Market-based approaches

Market-based sanitation (MBS) approaches stimulate the private sector to increase the supply of, and demand for, improved sanitation and hygiene (S&H) products and services.

They aim to give customers access to options that are both desirable and affordable whilst ensuring sustainable business models. Successful MBS initiatives are those which work with government and identify and tackle barriers to whole market systems rather than individual components of these.

Strong context analysis and formative research is essential. Like all approaches, MBS will not be successful in every context and investment and support over years is needed to achieve sustainability.

Factors that contribute to the success of MBS include:

  • Community size and population density: areas with large and dense populations provide a bigger pool of potential customers for businesses, helping keep prices low.
  • Existing supply chains, materials and skills: S&H businesses that can use existing supply chains, materials and skills can be developed or grown more easily and cost effectively.
  • Consumers’ ability and willingness to pay: the products and services offered by sanitation businesses must be both desirable and affordable for consumers.
  • Enabling environment: supportive government policies which encourage people to invest in improved sanitation, support business development and trade, and do not give free hardware away all help support the success of sanitation businesses.

As with all S&H approaches, everyone across an area needs to be reached to achieve health benefits of improved sanitation and diverse people must be able to participate in and benefit from sanitation markets.

However, to date few MBS initiatives have be scaled successfully and their ability to reach and benefit the poorest and most vulnerable is uncertain. It is therefore important to consider to combining MBS approaches with community-based approaches and financing approaches to improve people’s purchasing power.

MBS approaches include sanitation marketing, sanitation as a business, and developing markets for sanitation/market shaping. Incorporation of participatory methods such as participatory design and human centred design can also be helpful for supporting S&H businesses to develop appropriate, affordable and desirable products and services for local customers.