Sustainability is a key issue for every one of Red Carnation Hotels’ properties, and the company as a whole is thoroughly committed to making a positive impact on the environment – which is why its collaboration with CleanConscience is a natural partnership. A UK-based charity, CleanConscience ingeniously recycles and repurposes half-used hotel soaps and toiletries for those in need of access to hygiene products. Here, its founder Gwen Powell talks to Red Carnation about the evolution of the company and the people that it helps.
You had a legal career for over 17 years. What made you decide to change paths?
“Well, I’m the third generation of my family to strike out as entrepreneur and, for me, the inspiration for a new business came from the unlikeliest of places; from the apple cores, banana peel and teabags that are thrown into the office rubbish bins! I left my legal career in 2008 after 17 years to set up kompost, an on-site food waste recycling company and we’ve really just grown from there!”
How did the idea for CleanConscience come about?
“In 2013 a kompost client, Henley Business School, challenged me to find a solution that would tackle the huge volume of hotel soap and toiletries being sent to landfill or being incinerated in the UK each year.
Many parts of the world had already started to instigate soap recovery and recycling but the proper recovery and repurposing of the toiletries had not been done.
In May 2014, my partner Dennis and I started running trials from our one-bedroom apartment, and it took six months’ of negotiations with the Environment Agency to obtain a special Waste Exemption, to make CleanConscience the first and only organisation in the UK to legally treat the half-used soap and toiletries discarded by the hospitality sector.”
What happens to the partially used toiletries that are donated by Red Carnation Hotels?
“What happens is we provide a recycling service to Red Carnation’s London Hotels by recovering, repurposing and redistributing half-used soaps and toiletries that are left by guests. We do this by providing recycling crates for the hotels to fill, which are then collected on a regular basis and replaced with empty ones. By doing this, we’re then able to help and support causes such as Disability Confident, a centre for adults with learning difficulties, and we also supply CareKit toiletry packs to women in need via the We-STAP organisation.”
How does CleanConscience help to improve sanitation on an international level?
“We work closely with charities with an overseas focus, such as Kori Development Project which aims to support and educate women and girls in the Kori Chiefdom of Sierra Leone. We donate hard soap that the women are able to press into new bars of soap and then sell.”