Through the use of humor, Jack Sim of Singapore broke the global taboo on discussion of toilets, sanitation, and cleanliness, and brought them to the global stage. After attaining financial independence as a businessman at the age of 40, he decided to devote the rest of his life to development work around the issue of sanitation.
Jack established the Restroom Association of Singapore in 1998, which addresses the state of dirty public toilets due to their poor design, building codes and poorly trained cleaners. Realizing the need for a global body on the subject, Jack created the World Toilet Organization (WTO - worldtoilet.org) in 2001 as an international network and service platform for toilet associations, academia, government, UN agencies and toilet stakeholders to learn from one another and leverage media and corporate support that could influence governments to promote sound sanitation and public health policies. The World Toilet Summit series has been hosted in Bangkok, Beijing, Belfast, Durban, Hainan, Macau, Moscow, New Delhi, Philadelphia, Seoul, Singapore, Shanghai, and Taipei.
Today, the WTO is a growing network of 235 organizations in 58 countries. The WTO declared its founding day on November 19, 2001 as World Toilet Day, which is celebrated annually worldwide and is geared toward improving the state of toilets and sanitation. WTO also has a commitment through former president Bill Clinton with the Clinton Global Initiatives to promote market-based sanitation in 2008 and also in 2011to launch the BOP HUB, a global business platform for the poverty marketplace geared towards customers at the base of the pyramid.
Jack founded the World Toilet College in 2005, which is a joint venture with Singapore Polytechnic and provides high quality training in topics related to toilet design, maintenance, and sanitation. He also successfully lobbied in 2005 for “potty parity” and changed Singapore’s building codes to add cubicles to ladies’ restrooms in order to prevent lines from forming. The United States Congress passed a similar law in 2010.
He also developed a SaniShop franchise model in order to train the poor how to produce and sell small affordable sanitation systems below $40 per family with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Lien Foundation, Unilever and the Singapore Economic Development Board. To date, SaniShop has sold 24,000 toilets in Cambodia and is expanding to India, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
To improve his impact on sanitation, Jack studied at various international institutions, including the Norway University of Life Science and the Harvard Business School. He also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in International Marketing from University of Strathclyde.
In 2007, Jack became one of the key members to convene the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance, which is comprised of key players for sanitation. Member organizations include UN-Habitat, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank, the World Sanitation Financing Facility and several other international groups working together to improve sanitation for all. He heads its Asian Secretariat in Singapore.
Jack has received numerous awards over the years for his work, including the Social Entrepreneur of the Year, awarded by Schwab Foundation of Switzerland in 2006. He is also a Schwab Fellow of the World Economic Forum. The Asian Development Bank named him an ADB Water Champion, while Time magazine named him Hero of the Environment in 2008 and Channel News Asia named him Asian of the Year in 2009. In 2011, he was named an Asian of the Year by Reader’s Digest magazine.