In celebration of Sustainability Day and the International Day of Climate Action on the 24th October, The Conran Shop delves into The Soap Co.’s mission to bring luxurious, eco-conscious and ethical beauty products to our bathrooms.
Caring for individuals and the environment as much as it does for your skin, The Soap Co. blends sophisticated fragrances with luxurious ingredients and skilled craftmanship from its base in East London and its workshop in the Lake District. Part of CLARITY Employment for Blind People, The Soap Co. is also a social enterprise that helps create careers for blind, disabled and disadvantaged individuals.
Curious to discover a little more about what makes it tick, we sat down with The Soap Co. to find out the history behind this inspiring brand.
What inspired the creation of The Soap Co.?
We wanted to create a luxury brand with a real heart – a ‘no compromise’ range of bath and beauty products with a conscience. Products that have been designed for good: good for your skin, good for the environment, good for everyone.
Prioritising transparency and honesty in all that we do was important. As a social enterprise where 80% of our employees have a disability or long-term health condition, we wanted our customers to connect with our staff and with each person’s unique story. For instance, each one of our hand-cut and hand-wrapped soaps is individually stamped with the name of its maker.
Apart from your beautiful fragrances, what makes The Soap Co.’s creations so special?
Beyond the award-winning design, Britain-inspired fragrances and carefully selected ingredients that carry ECOCERT and EU Ecolabel certifications in our eco and bee friendly collection, we hope to inspire conscious consumerism. We believe that if brands like The Soap Co. are increasingly available on the high street and are adopted by even more consumers in their homes and businesses, conscious consumerism will grow beyond a trend and become the norm.
We like to think of ourselves as enablers, enabling people at any time of the year to have an immediate and positive impact on society and the planet. That’s what makes The Soap Co. so special.
Re-educating consumers takes time and through partnerships, like the ones we have with Michelin-starred restaurant Cornerstone and The Conran Shop, we hope to change purchasing habits for the better. We recognise there is healthy cynicism about consumerism that is focused solely on profit and that doesn’t ‘give back’. We want the corporate social responsibility agenda of businesses to translate into individual social responsibility and soap is our vehicle. Beauty brands will need to develop a more sensitive social and environmental awareness – or find themselves increasingly marginalised.
Your most recent collection has a focus on being eco-friendly – how do these products help support the bee population and the wider environment?
The use of borage and calendula oils in our Eco & Bee Friendly Collection is pretty unique. Beyond their immediate skin caring benefits, these plants have longer flowering seasons compared to lavender and heather, reducing the risk of bee colonies starving over the June nectar gap as well as providing a regular source of nectar after August for last minute nectar collection pre-winter. Every bottle we sell helps 10- 20 bees. Excitingly, since it launched we’ve helped protect and perpetuate a healthy eco-system for thousands of bees.
Urbanization, acid rain and other contaminants are bombarding our countryside and forcing bees out. The more bee-friendly flowers are sown, the more we combat this assault on the ecosystem that is necessary to help the food industry stay intact and keep nature just as we like it – natural.
We are committed to protecting and sustaining our planet, and bees share the same commitment throughout their lifetime. Did you know that if we lost bees, it would trigger a chain reaction leading to disappearance of a third of the fruits and vegetables on the planet? That’s a lot!
How does The Soap Co. craft its bottles so that they’re as sustainable as the liquids inside them?
The Soap Co. bottles are purposely made from 25% post-consumer regrind– in other words, recycled milk bottles – and it has always been this way. And of course, the bottles are recyclable too. We always have sustainability at the forefront of our minds, that’s why our bars of soap are wrapped in a compostable biofilm made from renewable wood pulp; and why our new 100% natural bath and body oils are available in stunning 100% recycled frosted glass bottles.
Our semi-automated factory in East London operates off renewable biomass energy and we are proud holders of The Planet Mark; an internationally recognised sustainability scheme that certifies organisations committed to year-on-year progress on sustainability and the reduction of carbon emissions.
As an organisation, we’re inspired by Dame Ellen Macarthur’s Circular Economy. As part of this we are looking at plastic free alternatives to and hope to launch a plastic free range within 2 to 3 years. It’s a really exciting time for us.
Tell us a little bit about how The Soap Co. supports its employees as well as the environment…
Our mission is to provide meaningful training and employment for people with a wide range of disabilities. We aim to nurture a community and extended family-based atmosphere of inclusivity where staff are valued and treated as absolute equals.
We do this because we believe everyone is capable of doing something great. Many of our employees have never worked – or would struggle to find work. Indeed, disability employment rates in the UK are twice the national average, so we are doing our utmost to plug the gap. As a not-for-profit, we reinvest revenues into creating these opportunities.
We are proud to say that we recently won the Best Newcomer and Best Employee Engagement categories at The Planet Mark Awards for our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. We established a Green Team who have initiated many eco campaigns, from turning taps off to saving electricity, organising recycling and reducing our boiler temperature. In the year ending 2017, we reduced our carbon footprint by 15%, gaining The Planet Mark Certification for the second year.
What’s your top tip for people who are looking to do good and limit their impact on the planet?
Never believe that it’s just Government that can affect change. We recently attended The Planet Mark Awards where Sir Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project, made it clear that it is up to us as individuals to do as much as we can to inspire and encourage others to do the same.
There are so many things we can do every day from cycling and not driving, flying less or not at all, recycling consistently, using green energy – the list is endless.
Above all, don’t leave it to others – get stuck in today. Giving good gifts with The Soap Co. this Christmas would be a great starting point!