Have you ever wondered what happens to the little soaps you leave behind in your hotel room? Thanks to the Atlanta-based Global Soap Project (GSP), those abandoned bars are finding a meaningful new home. The GSP is a nonprofit started by APICS 2017 keynote speaker Derreck Kayongo. His organization transforms trash into usable soap for people in need while reducing the amount of waste going into U.S. landfills.
Although most of us have never had to envision life without soap, it’s actually a luxury item that is inaccessible to many vulnerable populations. In fact, millions of people around the world have never even held a bar of soap. And each year, 2.4 billion people — including 1.8 million children — die from diseases that could easily have been prevented by simple handwashing.
Kayongo, who I recently interviewed for APICS magazine, has experienced life without soap. The son of a soap maker, Kayongo was born in Kampala, Uganda, just as dictator Idi Amin was seizing power. As war spread through the country, he and his family became refugees. Yet, amazingly, Kayongo was able to immigrate to America; graduate from college; and become an entrepreneur, founder of the GSP, and now the CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
The idea came for the GSP to him when he noticed the face soap, body soap, shampoo, and conditioner in a hotel bathroom. He he wondered what would happen to it all after he checked out. It didn’t take long for him to find some great partners and start the GSP.
When I asked about those key players and the GSP’s supply chain, Kayongo shared with me that the nonprofit works with organizations in 32 countries to distribute lifesaving soap and hygiene education to disaster victims, refugees, the homeless and people living in extreme poverty. Results-driven partnerships with global health organizations that have existing distribution channels and ongoing health programs in local communities are essential.
And through these relationships and the simple idea of delivering something as basic as soap to those in need, the GSP makes a huge difference in the world. “We produce about 10 million bars of soap each year from more than 5,000 hotels,” Kayongo told me. “So, never underestimate the power of small ideas in the marketplace. They are the key to gargantuan, Herculean problem-solving.”