The Index Project,
Impact Stories: LifeStraw
The life-saving device that instantly cleans contaminated water

It was an iconic moment back in 2005 when we witnessed the Mayor of Copenhagen, Lars Engberg, in his grey suit, scoop up a glass of water from the harbour, pull out a LifeStraw and take a big gulp. A moment that illustrated the great potential of LifeStraw — access to clean water, anywhere. 

Currently, there are approximately 800 million people worldwide that suffer from waterborne diseases, and as a result, close to 6,000 people die every day. The LifeStraw, designed by Vestergaard to combat this staggering figure, can filter out or kill 99.99% of bacteria, parasites, and viruses found in dirty water.

"Winning [The Index Award] was the jump-start for us to do a lot of good because we got a lot of recognition and that led to scale," says Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, Owner of Vestergaard, behind the LifeStraw.

Since its launch, LifeStraw has undoubtedly delivered on its mission of making safe water a human right. To date, millions of LifeStraws have been distributed all over the world, making the distinctive blue cylinder one of the most recognisable, life-changing products. So much so that last year on Amazon's Prime Day, the LifeStraw was the number one selling product in the US. 

But, it's not just about sales, it's about the impact, stresses Vestergaard Frandsen. "LifeStraw was designed for the most vulnerable, for the girl that walks for hours to get clean water instead of going to school."

"LifeStraw was designed for the most vulnerable, for the girl that walks for hours to get clean water instead of going to school."

For every LifeStraw product sold, a child receives safe water for an entire school year. By the end of 2019, the company had provided over 3.3 million children with a year of safe water. But the Give Back program is more than just dropping off water filters; it ensures sustainability through education and follow-up visits.

LifeStraw has also proven to be essential when natural disasters strike, which often leave communities without the most essential elements of shelter, food and clean water. The company works to be on the ground within the first 72 hours to deliver LifeStraw Family and Community purifiers to displaced families in shelters and camps. To date, they've supported communities hit by the 2019 hurricane in Puerto Rico, the 2016 Ecuador earthquake, the 2011 Thailand floods, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and many, many more.

According to Vestergaard Fransen, LifeStraw is also planning to improve their support for indigenous communities. "This isn't because they're the most vulnerable people, but they're typically based where the world's natural resources are the most vulnerable."

"It touches you knowing that you're part of offering dignity, health and an ability to go to school without being burdened by disease."

With strong social impact models in place, LifeStraw is also looking to scale up on their environmental impact. In 2019 alone, they took an estimated 51 million single-use plastic bottles out of circulation, as their products are designed to remove the need for single-use plastic water bottles. Now, LifeStraw is looking to close the loop with the plastic used in the LifeStraw products. "We're making massive investments into using ocean plastic for our casing and packaging — that's a focus of ours; net-positive contribution to this planet."

For Vestergaard Frandsen, the journey of LifeStraw has fulfilled both professional and personal ambitions. "Everything I've done the last 30 years has been about combining doing business and doing good," he explains. "LifeStaw is designed for the most vulnerable, but it reaches globally and goes to a significant scale. That's unique for the private sector — I want to beat this drum as much as I can and let everybody know there's a huge role for private companies to do good."

"LifeStraw really touches all of us who are involved," continues Vestergaard Fransen. "It touches you knowing that you're part of offering dignity, health and an ability to go to school without being burdened by disease." 

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The Impact Story series features past Index Award alumni journeys and is proudly sponsored by Laerdal Global Health, winners of Index Award 2013 for The Natalie Collection.