of the filters and emissions reductions. The auditor verifies that the emission reductions are accurate, and carbon credits are issued after each verification.
The program is led and solely funded by Vestergaard Frandsen and is estimated to cost approximately USD $30 million. Annually, the program should produce more than two million tons of carbon emission reductions. The company sells the credits from these reductions to recoup its initial investment and sustain the program.
Carbon credit financing is set up as a pay-for-performance business model whereby revenue is only obtained if the technology works and the project achieves carbon emission reductions. To make sure that the water filters are operating effectively, Vestergaard Frandsen has established 32 repair and replacement service centers, one in every district. These maintenance shops employ several hundred local people and ensure all units are functioning, at no charge to the end user, throughout the duration of the project.
- Carbon emission reductions from the LifeStraw® Carbon for Water program are estimated to total more than two million tons per year.
- The program is the first water project to be registered in the voluntary market. In 2011, it was larger than any other project registered in the Gold Standard market.
- This is one of the largest water treatment program ever done without government or public-sector funding, and it is the first that directly links low-carbon development with health outcomes.
- The LifeStraw® Carbon for Water program and sustained project will impact four of the eight UN Millennium Goals including: Goal 4-reduce child mortality; Goal 5-improve maternal health; Goal 6-combat diseases; and Goal 7-ensure environmental sustainability.
- The program is aligned with the U.S. strategy for meeting the MDGs which states that successful programs must address the need for sustainable development and create a strong link between cost-effective investment and measurable impact.
- Eight thousand Kenyans were employed during start-up, and several thousand are being employed during twice annual monitoring, education and maintenance activities.
- This program is a direct investment in public health, women and girls, and the future of Kenya.
Vestergaard Frandsen developed the LifeStraw® Carbon for Water program with support from Manna Energy Limited, a social enterprise that works to make markets more accessible for humanitarian development projects. The company also received ongoing collaborative support from the United Nations Development Programme.
Vestergaard Frandsen (VF) is a Swiss -based company specializing in disease control products. VF operates under a unique Humanitarian Entrepreneurship business model. This "profit for a purpose" approach has turned corporate social responsibility into its core business of creating life-saving products for the developing world.
Strong support of the MDGs, particularly reducing child mortality and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and reducing the number of people without access to safe drinking water, is a defining characteristic of the company. Its products are designed to prevent waterborne, vector-borne and neglected tropical diseases. The company has also turned its commitment into action by innovating technological breakthroughs and health service delivery models for the most vulnerable people on earth.