Soap through social enterprise: The GLFB visit CLARITY.

GLFB and CLARITY

As the longest-serving member organisation of the Greater London Fund for the Blind (GLFB), CLARITY is one of the UK’s first social enterprises and has been training and supporting disabled people to access meaningful employment since 1854. Today, operating from their factory in East London, CLARITY manufacture and sell luxury bath and beauty products alongside everyday cleaning and toiletry supplies including: liquid hand soap, washing up liquid, men’s care, candles and air fresheners to name a few.

Ongoing funding from the GLFB has assisted CLARITY to recruit blind and partially sighted employees central to the development of its 300 products, as well as its 40,000 strong customer base.

Ethos and support 

CLARITY’s ethos is the same today as it was one hundred and sixty-five years ago: that all disabled people should have an opportunity to access meaningful employment, as well as the chance to do something great. However, it’s the framework of support that CLARITY puts in place for its employees that ensures the organisation is not just a thriving enterprise, but a supportive environment with its people front of mind.

A sweet-smelling tour of the facilities by the GLFB’s fundraising team revealed more than the occasional nod to the creators of CLARITY’s products. A bottle of geranium and rhubarb eco hand lotion – part of their award-winning brand Soap Co. -is labelled in braille and accompanies a description of Shane, who works in the packing department, written on the back. With every purchase of a CLARITY product, a customer becomes a partner. Every partner plays a role in supporting disabled people, like Shane, into meaningful employment.

83% of CLARITY’s workforce are predominantly blind or otherwise disabled, yet the scale of CLARITY’s operations enables employees’ skills to be applied to various functions – from telesales, marketing, administrative and customer service roles as well as working in the factory.

Ambitions

Nigel Lewis, Chief Executive of CLARITY, explained how their ambition is to give its employees the skills and confidence to progress their careers within CLARITY, or to move on to other employers as part of their next career move. By providing wider support for his staff, Nigel ensures that employees can receive on-the-job support with practical matters relating to their disability. This could be help with accessing benefits and support with using public transport which could otherwise be barriers to employment.

CEO Nigel Lewis joins Stephen to celebrate 40 years of service.
CEO Nigel Lewis joins Stephen to celebrate 40 years of service.

With many employees living on their own, the social benefits of coming to work in a lively enterprise brings more than just employment, but a sense of belonging and being part of a family. Nigel recalls a staff member forming a friendship with a fellow factory worker which led to a joint effort in swapping menus and later cooking evening meals together; something the gentleman had not been able to enjoy properly since losing his sight.

The level of ‘wraparound’ support available to CLARITY staff is also what has led to remarkable levels of loyalty. One of the longest-serving employees, Stephen, who recently retired after working at CLARITY for 40 years, is testament to the level of community that accompanies the production of such luxury products – it’s not hard to understand why people enjoy working here.

To make a donation to support social enterprise for blind and partially sighted people and to enable CLARITY to keep their family going, please consider making a donation to the GLFB click here.

 

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