The Soap Co. Factory Visit
The Soap Co’s factory in east London is one of a kind: we were greeted by the smiling faces of Soap Co's cohort of staff who feel empowered by their jobs and were excited to tell us about their tasks and responsibilities. The Soap Co. works to provide meaningful jobs to people with visual and physical disabilities and the factory accommodates beautiful guide dogs to help members of staff who are visually impaired around the factory. We were touched by the social mission and inclusivity of this workplace, and by the warm welcome we received!
Sales manager, Louisa, sat down with us to give an insight into Soap Co's inspiration and day-to-day factory life.
How did the soap idea come about?
For the last five years, the senior management of CLARITY Employment for Blind People wanted to launch a product for the ethical luxury market - The Soap Co. was the result. A beautiful range of products, minimalist in design and with leading eco credentials.
How do you recruit people?
We recruit our staff through a government program called Work Choice. Through this, our staff complete 6-month work placements as well as receiving workplace and life skills training, for example CV building. After six months, we support some of our staff find longer time employment or some of them stay here.
How do the staff manage getting to and from work?
Some of our staff come to work on public transport – bus or train – you’ll see Ricky everyday with his guide dog, Jasmine, getting off the overground at Highams Park. Some drive and some are provided with transport through the work support scheme.
What are some things people have gone onto do after working with Soap Co?
All sorts of things but in 2015, 28 people moved onto “mainstream” employment.
What challenges has the company had?
One of the challenges – or you could call it an opportunity – is ensuring that we lead the way on continuing to develop our formulations. When we founded The Soap Co., environmental sustainability was at the heart of every decision we made. We chose vegetable based inks, recycled and recyclable materials, reusable pumps and UK based suppliers. This commitment continued as we chose the ingredients that make up our products. We chose natural ingredients such as Aloe Vera, Essential Oils and Vitamin E and B. We made the products Paraben Free and Cruelty-Free as standard. However, we don’t want to rest on our laurels, we’re always looking for ways to improve. This summer we have been lucky to have some talented green chemists from Imperial and Sheffield university to audit the current formulations which has included quizzing our suppliers to ensure that our new formulations deliver more than any other luxury product on the market.
One of the chemists explained “We have faced a few challenges! There is not a lot of transparency on where ingredients come from or what industrial standards they have used in production. We have had to really push our suppliers to get this information so we can make the best choices. We have found the internet is full of false information and media exaggeration about ‘harmful chemicals’. In reality, preservatives are crucial for the safety of products and natural fragrances are not always sustainable. Our new products will be a balance between safety and sustainability. We are focussing on the science rather than the media prejudice.”
Watch this space for The Soap Co. new and improved range available to buy in early 2017, along with a new fourth fragrance.