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Toto Ltd. is the world's largest toilet manufacturer. In 2002, they created the Tornado Flush, which uses 62% less water per flush (3.8 liters per flush as opposed to the standard 10 liters) saving billions of gallons of water globally each year.
When TOTO was founded in 1917 in Kitakyushu, Japan, its founder Kazuchika Okura had a vision to improve “people’s lives and protect the environment for a thriving future.” Best known for their WASHLET bidet seats and high-efficiency toilets, TOTO ensures that every product they develop has the SDGs in mind, even posting them on the corporation’s website. That is precisely why they created TORNADO FLUSH technology for their water-efficient toilets. TOTO’s TORNADO FLUSH system utilizes two powerful nozzles on either side of the bowl that release high-speed water streams, creating vigorous centrifugal action that effectively removes waste and keeps the bowl cleaner by providing 360-degree rinsing action for the rim. TOTO’s TORNADO FLUSH technology is more effective in one flush than most toilets are with multiple flushes.
The TORNADO FLUSH system uses 3.8 liters per flush rather than the standard 10 liters, 62% less water than a traditional toilet. “We’re really, quite honestly, a water company,” confesses Bill Strang, the President of Corporate Strategy, eCommerce, and Customer Experience for TOTO USA. “We manage and effectively utilize water to remove waste and support the way that people use the bathroom.” Considering the company’s global reach and that WASHLET sales surpassed 50 million worldwide by 2019, combined with TOTO’s TORNADO flushing system saves billions of gallons of water each year. “As we bring these technologies to the marketplace, the opportunity to improve people’s lives by improving hygiene with the use of less water makes that product more available and impactful in parts of the world where water is very scarce,” Strang says. “It is absolutely changing fundamentally the way people think about the bathroom and the way they go to the bathroom.”
Water jettisons from the side of the bowl to provide efficient waster removal using less water than traditional toilets.
“TOTO realized many, many years ago in order to live the life and the ethic we have as a corporation and as a business, in the words of Kazuchika Okura, our founder, ‘we want to make sure that we take care of the resources of the world,’” Strang states. TOTO knew decades ago that for them to survive as a business, they needed to have sustainable practices. “We recognized early on that conservation of resources is an important part and a basic foundation for the business.”
“It is so, so important that as we look at these SDGs. TOTO has a very important part to play in making sure that conservation -- resource consumption/depletion -- is mitigated. In addition, the use of improved products that help people live better are all fundamental to our ethics and part of the business,” Strang emphasizes. Whether they are thinking of droughts in the USA, or countries without developed sewage systems with toilet infrastructure, TOTO carefully considers the effect of their actions and products. “It is important for TOTO to recognize the long-term impacts that we can have on overall resource consumption by bringing these products to the marketplace.
“Obviously, the overall impact is water conservation and a more hygienic trip to the toilet,” Strang affirms. “When you start thinking about SDGs and those sustainable goals, one of the very important aspects of that is not only overall water consumption and the reduction of that user’s water consumption, but it’s also about reducing the kinds of diseases you get from being exposed to various water-borne illnesses,” Strang tells us, citing SDG #6. Water-borne diseases are prevalent in areas where the infrastructure is still developing and sewage systems have yet to be completed, making the TORNADO FLUSH toilets an option for developing nations.
Strang continues, “What is most interesting is that the most impactful consumptive resource of all for the toilet is not in the transportation of the clay to the factory or the manufacturing processes’ use of the kiln, or the transportation to the home. It’s actually in the use phase in the home and the water that is consumed.” This makes lowering the amount of water consumption in toilets the most important design feature. Strang, an industrial engineer, understands this and has this key feature in mind when designing new products. Lowering water consumption could allow millions of people around the world to have access to clean, sanitary toilets, something that previously has been unattainable, especially in areas where water is scarce, such as parts of Africa, India, and the Middle East. A sanitation solution that uses a fraction of the water as other options could be revolutionary for these parts of the world.
Sustainable innovation has certainly benefited TOTO’s bottom line. According to its annual report, in fiscal 2020, TOTO saw $5.47 billion in annual sales (as of March 2020). This is largely due to the sale of tens of millions of WASHLETs equipped with their water-saving technology. “We have confidence in our product. We have confidence in our innovation,” says Strang. TOTO has publicly stated that they have plans to expand to new markets in India and other places where flushing toilets and sewage have not yet spread, and they hope the expansion will be as well-received as it was in the US market. “What we’ve seen is the uptake and the consumption of that product at all price points that TOTO offers has been very good in the United States,” explains Strang. “We are rewarded by consumers buying our products at a very good rate right now.” The interest in their water-saving flushing innovation has been unexpectedly high. For example, when TOTO goes to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to showcase their TORNADO flush toilets and WASHLETS, they get surprising interest from attendees. “We’re competing with VR goggles, self-driving vehicles, and mirrors that tell you how to dress, and yet attendees line up to talk to us about our product innovations,” Strang enthusiastically recalls.
TOTO’s success has allowed them to offer all of their workers affordable healthcare and a 401(k), which has drawn in a very diverse workforce. At the US factory, they have 40 nationalities and speak seven languages on the factory floor; something Strang describes as “a wonderful place to work.” He continues, “They can have confidence and pride that the product that they’re building, that toilet that they’re producing that day, is tomorrow going to be in someone’s home helping them reduce their consumption of water.” Strang says.
TOTO is focused on “improving society through the work that they do,” according to Strang. Even the electricity of their factory is completely from solar power. TOTO measures the impact of everything they do, including the carbon footprint of a toilet. The TORNADO FLUSH WASHLET+ bidet toilets offer front and rear cleansing, a very rare sight in the USA. “Not only does that allow you to be cleaner, but it also has the opportunity to reduce the consumption of toilet paper,” Strang tells us. “This is so, so important,” he says, not only for reducing water consumption “but also in the consumption of forests and trees required to produce toilet paper.”
TOTO has measured and vetted their practices with the National Energy Renewable Laboratories and subsequently uses this data to take the water consumption down to the lowest possible level. They also analyze the materials used in making the toilet and reduce the materials that are more impactful and problematic. When TOTO found through their Health Product Declarations that a particular material had a negative impact, they took swift action. “In the manufacturing process, if your burn it, it causes toxic and noxious gases and is very hazardous. We’ve removed that from material from our product offering.” Strang proudly tells us.
The sense of pride that Strang feels working for a company so intensely focused on the SDGs is clearly evident. “We all need to have a purpose in our life. If we have a purpose that is overarching … that gives me the confidence that I am doing the right kinds of things to be impactful in the world.”
Bill Strang, President of Corporate Strategy, eCommerce, and Customer Experience
TOTO is the world's largest toilet manufacturer. TOTO has always embraced technology, pursued the highest levels of cleanliness, incorporated high aesthetic standards, protected the environment, and worked to improve people’s lifestyles. TOTO has become the world standard of excellence.