Home COVID-19 Clean the World Bounces Back Strong After Hard Hit from Pandemic

Clean the World Bounces Back Strong After Hard Hit from Pandemic

Hand washing in Zambia

ORLANDO, FLA.—The pandemic did many bad things to the hospitality industry and its related organizations. One of the organizations that suffered the most was Clean the World, the Orlando, Fla. based nonprofit that is dependent on donations of soap, amenity bottles, financial support, and volunteers to keep its mission rolling. “The donation drop off was more than 75 percent during the pandemic,” says Robert Montgomery, Clean the World’s VP Product Development. “Clean the World laid off 80 percent of staff. We almost had to close our doors.” Corporate events, at which groups assemble hygiene kits, came to a complete stop. Volunteers could no longer visit Clean the Word facilities.

Even during the most difficult of times, Clean the World still managed to distribute 9 million bars of soap to those in need—soap that significantly helps to reduce the deaths of children under five due to acute respiratory infection (pneumonia) and diarrheal diseases (cholera). Like many in the industry, Clean the World pivoted and developed its Soap Saves Lives Box program—an opportunity for individuals or groups to remotely box hygiene products for donation to a local charity or even a neighbor in need. That program is still available.

The biggest, good news today is that, like the hotel industry, Clean the World is coming back strong and rebuilding. Staffing is at about 60 percent of where it was. More and more groups are assembling hygiene kits and Soap Saves Lives boxes at in-person events. That niche of Clean the World donations, as well as soap donations from lodging establishments, is still not where it needs to be, but it is growing as corporate travel and meetings come back.

Current Focus on Ukraine

Montgomery says Clean the World is working hard to bring back those hotels that left during the pandemic. Still, Clean the World participation is significant. “We are at 7,000 U.S. hotels participating,” Montgomery says. “Ten percent of all U.S. hotels are participating. Pre-pandemic, the company was on a huge growth trajectory. We are now seeing new adds like before. Our goal is to bring back those hotels that left.”

Soap Saves Lives Boxes

Today, Clean the World has about 1,000 properties participating in its donation programs outside the United States. “That is where we see tremendous growth opportunity,” Montgomery says. There are seven global offices—Orlando, Las Vegas, Montreal, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Dominican Republic. In all locations but the United Kingdom and Canada, donated soap is reprocessed into new soap bars.

One of the strengths of Clean the World over the years is its ability to send to where the need is the greatest. Its soap has ended up in 127 countries and it has distributed 68 million soap bars and 5 million hygiene kits since its launch. Its current focus is Ukraine. Volunteers in Arlington, Va., and Seattle are in the process of assembling 200,000 hygiene kits for victims of the war there.

Highly Successful Mobile Shower Program

Fresh Start WASH & Wellness Program

Going beyond soap, amenity bottles and hygiene kits, Clean the World in 2017 launched a mobile shower program for individuals experiencing homelessness. Called the Fresh Start WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) & Wellness Program, the program also incorporates COVID-19 testing, HEP A/HEP C vaccinations, and illness prevention services. Clean the World now has Fresh Start WASH & Wellness Programs in Florida, Nevada, Washington, and Colorado. Montgomery says more than 33,000 people have gone through the program and Clean the World is looking to expand to more locations.

The Fresh Start WASH & Wellness Program has resulted in less homelessness and even job opportunities. “We have people who work in the units who were homeless,” Montgomery says.

Making it Easier to Measure One’s Impact

As Clean the World has grown, so too has its efforts to support donors with impact data. Last July (see article), it announced it had enhanced its impact reporting for partners in its Hospitality Recycling Program. Thanks to Greenview, at any given moment, a hospitality partner can now review, track, and report on the impact they are having on the environment and in the lives of people in need. “Every participant has access to a portal,” Montgomery says. “We are making it more interactive. If you are a single hotel, you will see an impact report. You will also be able to see one for all Hiltons, or one for a brand within a larger company like Hilton. Or you may want to rank how your property is faring against a comparable property in your brand.” Now, it is even possible to tie those metrics back to 11 of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, allowing hotels to see how their participation is impacting those targets—specifically SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation which ensures the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Clean the World has distributed 68 million soap bars since its launch.

Ultimately, the goal is to provide a way for partners to comprehensively measure their environmental and social impact by collecting sustainability data, tracking performance and progress over time, and reporting activities in a transparent way. Clean the World hotel partners will not only be able to measure their impact through bars of soap distributed and volume of product collected, but also through additional metrics such as carbon footprint reduction, water saved, waste diverted from landfill, energy generated, number of hygiene kits supported, number of showers supported, and number of people served.

This reporting can be shown to stakeholders and guests—proof of a property’s social and environmental stewardship. It is also a great tool to keep team members engaged, Clean the World says.

A Solution for All Those Plastic Bottles

With all that is going on at Clean the World, Montgomery says it is a high priority to find a solution for all the plastic sent to the organization in the form of amenity bottles. The problem with the bottles is they usually consist of two or three different types of plastics, have contaminants in them which makes them unfriendly for sorting machines, and the tiny bottles fall through the screens that do the sorting.

“We are working with plastic recycling companies for a solution,” Montgomery says. “I am working with a company on de-watering. We are in the final stages of that. We are working with two companies for that cleaned plastic. It is a major commitment, and we are in the final stages of getting to a plastic recycling solution.”

“Only 8 percent of world’s plastic is being recycled,” Montgomery adds, emphasizing Clean the World will soon reach its goal of recycling 100 percent of the plastic it receives.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at greenlodgingnews@gmail.com.