Shawn Seipler Speaks at Heffern Lecture
March 24, 2014
ALLIANCE, Ohio — Shawn Seipler, executive director and co-founder of Clean the World, visited Mount Union’s campus last Wednesday to host the 2014 Gordon Heffern Business Ethics Lecture.
As a native of Orlando, FL, Seipler braved the Ohio weather to present his lecture “Clean the World as a Case Study in Social Entrepreneurship” to the Mount Union community, students and faculty. For a man to leave Florida to visit Ohio, he must have something big worth speaking about. Clean the World is that something.
Clean the World is a non-profit organization that repurposes the leftover soap donated by hotel partners. After first being founded in 2009, the program has partnered with more than 2,000 North American hotels, allowing for the distribution of more than 15 million bars of soap to children and families in the United States and 70 other countries.
Prior to the birth of Clean the World, Seipler spent four days a week traveling for work, and was growing reid of not being able to see his family. He sought to answer the question that every successful businessman inevitably asks: What can I do now?
“I wasn’t an environmental guy,” said Seipler. “I was an entrepreneur, and going green was the way that I thought I could make money.”
So Seipler sat brainstorming about environmentally friendly business ideas. One night as he was in his hotel room, he looked at the bar of soap and began to wonder what was done with the leftover soap. He called the front desk and they said they just throw it away. At this point, Seipler ran to his computer to research.
Seipler discovered several studies with shocking results. Around the world, 9,000 children die every single day due to diarrheal disease and pneumonia. A study was conducted in a village in Bangladesh in which half of the people were given soap and half were not. From the group that was given soap, death rates were cut by half. He realized that he could save these people.
“That was the moment when I felt that if I didn’t do something about this, I was going to hell,” he said.
The trial run of this idea started out in his family garage. He sat with his family scraping soap, running it through a meat grinder, using a Kenmore cooker to melt it into paste and then making the soap bars. They have come a long way since then. At this point, 2,500 tons of trash have been diverted from landfills, which pales in comparison the lives saved by the simple gift of soap.
“These mothers, they cry over this bar of soap,” Seipler said. “They hug you over this bar of soap. They kiss you over this bar of soap…because it is lifesaving.”
Seipler is actively involved in the sustainability community. He is a board member for the Orlando Chamber of Commerce and is on the City of Orlando’s Sustainability Task Force. He is also an advisory board member for amaZulu and with that, Seipler participates in the Athena PowerLink program at Rollins College, which encourages women-led businesses.
After the lecture, students, faculty and community members had the opportunity to participate in Raider Relief’s community service project. The Raider Relief group led a hygiene kit assembly with students to benefit Seipler’s Clean the World campaign.
The Gordon Heffern Business Ethics Lecture was established by Mount Union Trustee Gordon Heffern to encourage dialogue about the practical ways in which spirituality can transform the workplace. Heffern, a graduate of the University of Virginia, served as chairman of the board of Society Corporation before retiring in 1987.