Remember when it felt good to sing “Happy Birthday”? Today, in the midst of a pandemic, many of us are using the ditty as a proxy timer for our stepped-up handwashing game — and the melody has quickly become insufferable.
But as we lather up and scrub down to slow the spread of COVID-19, it’s a good chance to acknowledge the privilege of hygiene in the developed world. In other corners of the globe, only 1 percent of households have soap available for hand washing.
Imagine facing a pandemic without the most basic defense of a simple bar of soap. That’s where Soapbox Soaps comes in.
Since its inception, Soapbox has been what CEO and co-founder David Simnick has called a “natural company with a one-for-one mission.” For every product purchased, Soapbox donates a bar of soap to somebody in need, domestically or abroad. At present, that lifetime donation total amounts to a formidable 7 million bars of soap.
Recently the company has committed to donating more than 1.7 million bars of soap to U.S. shelters and food pantries in response to the outbreak of novel coronavirus. “Whether it’s a natural disaster or what we’re currently going through—domestically, in Asia, Europe, or wherever—we respond to where the need is,” says Jessica Busick, associate marketing manager at Soapbox.
From education to economics, Soapbox takes an holistic approach to its social mission. The company collaborates with several long-time partners not only to distribute soap in local communities across the globe, but to also educate and hire local hygiene ambassadors who can continue to make and sell soap and teach basic personal care like handwashing.
Soapbox prioritizes community engagement from production to distribution. In partnership with nonprofit partners like Eco-Soap Bank, Clean the World Foundation, and Sundara, local residents are hired to collect half-used soap bars from hotels, shaving down and sanitizing the castoffs to create new, usable bars of soap. As of September 2019, Soapbox estimated that more than 3 million lives have been impacted by this work, and dozens of jobs have been created.
More recently, Soapbox has ventured into the research space to understand how their aid capacity can help reduce trachoma—a preventable infection that’s also the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. Research is currently underway in Ethiopia with three nonprofit partners, but Soapbox hopes the collaboration will help to expand and refine their impact in more than 50 countries affected by trachoma infections.
If you’re doubtful that a $5 bottle of soap can really empower such a well-rounded approach to social impact, you might not be alone. “I think a lot of consumers do have their guard up on the truthfulness behind brands that do donations,” Busick admits. But accountability is something that Soapbox takes seriously, which is why every product bears a Hope Code, a unique number that customers can input on Soapbox’s homepage to learn about what their purchase is subsidizing.
Transparency around the specifics of impact is just one thing Soapbox takes seriously. Something else they take seriously…is making seriously solid products. When I ask Busick about what she attributes the popularity of Soapbox’s products to, she doesn’t hesitate to namecheck shea butter and aloe. Both ingredients are found across the entire product line, while individual products include other high-quality, natural ingredients like coconut milk, sea minerals, and Meyer lemon.
As if that’s not enough, all products are vegan, cruelty free, and gluten free. The company has also reduced its plastic use by 98 percent by transitioning over to cardboard packaging for their bar products.
Put plainly, Soapbox is trying to do the right thing in every aspect of its business.
There’s a point in my conversation with Busick where I get the sense that she’s used to being met with skepticism that Soapbox can sustain the trifecta of quality, affordability, and impact. “A lot of people tend to be surprised by our price-point because we do have responsibility standards we hold ourselves to, we keep bad stuff out of our products, and we infuse them with ingredients that are super hydrating,” Busick says.
And yet, these virtues are in fact considered symbiotic — rather than conflicting — in the way Soapbox does business. “If we didn’t have a certain quality standard, it would hurt how much we’re able to donate,” Busick notes. “We can’t cut corners when it comes to our product.”
Spend for Good: Soapbox has a full line of products available online for hands, hair, and body. For new customers, Busick recommends starting with coconut oil or tea tree oil shampoos, as well as any of their popular sea minerals products. If you’ve tried Soapbox already, tell us about your experience in the Comments section below.