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Health & Wellness

How One Soap Brand Is Giving Kids A Helping Hand

Hand In Hand Soap Treats Your Hands And The World With Care

When starting a business, the first step typically is coming up with an idea for the product you want to sell. Courtney Apple and Bill Glaab had a different approach: they started with a philanthropic idea and then picked a product to fit their mission. Despite their atypical method, this married couple definitely came up with a winner.

Blank white cosmetic bottle with a tropical leaf. 3D Render

In 2011, Apple and Glaab learned that over five million children were dying each year because of unsafe water quality and lack of proper hygiene. Discovering that these deaths could be cut nearly in half if the children received better hygiene education and access to personal hygiene products, they decided to do something about it. 

The couple decided to start a business that addressed this awful situation; however, in addition to being philanthropic, they also wanted their company to be about sustainable giving with a holistic approach to fair trade.

The business they came up with is Hand in Hand, a company that makes a line of bar soaps, body washes, sugar scrubs, and body lotions that are palm oil-free, vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, and petrochemical-free. “Understanding our environmental impact, we set out from day one to create a soap that was as eco-friendly as possible,” Glaab explained in impactingourfuture.com, later adding, “We wanted to be proud of our soap and develop a product that was made with sustainable resources and harvested ethically…Every ingredient in our soap is not only natural, but it is harvested and grown in an environmentally friendly way.”

Hand in Hand’s American-made soil-to-shelf products utilize biodegradable, Fair Trade ingredients like sunflower seed oil, shea butter, sugar (did you that sugar is an excellent exfoliant?), and various essential oils for their scents: Cactus Blossom, Lavender, Citrus Grove, and Sea Salt (and there is a fragrance-free variety as well). Hand in Hand stopped using palm oil very early on after discovering that the palm industry is linked to deforestation and labor abuses.

For every product sold, Hand in Hand not only donates a bar to children in developing countries, but they also donate one month of clean water. Last year, they donated around 10 million bars of soap and they expect to sell more this year. These numbers are particularly amazing considering that it took them six years to reach the one million mark. Part of this sales growth is due to the pandemic increasing attention on handwashing along with the Philadelphia-based firm’s expansion to national chain stores like Whole Foods, Target, CVS, and Walmart several years ago. 

Hand in Hand teams up with existing non-profit groups, who are familiar with the local communities, to ensure the donations are properly distributed. Their first partnership was with the child advocacy organization, My Neighbor’s Children, to bring soap to needy children in Haiti. In 2013, the company expanded its efforts in Haiti by launching a clean water program. In 2018, Hand in Hand began working with the Eco-Soap Bank to send soap donations to children in Cambodia, which resulted in distributing more than 1.3 million bars to youngsters at 943 schools in four Cambodian provinces. 

Hand in Hand’s commitment to  being an environmentally conscious business also led them to new discoverings about their original product offerings. It didn’t take long for Glaab to switch to recyclable aluminum bottles for Hand in Hand’s liquid hand soap after learning about the unsustainability of non reusable plastics. “By going to an aluminum bottle, we made 10 million pieces that are not plastic. “For us, it was a big deal as only a small fraction of plastic gets recycled,” Glaab revealed to the recycling-focused website waste360.com

Recycling firms like aluminum because it doesn’t necessarily need cleaning before being recycled, and recycled aluminum typically has a strong demand. Also, aluminum doesn’t break down, whereas plastics become microplastics that unnaturally make their way into the environment, including the food chain. Additionally, this light metal takes only 5 percent of the energy to make products out of aluminum compared to virgin metals.

Glaab admits that using aluminum bottles isn’t 100 percent ecologically perfect. A good deal of resources and energy are required to mine aluminum’s raw materials, and it is almost impossible for Hand in Hand – or any consumer goods company – to completely avoid plastic packaging.  Overall, however, substituting aluminum for plastic improves them environmentally. “The positive thing about aluminum is over 75 percent stays in the market, and it’s essentially infinitely recyclable,” he told beautyindependent.com. “When you recycle our soap bottle, theoretically, it could be a Bud Light can in another month.” 

Switching to aluminum bottles also isn’t a perfect solution from an economic standpoint. According to Glaab, Hand in Hand’s liquid hand soap aluminum containers are around twice as expensive as plastic bottles, but it was worth the extra cost because it fit his company’s sustainability agenda. “Many of the ways to be sustainable have been challenging,” Glaab acknowledged to waste360.com, adding: “but there are avenues as a brand, if you want to go through the time, effort, and expense, to do the right thing if possible.” 

The aluminum containers also signaled Hand in Hand’s return to selling liquid soap, which they had stopped making for five years because they couldn’t find a way to do it that was both economically and environmentally viable.  Since launching the aluminum bottled liquid soap in May, 2020, Hand in Hand has sold over 10 million pieces. In Target stores, for example, they are displayed in sustainable packaging end caps and are the only indie brand included. 

Hand in Hand’s timing for this product couldn’t have been better. Besides the increased demand for soap products, there also is higher consumer interest in environmentally friendly packaging. A 2020 poll conducted by Trivium Packaging found that nearly 75 percent of the respondents said they would pay more for sustainable packaging. 

“It’s gratifying as a small company to do something that most big companies aren’t doing. It’s fun to push the market in a more sustainable way,” Glaab told beautyindependent.com. “The whole idea is to do good in ways that we can while still growing a business and showing the world that you don’t have to be greedy and pinch every single penny. Business owners can be responsible and still succeed.” 

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