When cleaning really does matter

15 February 2019

CLARITY-The Soap Co. is a social enterprise creating work for people with a range of disabilities and long-term health conditions through the manufacture and sale of a range of everyday and ethical, luxury household, washroom and beauty products.

What is perhaps unique about the social enterprise, founded in 1854, is that it is making significant in-roads into both the retail and corporate sectors, competing with many large multi-nationals and winning significant contracts. Its products are on sale in outlets from the John Lewis Partnership to Sainsbury’s, Waitrose to the Co-op – with international organisations including Johnson & Johnson, Accenture, PwC, BNP Paribas and LV=, to name but a few, all cleaning up their act by dispensing the not-for-profit’s ranges in their washrooms. 

In addition, CLARITY-The Soap Co. is growing its presence in the hospitality, hotel, catering and restaurant sector with, for example, the internationally famous Camden Market coming on board, together with the prestigious Cornerstone and Kitty Hawk restaurants, and the brand new, The Bankside Hotel. Quite a story for a small manufacturer running on entirely green energy with 114 staff, 80% of whom have a disability of some description.

Perhaps the biggest challenge has been to penetrate the listings of the key facilities management (FM) companies that largely determine how a product enters the supply chain and makes its way out into the wider commercial world. And yet, CLARITY-The Soap Co. is now featured by many of the leading facilities management companies from Jangro to Bunzl and beyond, affording end-users the opportunity to buy products with real purpose; products that give back to society, help vulnerable people into meaningful employment and at the same time take a no-compromise approach when it comes to sustainability, eco-friendliness and business ethics.

So, what has made this all possible? It seems that CLARITY-The Soap Co. is riding a wave of a new conscious consumerism whereby a younger demographic of procurement officers (and shoppers) are keen to understand the ethics and integrity of the products they use and ask others to use. It seems the prevailing trend in all things to do with soap and hygiene is to back the planet’s health, support local communities and help people on the margins of society when it comes to buying decisions. #ProductsWithPurpose.

As Corporate Social Responsibility moves from being simply a tick box exercise to a strategy that defines the ethical standing of a business amongst its peers and customers, CLARITY-The Soap Co. is offering something that its competitors can’t. It has a back story, a long and distinguished history stretching back over 160 years of helping in the welfare of the blind. Also, in its modern incarnation, a forward-looking commercial organisation bringing award-winning ethical and eco-friendly products to market.  

Add to this the 2016 announcement by Government of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge – whereby business has been ‘challenged’ to spend £1bn per year on products and services that create social value – and a December 2018 announcement by cabinet minister David Lidington detailing that central government would now use a new model to evaluate the social impact of its contracts to outsource public services – and it’s no little wonder that the FM’s are increasingly keen to give CLARITY-The Soap Co. a seat at the top table. It’s worth mentioning that The Cabinet Office is already a relatively long-standing customer.

Yet, no one is resting on their laurels at the social enterprise as the disability underemployment rate remains at twice the national average and there are literally millions of businesses that are yet to switch soap for social good.  

In addition, CLARITY-The Soap Co. faces considerable barriers to entry - it is, for example, almost completely reliant on the pro-bono support of some of the UK’s leading design, marketing and PR agencies to help position it in both the retail and corporate environments whilst competitors spend millions on above and below-the-line advertising to grab market share.

However, for now, at least some are starting to scrub up and CLARITY-The Soap Co. is set to clean up as and when they do. With a legacy stretching back to 1854, this social enterprise is determined to flourish and grow and whatever it may lack in resources it makes up for in product excellence, ethics and a clear purpose to help vulnerable people.