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Hand in Hand: This Bar of Soap Protects Rainforests

Hand in Hand soap donates one bar of soap to children in Haiti for every bar sold.

Bill and Courtney of Hand in Hand are a husband-and-wife social entrepreneurship duo that takes the spotlight on Designed Good this week. The pair had been thinking about ideas for a sustainable business for years when they learned that water-related illnesses are responsible for 5 million deaths each year, 45 percent of which can be prevented by hand washing.

That’s why they decided to build a company around donating one bar of soap for each bar sold. They partnered with My Neighbor’s Children to make sure the bars got into the hands of specific children in Haiti that they have met.

Instead of ignoring the fact that we don’t live in a vacuum—that all of these illnesses, and the more positive things in life—take place against the background of the natural world, they backed their soap up with a strong commitment to the environment.

Meaning: Bill and Courtney were interested in what kind of soap they were selling. They didn’t want to just stick with Fair Trade, organic, vegan ingredients; they decided to make all of their soap palm oil-free. Palm oil is the most common ingredient in organic soaps and 86 percent of the world’s palm oil comes from Southeast Asia, a region rapidly cleared of rainforests to keep up with production.

The connection between washing your hands at home and rainforest depletion might seem tenuous, but Hand in Hand has done their research: According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, the palm oil industry alone could be responsible for removing 98 percent of the rainforest left in Indonesia.

But the most interesting part of Hand in Hand’s resolution is not merely what they have decided not to do—as in, let’s not include palm oil—but rather what they have decided to do.

They’ve claimed an active stake in rainforest preservation, partnering with Seacology, an international nonprofit that has taken up the charge of preserving biodiversity on islands around the world. Importantly, Seacology works to spur economic development at the same time as they protect the environment, making sure that each project helps the local community.

Hand in Hand works with Seacology to fund long-term leases—up to 100 years—on rainforest land. Seacology’s approach is a business-oriented solution for a problem that seems like it’s spinning out of control.

This is one way of saying that Hand in Hand Soap is about empowering people through social enterprise—purchases don’t only fund one cause or promote philanthropy in one specific way. Rather, Hand in Hand has achieved measurable social impacts—from decreasing the carbon emissions from burning rainforests on one island nation, to giving kids a means for hygiene on another.

Hand in Hand Soap is available on Designed Good through December 10.

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