Purpose and Profit: Work Together to Solve Social Problems
By: Gabriel Soltren
Shawn Seipler, Chief Executive Officer of Clean the World, was the guest speaker at our May chapter breakfast.
Seipler left his job as Vice President at Channel Intelligence after learning that 9,000 children die every day from diseases that could be reduced by washing their hands. While staying at a hotel he asked an employee, “What happens to the soap after I’m done using it?” He learned that more than one million bars of soap were being thrown away every day in the United States. If you take all that soap, you can save kids that are dying from pneumonia and other diseases. The idea started a global social enterprise.
In 2009, Seipler recruited his Puerto Rican relatives and started recycling soap in his one car garage. They sent soap to earthquake victims in Haiti and the effort was featured on Fox News Orlando, Fox News in New York and nationally on CBS News.
Clean the World became the first benefit corporation in Florida. According to Siepler, Clean the World has a profit motive and a heart motive. B-corporations are required by law to pursue profits and philanthropic missions. In 2015, Clean the World had 50 employees in Orlando, Las Vegas and Hong Kong. Fifty-five percent of their employees were minorities and they had distributed more than 25 million bars of soap in 99 countries.
Clean the World helps improve sanitary conditions in several ways. People use the soap for personal hygiene and also to wash their clothes. In Nepal, after the 2015 earthquake, doctors needed soap to wash their hands after treating patients. Clean the World provided them with soap until their supplies arrived.
Hotels provide used bars of soap for recycling. “Many of the housekeepers in hotels are from countries that we are helping,” Siepler said. One third of housekeepers in Florida are reportedly from Haiti. They applauded the effort.
Soap makers are also partnering with Clean the World. For example, a Unilever manager noticed that the manufacturer was discarding good soap made with the wrong color or wrong fragrance. The manager suggested donating the soap to Clean the World. They donated the soap and Clean the World provided a report showing how their donation was used. Click here to read “Unilever Donates Soap by the Truckload.” A Clean the World video was one of the most viewed Associated Press stories in 2015. “Recycling Used Bars of Soap to Save Lives” had more than one million views in less than 60 days.