Vestergaard Frandsen (VF) is a for-profit company that operates under a humanitarian entrepreneurship business model. Committed to supporting the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, VF creates and deploys technologies designed to improve the health of people at the base of the socioeconomic pyramid. The company’s leading products include PermaNet long-lasting insecticidal nets and LifeStraw water filters.
VF was convinced that its LifeStraw Family product could make an immediate and significant difference in addressing the safe water needs of households in developing countries. The challenge was how to make it affordable for its target audience. VF considered seeking donor funding to subsidize the product’s cost. However, it had repeatedly observed the fickle nature of philanthropic funding for point-of-use safe water programs.
While VF considered its options, CEO Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen decided to launch an integrated campaign to help prevent the spread of malaria, diarrheal disease, and HIV in Western Kenya. Participants were offered HIV counseling and testing services, as well as a free preventative CarePack that included condoms, an insecticide-treated bed net, and a household water filter. Working in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, VF preceded the launch with six weeks of radio ads and road show presentations, collateral distribution, and public health education in order to inform, prepare, and mobilize the community. In total, the campaign reached more than 80 percent of the target population (nearly 50,000 people) within a single week.
Witnessing the success of the program, the Kenyan government asked VF to scale it up across the Western Province. However, identifying traditional forms of funding for point-of-use water filters at scale remained a challenge. This mini-case study describes how VF eventually came up with the idea of linking carbon finance to providing safe water at the household level as a mechanism for ensuring sustainable funding for a public health intervention. It also explores the challenges the company addressed in setting up its Carbon for Water program.
This story is part of the Global Health Innovation Insight Series developed at Stanford University to shed light on the challenges that global health innovators face as they seek to develop and implement new products and services that address needs in resource-constrained settings.
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Meryl Radar and Alison Hill of VF for their participation. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant 1 RC4 TW008781-01.