A hotel freebie that many of us take for granted – or neglect to even think about – now has new meaning. Two million partially used bars of hotel room soap are discarded every day. But at Hilton Worldwide, the soap no longer goes to waste. It becomes part of a life-saving donation that reaches some of the world’s most vulnerable people in poverty-stricken regions – orphans, as well as individuals and families displaced by conflict or disasters.
Hilton Worldwide and Global Soap Project began partnering in 2011 to prevent diarrheal disease and pneumonia among vulnerable populations in developing countries by increasing access to soap. Hand-washing with soap is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent these diseases, which cause more than 3.5 million child deaths annually. But vulnerable populations, such as orphans, refugees, and disaster victims, rarely have access to soap.
Hilton Worldwide and Global Soap Project partner to collect, sort, reprocess, and remold used hotel soap into new bars. Global Soap Project then distributes the bars itself or through its screened strategic partners to help critical populations overcome sanitation and hygiene-related disease.
Hilton’s Product Quality and Innovation team, Brand Performance Support team, and Hilton Supply Management team have been part of the process to establish and assimilate the initiative.
As an investment in Global Soap Project’s organizational strategy and growth, Hilton Worldwide is a member of its board of director. The company is also investing $1.3 million in Global Soap Project over three years and providing operational expertise and understanding of global supply chains to help expand the nonprofit’s processing and distribution capabilities.
What the Partnership Has Accomplished
Because of the partnership with Hilton Worldwide, Global Soap Projects expects to increase soap production and distribution by 300%, exceeding more than 1.25 million bars of soap.
Distribution has taken place in 23 countries to-date.
Global Soap Project has shipped directly or through NGOs to four continents, including Haiti, Uganda, Bolivia, Malawi, Ghana, St. Lucia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and South Sudan, among others. Because some recipients see the bar of soap as an invaluable gesture and save it as a reminder rather than use it, Global Soap Project also strives to ensure proper education on the importance and process of proper hand-washing and hygiene.
As of early September 2012, nearly 1,000 hotels are contributing, with Hilton Worldwide properties making up more than 1/3 of the total. Hilton Worldwide is working to expand the number of its properties that participate, increase awareness of the Global Soap Project’s mission, and engage others in the hospitality industry.
Why It Makes Sense
In addition to assisting some of the world’s most vulnerable people by donating a product that would otherwise be wasted, the partnership with Global Soap Project makes Hilton Worldwide stand out from other hotel properties when it competes for event and group sales contracts, providing a strategic advantage to its core business. This initiative also helps reduce waste in landfills and the need to tap other resources for soap production, advancing Hilton Worldwide’s enterprise-wide sustainability goals.