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Agwé Wash Pods is a social enterprise that sells soap dispensers and dissolvable hand wash pods that serve as refills. With the concept of reusability built into the design of the product, Agwé Wash Pods advocates for accessible hygiene solutions (SDG #6), responsible consumption and production of household goods (SDG #12), and decreased plastic waste that pollutes cities (SDG #11) and bodies of water (SDG #14).
The Laohoo siblings – Janelle, Jennica, and Neil, are science majors who created the soap formulation of Agwé Wash Pods. Under the same name, they founded the business in December 2021. One night, as Jennica went through social media, she came across an ad for laundry pods in the US, which sparked the idea of popularizing similar products in the Philippines.
"I keep seeing Tide laundry pods on [social media] actually, and I thought: ... 'Why don't we try to incorporate this in the Philippines and make it a little bit simpler to use instead of laundry pods because they would need washing machines."
Jennica and her siblings focused on creating soap pods instead of laundry pods to cater to most Filipinos who do not have washing machines in their homes. The founders also created their business to address the increasing demand for soap products as Filipinos washed their hands more often during the pandemic to avoid contracting the COVID-19 virus. Agwé Wash Pods's products consist of reusable soap dispensers and pods of soap with local and regional scents such as Sampaguita, Mint, or Green Tea. The business aims to help customers reuse soap containers by refilling them with wash pods and water while reducing the usage of single-use plastic sachets and bottles. This is because the pods that contain the refill dissolve when mixed with water. This limits the need for further plastic containers for soap refills. Agwé Wash Pods further innovated their operations by applying their "less waste" mentality to their packaging. The packaging itself is made of cardboard paper, which is more organic and biodegradable. The fragile wash pods had to be cushioned inside the packaging. Their solution was to reuse bubble wraps from other deliveries or the shredded paper that come from paper rejects of a local paper company.
As of the team's interview with Jennica in July 2023, she mentioned that her business is looking for ways to improve the packaging of the soap pods so customers can travel with the product. Jennica noted that strong packaging would enhance the transferability of the wash pods as their current product is a little sensitive to high temperatures and sudden movements.
There is a growing need to address the persistence of plastic waste pollution in the Philippines. The country, known as having a sachet economy, heavily relies on single-use plastics, especially in low-income families that comprise most of the population. Although these forms of plastic provide low-cost consumer goods, they put the environment at a heightened risk for long-term damage due to waste mismanagement at their disposal.
While addressing this issue calls for the involvement of government units with regards to better policing as well as business ventures to integrate more sustainable practices, what catalyzed the development of Agwé Wash Pods centered on Jennica and her siblings’ collective passion to “keep this world a more environmentally friendly place” through directly encouraging a change in community behavior. She mentioned the guilt they felt whenever they traveled around the country. On their family trips, they often saw plastic waste scattered along natural bodies of water, contaminating them in the process. It became a mission from thereon to provide accessible options for both urban and rural communities to integrate greener lifestyles into their households. The way they would pursue this mission became slightly more apparent with the global pandemic brought on by the Coronavirus. Therefore, they saw this opportunity to make a difference through an essential household product, which addresses another societal issue of hygiene. As Agwé Wash Pods sought to help Filipinos take safety measures in cleanliness and hand washing, their product innovation aims to encourage consumers to be more conscious of the same waste pollution they have observed. This also promotes how Filipinos can directly impact the country’s waste management issue, hopefully stimulating more environmentally conscious purchasing behaviors that precede personal care goods and other household goods.
Agwé Wash Pods provides consumers a versatile, immersive, yet sustainable experience in everyday hand soaps. In the short term, Agwé Wash Pods’ reusable soap dispenser and pods enable customers to immediately be more environmentally friendly while starting to save a little on household costs. At face value, this may seem like a small contribution to plastic waste, pollution, and the climate crisis, especially when some brands already offer refills for their soap dispensers. However, Agwé Wash Pods’s business impacts are caused by the minor details of operations that they so carefully focus on.
The dissolvable refillable pods reduce the need for further containers for the refill, which may require plastic and numerous levels of CO2 emission for its production and may add to the pollution. The paper packaging and recycled cushioning for these pods allow for more organic and biodegradable material when delivered. In short, the business is slowly working towards becoming wholly plastic and waste-free in every aspect of its operations.
By getting customers to commit to their refillable soap model, Agwé Wash Pods attempts to build loyal customers that constantly patronize their refills, both for convenience and for the sustainable aspect of the purchase. On the other side of this business impact is the environmental impact, which at this point, is a relatively small yet still significant contribution towards plastic, waste, and pollution reduction in the cities and waters of the Philippines.
However, this need not stay small because, in the long term, Jennica mentioned that at Agwé Wash Pods, “We are trying to promote a community that is more sustainable and trying to influence a lot of people to join us in this movement of reducing waste in general.” In other words, they are trying to breed a culture of less waste with solutions like refillable products. Some evidence of this is the constant feedback that the business is getting. Some may be negative, like in the case of a few criticisms of their use of plastic soap dispensers despite being an advocate for less plastic. Despite the harsh reality of such statements, Jennica and her siblings believe that these criticisms and feedback are crucial for their improvement. They are entirely motivated to pursue an utterly plastic-free business model. On the flip side, there are some success stories, including very positive feedback from a customer who just happened to be a local high school principal. She bought several Agwé Wash Pods soap dispensers and pods for a school event to promote the same less-waste culture that Jennica mentioned.
These may be just a few stories of Agwé Wash Pods’s social impact of empowering people to be sustainable. Still, it also highlights our community’s potential to be more socially conscious and spread that sentiment to others. It just takes businesses and organizations like Agwé Wash Pods to nudge them forward.
The three siblings and co-owners of Agwé Wash Pods primarily utilize e-commerce platforms such as Shopee and Lazada and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to sell their products. The owners believe building an influential business requires passion and advocacy for sustainability, a waste-free future, and dedication to pursuing the venture. This advocacy-driven goal of a better society has generated an innovative hand-washing system that improves numerous social and environmental aspects. Agwé Wash Pods aims to popularize this eco-friendly hand-washing soap in the Philippines by integrating laundry pods, like Tide Pods, with hand washing which can be more relevant in our society. One of the most notable impacts of their innovation on the business is the competitive advantage gained through their innovative approach. With few competitors in the market, Agwé Wash Pods has positioned itself as a trailblazer in sustainable hand-washing solutions. As the pandemic was onset during the start of this innovative business, the shift towards cheaper hand washing practices has further supported the demand for their wash pods.
As a waste-free business, solving essential concerns and winning over environmentally conscious consumers things the owners look forward to. The founders' drive has given Agwé Wash Pods a strong feeling of purpose to continue their business. In nations like the Philippines, where public facilities often lack soap, their commitment to designing a more portable, travel-friendly solution fills a market need.
By encouraging consumers to reuse their plastic bottle containers, they actively contribute to waste reduction, and the positive feedback from customers reflects their aspirations for this cause. This approach to reusability has not only resulted in repeat customers but also sparked a sustainable journey for many individuals who have adopted eco-friendly practices. Furthermore, Jennica, one of the owners, has noted that as they whole-heartedly dedicate their household to a more sustainable one, plastic packaging from their deliveries is reused to pack products that are checked out or sold on their online platforms. However, it was evident that Jennica and her siblings had bigger things in mind for Agwé Wash Pods's future.
"In the next five years, I do hope that we are big enough to create onsite stores in malls. Of course, we are not going to only sell hand wash pods but a variety of products that still promote sustainability."
As Agwé Wash Pods's following and community grow, the business hopes to use its success to expand towards a more long-term vision that reflects its dedication to promoting and reaching a more prominent, greener community and positively impacting the environment while remaining profitable. Their vision would be to have many brick-and-mortar stores that make a wider variety of "less-waste" household products accessible to more Filipinos.
Since their creation, Agwé Wash Pods has taken significant steps to align with multiple United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the forefront of their operations is the mission to enhance accessibility to hand washing solutions. Agwé Wash Pods actively contributes to SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation by offering dissolvable and refillable wash pods, promoting responsible and sustainable hygiene practices. Moreover, the company remains steadfast in supporting SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production by encouraging environmentally-conscious buying habits within its consumer base.
“We (siblings) noticed that whenever we go on trips, island hopping, or to beaches, we see a lot of plastics being thrown into the ocean. We felt really bad about it, and I guess it (our motivation) came from that as well.”
Inspired by witnessing the detrimental effects of plastic pollution on oceans, Jennica and her siblings work diligently every day to achieve their overarching goal of improving Life Below Water (SDG 14). Their current practices and long-term goals focus on minimizing plastic waste to protect water bodies and marine life. As Agwé Wash Pods expands, they commit to cultivating a culture of sustainability within communities. Beyond their innovative products, Agwé Wash Pods aims to spread the sentiment of waste reduction, profoundly resonating with SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities. In the long run, they hope to inspire greener and more environmentally aware communities that aim to limit the waste that pollutes their areas and poses hygiene hazards.
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Jennica Nadine Laohoo, Co founder
Agwé Wash Pods is a for-profit social enterprise that advocates for hygiene for all and less waste, specifically plastic waste, which pollutes communities and bodies of water near cities and neighborhoods. The company focuses on the household products sector through a more sustainable approach that is accessible to Filipino consumers.