iDE Global

Press Release: Hydrologic wins Unilever Global Development Award - 17 Jul 2018

Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Awards 2018

July 17, 2018


CONTACT: KC Koch, iDE Director of Global Communications,

Denver, CO — On Tuesday 3rd July at the Business in the Community awards dinner, Iain Hunter, Chief Executive, iDE UK accepted the Unilever Global Development Award (Small Business) on behalf of Hydrologic, an iDE Cambodia social enterprise. The award was presented by Sue Garrard, Unilever’s EVP Sustainable Business Development & Communication. Over the past 14 years, Hydrologic has sold more than 500,000 ceramic water filters contributing to a 46% reduction in diarrhoea cases, and a 460,000 tonne reduction in CO2 emissions. 

Sue said, “we were especially impressed with the submission from Hydrologic. It was outstanding in every way, demonstrated great energy, and was very well evidenced”.

When she heard the news of the award, Hydrologic’s CEO Rachel Pringle said,” I am delighted to be able to share this news with the Hydrologic team here in Cambodia, this prestigious award acknowledges their valuable contribution to achieving extraordinary health and economic impacts for families across the country.”

Rural Cambodia suffers from lack of access to good quality drinking water and has no centralised system to deliver it. Most Cambodians have to collect water and purify it by boiling it. Poor families face extra fuel costs – and the world has increased CO2 emissions as the result of burning firewood.

Hydrologic makes, distributes, and sells ceramic water purifiers (CWPs), or filters, to customers in rural Cambodia so that they can remove any bacteria in the water, eliminating the need to boil it. “Our objective is to deliver products that provide high social, environmental, and economic benefits to rural Cambodian households. The more successful we are at implementing our business plan, the more positive impact is created,” says Michael Roberts, Chairman of the Hydrologic Board.

Hydrologic started life as a donor-funded iDE Global program. It has since been transformed into a commercial enterprise that blends commercial and social objectives to deliver positive impact without relying on grants. It has proved that, under the right circumstances, the creation of a social enterprise is very much a viable option for NGOs and other development agencies to achieve goals of scale and sustainability.

By owning a water filter, families spend less time and money collecting wood, reducing their healthcare costs, and boost their productivity. The overall monetary savings are estimated at over $70 a year per household. The environmental benefits arise from 78% of users reporting less exposure to harmful smoke and, on average, households using 730kg less wood. The local production and distribution of CWPs generates rural employment with a decent living wage, providing opportunities for Hydrologic staff and others in the supply chain dealing with the ‘last mile.’ Dozens of micro and small rural enterprises across Cambodia are involved in the trade of water filters, including retailers, distributors, transporters, and suppliers of filter production inputs.

Hydrologic’s rigorous documentation of the carbon savings led to their certification by the Gold Standard and the issuance of premium carbon credits that Hydrologic sells on the carbon market. Consumers can purchase small quantities of Hydrologic carbon credits on Gold Standard’s online marketplace.

To ensure water filters are accessible and affordable to all, Hydrologic has also developed a simple financing solution to let people pay for the filters in installments. Since introducing the plan in 2014, more than 72,000 filters have been sold on these terms, with 84% of these customers falling below the international $5/day poverty line.

Over and above its recent award, Hydrologic is a real success story. During the last 14 years, the $2.5 million it has received in grants to turn it from a concept into a commercial entity has delivered over $100 million in financial value for rural Cambodian families. However, there are more than 600 million people globally that are still without access to decent drinking water, including 4 million in Cambodia. There’s still a lot more to achieve.

About Hydrologic

Hydrologic is a for-profit company that manufactures, distributes, and sells water filters to rural customers in Cambodia. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of iDE, Hydrologic is certified to generate and sell carbon credits. The sale of Gold Standard carbon credits enables Hydrologic to continue researching and developing purifier technology and to train local producers and distributors, thus scaling up its positive impact. 

About iDE

Formed by life entrepreneur Paul Polak in 1982, iDE uses the power of business to solve poverty. Working in agriculture; water, sanitation, and hygiene; and access to finance, iDE creates opportunities for low-income people to form businesses and support market solutions that bring transformational products and services to people living on less than $2 per day.

iDE is a 501(c)3 organization based in Denver, Colorado with offices in London, England and Winnipeg, Canada. It operates programs in eleven countries—five in Africa (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, and Zambia), four in Asia (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, and Vietnam), and two in Central America (Honduras and Nicaragua). With a current operating budget of $30 million, iDE has 1,100 staff, 96 percent of whom live in the countries they support and 93 percent of whom are citizens of those nations.