Ethical Shopping

How The Soap Co. provide opportunities for people with disabilities

The Soap Co. sell environmentally-friendly products, produced by people with disabilities – buy from The Big Issue Shop

When was The Soap Co. set up?

The Soap Co. was launched in September 2015 as an ethical luxury brand of products that are good and do good. However, The Soap Co. is part of a long tradition of social enterprise stretching back to 1854 when CLARITY Employment for Blind People, the organisation behind The Soap Co., was set up.

Where did the original idea come from?

The idea came from a recognition of a positive shift on the part of both consumers and businesses towards ethical brands. People are taking an increasing interest in the where, how and why behind the brands that they buy. The Soap Co. was launched in response to this – a beautiful range of products, minimalist in design with a powerful social and environmental mission.

What makes you a social enterprise?

We are a social enterprise, providing opportunities for people who are visually impaired, have disabilities or are otherwise disadvantaged, who manufacture, pack, sell and distribute our soap products with care. All our profits go back into the organisation so we can create even more jobs.

There doesn’t need to be a trade-off between beautiful design, quality products and a social mission

We measure our impact through the number of employment days generated, and the workplace and life skills training delivered. We recognise that the benefits of employment are significantly more than the income our staff gain from working. Our longer term social outcomes include increased confidence, independence and social inclusion; professional upskilling; health improvements; and reduced burden on family and social services. These outcomes are measured qualitatively through staff interviews and assessments with partner organisations in the context of DWP’s Work Choice programme. The following provides a snapshot of our 2015 impact:

  • 11,250 employment days
  • 64 new jobs created (46 in London, 11 in Cumbria, 7 in Portsmouth)
  • 49 people bought back into employment after a period of unemployment lasting at least 6 months
  • 28 people moved onto “mainstream” employment
What about your ethics?

All our products are made in the UK with natural extracts, added vitamins and are colour- and paraben-free. We never test our products on animals and we’re always striving to reduce our impact on the environment. Environmentally, we are inspired by the philosophy of the Circular Economy 100 to design with more thought. The Soap Co. brand was created with the support of many award-winning designers and suppliers that share our values – there doesn’t need to be a trade-off between beautiful design, quality products and a social mission.

Among these are Paul Belford’s design team who have worked with other leading ethical businesses including bottled-water business Belu. Our bottles are made from 25% recycled milk bottles, with almost 50% less impact on the environment than regular PET bottles; they are also refillable. The bar soap packaging is plastic-free using instead recycled and recyclable paper. The soap stickers are made by BioTAK, the market leader in sustainability in the UK, and are fully compostable. The biofilms, which wrap the soaps, are also fully compostable and made by Innovia Films. Finally, the glue used in the packaging is non-toxic and biodegradable.

The Soap Co. Citrus Hand Lotion
What is your most popular product?

Our soap bars are soon to be our most popular product – soap bars are making a comeback! The black poppy and wild fig contains naturally exfoliating poppy seeds and the citrus bars contain citrus peel; not a microbead in sight.

Staff Profile: Sandra Duberry

I like to work with blind people, deaf people – all working together

Sandra worked for a county council for 23 years before she had to leave as a result of staff cuts. She joined The Soap Co. in June 2015. Being deaf has meant she can do jobs that her colleagues with sight impairments find more difficult, like mixing soap colours. She says, “My first time making it I was a bit nervous and I had to make sure, is it alright, and he says, don’t panic, take it easy, don’t rush.”

Employee Sandra Duberry at The Soap Co.
Employee Sandra Duberry at The Soap Co.

An excellent lip reader, she has enjoyed the chance to work with a range of people, many of them also with disabilities. “I like working here,” she says. “I like to work with blind people, deaf people – all working together.” For Sandra, being at The Soap Co. has taught her to be positive and be strong. Now she’s looking for a full-time job in office work.

We also caught up with Sandra for our Christmas campaign, #GiveGoodGifts and found out what she love most about Christmas.

“I like to cuddle up with my dog and watch all the Christmas TV shows: Eastenders, Coronation Street and the Christmas films. I’m not a big fan of the Queen’s Speech – it sends me to sleep.”

Check out The Soap Co. range at The Big Issue Shop.

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