The Soapworks Story

Soapworks is located in Greater Easterhouse, a post war housing estate in Glasgow, Scotland and was founded by Anita & Gordon Roddick, founders of The Body Shop. The story begins when towards the end of 1987 Anita was giving a talk in London about The Body Shop’s holistic approach to business, where she was approached by a young man from Easterhouse. He asked her if she really practiced what she preached and if she could do anything to help in the Easterhouse area where work and amenities were almost non-existent.

In January 1988 Anita and Gordon visited the area and although they found a depressing environment, they were impressed by the local people and their enthusiasm and as such they decided to find a way of “putting something back”. What they came up with was Soapworks Ltd.

Within eight months and with an investment of £1 million pounds, 36,000 square feet of factory space was totally renovated to install machinery to manufacture and wrap soap tablets. Soapworks Ltd opened its doors in October 1988 with just 14 employees, the majority of whom were unemployed. The factory consisted of 1 soap line and 2 wrapping machines, supplying soap bars exclusively to The Body Shop.

Today, Soapworks Ltd is the UK’s largest manufacturer of soaps, employing over 100 full time permanent employees. The factory has grown to over 63,000 square feet with a modern soap production facility, supplying soaps to a large and diverse client base around the world. In addition, the product portfolio now includes the filling of aromatic oils and gift assembly.

Soapworks became part of L’Oreal after the sale of The Body Shop in 2006, and subsequently became independent after a management buy-out from L’Oreal in 2010.

Anita Roddick once said: “Of course it would have been easier to locate Soapworks in Littlehampton, but that’s not the point”. The point being, Anita wanted to demonstrate to the business world that you could locate a business in an area in need of development opportunities. You could then provide employment with good and fair working conditions and manufacture quality products whilst putting something back into the local area to the benefit of the whole community. Soapworks Ltd continues to promote these values to this day, whilst at the same time leading the way in modern bar soap manufacture.