Nonprofit Gets Hotel Soap into Hands That Need It Most

INTERNATIONAL REPORT—A bar of soap can save someone’s life. Soap is a basic necessity, yet many people don’t have access to it. Soap Aid USA’s new Hotel to Hands Program aims to transform lives globally by registering more than 120,000 guestrooms, recycling 2.3 million new bars of soap, and delivering soap to 200,000 children in critical need for a full year.

The hospitality industry is already stepping up and providing support, with Hunter Amenities and American Hotel Register Company among the organization’s top corporate sponsors. With the North American infrastructure set, the Soap Aid USA team is engaging with hoteliers, registering hotel participants and getting the word out about this worthy cause.

“Soap Aid was established in Australia in 2011. In 2017, discussions first began about expanding to the North American market. Soap Aid’s Hotel to Hands program was growing rapidly in the Australian market, but it was still far from meeting the high demand for recycled soap in parts of the world,” said Deidre Schwartz, director, design and sustainability, American Hotel Register Company, and board director, Soap Aid USA.

Schwartz sees the North American hotel market as a promising source of raw materials, such as waste soap, to better meet the demand and the need to eliminate preventable diseases.

“Currently, a small percentage of hotels are participating in anything like this, and the growing desire to address social and environmental sustainability opens the door to bringing Soap Aid to North America,” said Schwartz. “After several successful fundraising campaigns to seed the foundation for Soap Aid here in the U.S., we spent several months building the infrastructure needed for a national process of collecting, consolidating, warehousing and recycling the waste soap, as well as the distribution of new recycled soap around the globe. We are in full operation mode now working toward our mission.”

For Schwartz and the team at Soap Aid USA, the driving mission is to save lives. There’s also a sustainability component that is a major point of focus.

“It’s staggering to understand that there are children and adults around the globe who are dying from infectious diseases that could be prevented by the mere act of hand-washing. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 6.2 million children and adolescents under the age of 15 years died, most from preventable causes,” she said. “Children under the age of five are at the most risk and more than half of those deaths are due to diseases that are preventable. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 is targeting to end preventable deaths of newborns and children under five by 2030. Obviously, there is a lot of work ahead of us and a lot of room for the hotel industry to fully engage and actively participate.

“Secondly, landfill space will ultimately become costlier, especially as we cannot simply export our waste to other countries,” she added. “Removing this valuable resource from our waste stream accomplishes two very critical concerns: saving human lives and the health of our planet. It just doesn’t make sense to send a valuable raw material like this to a landfill when it can be recycled and used in such a critical humanitarian way.”

The board of Soap Aid USA is composed of hospitality leaders from manufacturing and distribution entities. Among the team, there is industry expertise in soap manufacturing processes as well as domestic and international logistics.

“Our corporate champions span a variety of fields, including hospitality, charitable organizations, global health and welfare relief agencies, etc. Our first Hotel to Hands partner in North America is Best Western Hotels & Resorts. The response from their members has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Schwartz. “Our global impact partners help ensure Soap Aid’s soap is distributed responsibly and ethically to best meet the needs of the community. The soap distribution process provides local jobs, ultimately improving the quality of lives through income as well as improving health outcomes.”

The Hotel to Hands initiative underscores the growing importance and value placed on social responsibility from the hotel guests.

“It’s more than just the amenities that a hotel offers each guest. It’s about illustrating the heart of the hotel and its people that serve each guest,” said Schwartz. “We talk a lot about being hospitable; that’s the essence of this industry. Can we be hospitable without taking care and responsibility of our environment? This is an important step toward greater accountability for the resources we consume. A simple item as bar soap can change a community.”

Hoteliers can support Soap Aid’s mission by taking these steps:

  • Provide Soap Aid the opportunity to present the Hotel to Hands program and show how the organization’s efforts will directly impact world health outcomes.
  • Join Soap Aid’s Hotel to Hands program. There is a small membership fee to help offset Soap Aid’s operating costs for logistics, recycling, and overall program management tools and resources.
  • Make a donation. Soap Aid Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit charity, and donations are tax-exempt. Donation are always welcomed and tax-exempt letters are provided.

While there are key discussions around what the program costs are, Schwartz noted it’s important to remember the nonprofit’s mission—to save lives and preserve the environment.

“Soap Aid is a nonprofit charitable organization with tremendous impact potential around the globe. We need partners who understand the magnitude of the problem and also the potential to address that problem at every hotel,” she said. “But, even more importantly, we need hotel champions who are willing to take action by collecting waste soap at their hotels and doing so through our Hotel to Hands membership program.”