Case study: Soap for hope
Sealed Air's new CSR project aims to help poor communities
Sealed Air’s new CSR project aims to improve hygiene conditions in poor communities while supporting the local population by providing a means of livelihood. Hotelier finds out more.
Impoverished communities in countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, and Kenya are benefiting from improved personal hygiene due to a collaboration between hotels and Sealed Air.
The cleaning and sanitation solutions provider launched the Soap for Hope campaign in October 2013 to recycle used hotel guest soap and distribute it to underprivileged families living in slums in Asia.
The Soap for Hope project has a three-fold objective. Firstly, it saves lives by improving hygiene through provision of soap to people that need it but have no access to it; for example, those who live or work near to rubbish dumps.
Other objectives are providing a means of livelihood for local communities by getting them involved in the recycling and production process; and helping hotels reduce waste by turning discarded soap into something useful.
Stefan Phang, global director, corporate social responsibility Sealed Air Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Africa & Turkey, says: “A typical 400-room hotel generates 3.5 metric tonnes of solid soap waste per annum.
“Hand-washing with soap is among the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrheal and respiratory diseases in the Asia, Middle East and African regions where seven million children per year die due to diseases that could have been prevented with proper hand-washing. Therefore, the Soap for Hope project is about recycling tonnes of used soap and channeling them to those in need.”
Concept and Investment
Soap for Hope aims to establish a new type of corporate social responsibility programme that creates shared value for communities through engagement with local businesses. The idea is that companies should create shared value for society and not economic value for their own sake. Part of the strategy is that businesses are the most powerful force for addressing pressing issues in society, given that governments and NGOs lack sufficient resources and capabilities to address them alone.
One of the most impactful improvements the Soap for Hope initiative is expected to achieve is to engage people in local communities in the process of making soap. The soap is collected from hotels by Sealed Air and transported to towns, where the local population is taught to recycle or process the used soap.
“Once the used soap is recycled into processed bars of soap, the hotels then buy back the soap and re-distribute it to the wider community,” explains Phang.
“Through this process, local people learn the skill of recycling and making soap and how to make a livelihood out of this. Sealed Air employees provide the know-how, set-up and the training on soap recycling to the local communities.”
“The innovation is in the cold-press method that enables the start-up and logistics costs to be kept very low. The local community can operate the soap-making process in their backyard as opposed to a typical, industrial soap-reprocessing plant. The cold-press method does not require any electricity; hence it is carbon-neutral. By engaging the local people directly in a project that benefits their own community, Sealed Air hopes to give them a sense of pride and ownership,” he adds.
The Soap for Hope initiative — which is implemented by Diversey Care in the UAE — was launched in the country in 2013 with Grand Hyatt Dubai and Shangri-la Dubai. It has been quickly embraced by other UAE hotels.
Currently, all of Hilton Worldwide’s UAE properties, including Hilton Corniche Abu Dhabi, Hilton Capital Grand Abu Dhabi, Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Resort and Hilton Dubai The Walk, Conrad Dubai, Doubletree by Hilton Ras Al Khaimah, and the Waldorf Astoria Hotels in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, are participating in the initiative, thus making Hilton Worldwide the largest contributor to this initiative with its nationwide participation. Other UAE Hotels include Traders Dubai, Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi, InterContinental Abu Dhabi, and Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman.
Led by Stefan Phang, who is based in Singapore, local employees and customers are involved whenever the programme is launched in a country.
Explaining the process, Phang says: “Identification of the local partner hotel, local NGO, and local community that will benefit from Soap for Hope is usually done by the country’s Sealed Air team, in consultation with me. Once the partner hotel and community have been identified, a set of Soap For Hope equipment is sent to the local NGO.
“The Soap for Hope equipment is like a ‘soap-factory-in-a-box’ and can be easily shipped to any country. Sealed Air donates the set at no cost and covers the shipping costs as well. The Sealed Air team will then help to set up the soap-making unit, conduct training and help with distribution of the soap to the local community. All of this is done on-site, at no cost to the local partners.”
Sealed Air also involves the local hotel partner in the process of setting up, training and distribution of soap in order to provide the hotel visibility over how their soap is being reprocessed and distributed, and also to demonstrate to the hotel how the concept works.
Once the ground logistics have been set up, Sealed Air then turns over the ownership of Soap for Hope to the local community. The local NGO in charge of the project then provides Sealed Air and the hotel a quarterly report on an agreed set of measures, for example, details of the amount of soap processed, bars of soap distributed, and other statistics.
RESULTS TO DATE
Since the project was first piloted in Cambodia — in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville — Soap for Hope has been launched in 15 cities and 10 countries, including Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Kenya, and South Africa.
In just six months, the project has taken 1660kg of soap from landfills and transformed it into 13,800 bars of soap that were distributed to nearly 3000 people each month.
In addition to the current project, Stefan Phang reveals: “Following the Soap for Hope model of converting hotel waste into sustainable livelihood for at-risk communities to be distributed free to the larger community, we will partner with hotels in using other waste such as condemned linens and food waste.”
- 9000 Number of people soap has been donated to
- 13 tonnes Solid soap waste diverted from landfills
- 13,800 Bars of soap produced
- 50 Participating hotels around the world
- 10 Number of countries the project supports