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Becoming a B Corporation: A chat with Emma Heathcote-James

Today marks the last week of B Corp Month, where each week we have shared what each of the B Corp pillars means to us. This week’s B Corp pillar is ‘Governance’ and to celebrate this week, Emma Heathcote-James, our founder, sat down and wrote down exactly how and why Little Soap Company became a B Corp…

I am so unbelievably honoured that Little Soap Company is now one of the 369 certified B Corps in the UK. Since the beginning, I have always been determined to make Little Soap Company ethical and this certification has felt like the ‘ultimate’ seal of approval. 

To retail customers, B Corporation status may sound like a corporate thing or the latest ‘buzz word’, and although consumer awareness is certainly growing, achieving this accreditation is incredibly important for us, our customers and wider society. It is recognition of our status as an ethical, responsible company, focused not just on profit, but on improving the planet and creating a fairer, inclusive, sustainable society. 

We’re unbelievably proud to be part of a movement that leads the way to better business and that it’s not just our products that are ethical and beneficial, but our business values and practices too. 

When it comes to our journey to becoming a B Corp, it’s best to start from the beginning of Little Soap Company itself. 

To me, soap takes me back to memories of my Gran, who travelled extensively by boat and seemed to accumulate soaps wherever she went. Back then, soap was a bath-time staple, usually filled with natural goodness. But at some stage, soaps ran out of favour, something I discovered when I combed the supermarket shelves to find some! 

The lack of availability of soap, and growth of synthetic and environmentally harmful products in plastic bottles, seemed at odds with global trends. People wanted to be more environmentally friendly and to move away from harsh products and pollutants. I thought… surely if I’m looking for organic and natural soap, then so are others! And this is where it started.

First, as a little business, dreaming and planning at the kitchen table, selling locally and small-scale. But never letting go of my big vision, we developed the brand and range of products, we gained interest from retailers, and we enjoyed love and loyalty from a growing number of customers. We never stand still. Our product range continues to expand as we push boundaries and explore new possibilities.

We produced natural soap. So next we thought, let’s go further and make a truly eco range! Our products worked beautifully for skin. Let’s make them work for hair! We’re loved by people. Now let’s be loved by their pets! This is our attitude, and the reason for our success.

When our handmade natural and organic soap bars started gaining popularity at local farmer’s markets, it was clear the products were valued and loved. But this was not enough, as my ultimate aim was to make natural soaps accessible to everyone. The only way to achieve this was to scale up and get our products into UK retailers. And that’s exactly what I did.

At the same time as diversifying the range to provide consumer choice on products, fragrances and skin types, we worked relentlessly to promote the virtues and benefits of Little Soap Company natural soaps. I believe things always work better when we work together. So from day one, it was important to me that we at Little Soap Company put as much energy into building good relationships within our team, our suppliers, and the local community, as we do our soaps and our customers.

The result? British made, cruelty-free, vegan and RSPO sustainable soap available at affordable prices in all the major retailers (Waitrose, Booths, Sainsbury, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons), chemists (Boots, Superdrug and Lloyds Pharmacy), plus online retailers including Ocado, Fetch and Amazon. We have done the thinking to enable every single one of our customers, whatever need state or budget you might have, to have a clean conscience as you wash. Although 100% vegan, natural and cruelty free ingredients, RSPO certified Sustainable Palm Oil and pure essential oils all add to the price of our soap, our profit margin has never been the most important part about our soap. Making sure that we create the best possible product, physically, socially and environmentally has been what’s important and I don’t think that will ever change.

You know the saying – ‘It’s only one plastic straw, said eight billion people’ – it’s about little changes all mounting up to make a big difference. I feel exactly the same way when it comes to soap and I rigidly believe the business of a business is to improve the world. Our Eco Warrior range is very much in keeping with the zeitgeist. A range of six bars of soap (plus two exclusive Beauty Edits in Superdrug), each with their own function doing away with the need for a myriad of potions and lotions in plastic bottles.

Our shampoo bar means there is no need for plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles; the shaving bar eliminates the need for shaving foam and cream; the hand and body bar zaps liquid hand soap, body, wash, shower gel, and body moisturiser. Likewise the exfoliating bar, the facial bar, and the charcoal bar, all trump more traditional products in plastic tubes and bottles.

I’m so proud of Little Soap Company and its green credentials, and I knew the Eco Warrior products would find an audience among environmentally-conscious generation Z and Millennials. But what unexpectedly delighted me even more, though, was that the product is in fact resonating right across the generations. “We all want to do our bit for the planet.  It is not always easy being green but by swapping a plastic bottle for a bar of soap, we can make that an easy tweak for something we all do every day and in the current climate even more so than usual – wash!”

Eco Warrior

One of the keys to surviving and succeeding in FMCG is the ability to be able to do something different that a bigger brand or supermarket own label can’t… with such a small team and tight supply chain we are able to control demand as well as bend and flex to bring new products to fruition quickly. We aren’t a huge conglomerate. We have genuine provenance and heritage – I started off on the kitchen table, selling at farmers markets and growing the brand to where we are today and finally able to hold our own sales-wise amid the big boys. It is a genuine David and Goliath story. 

Another fundamental part of becoming a B Corporation is the strive for continual improvement. Yes, we have created great products and we are truly making a difference, however, there is always more room to grow and the fact that the B Corporation assessment looks for improvement criteria every three years only reinforces my faith in the system. I hope that for many years to come we, at Little Soap Company, continue to be a successful B Corporation and that other businesses, both big and small join the movement too. If all businesses were to become B Corporations the world would be a very different, but better place.

B Corporations are businesses that are making changes to alter the way we view success in business. They’re building more inclusive and sustainable economies and using their power to make positive changes for employees, communities and the environment. They’re creating more jobs of high quality and are helping to create communities that are aspiring to the same values.