By: Darren Ward
In the Beginning:
Late February 2020 saw the arrival of Covid-19 in Ireland. Within the span of three weeks the virus had swept across the nation at a frightening speed. We had no choice but to follow suit of other countries, and lockdown measures quickly came into effect here. On March 12th 2020, the government shut all schools, colleges, childcare facilities and cultural institutions as a means of slowing down transmission. Since then we have seen unprecedented demands on PPE materials across the world. Never has there been such a push to gain supply and stock a range of products pertaining to healthcare and frontline services. From medical masks and covid screens to hand sanitising dispensers both for liquids and paper, they have all been in equally short supply.
According to the World Health Organization, ‘the severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) – caused by rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse – is putting lives at risk from the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others.’
Governments chartered airplanes, boats and private and public companies to help with the surge in orders. Healthcare came under huge pressure from within and mistakes in purchasing were made. After an initial shortage, stock of PPE arrived that was completely unsuitable; a vast array of hand sanitisers flooded the market, some of which were of questionable efficacy and provenance. In an article written on April 5th 2020 by the Guardian titled, HSE says 20% of the first PPE batch to arrive from China was 'unsuitable', €4 million worth of personal protective equipment purchased from China was deemed unfit for use.
Indeed as people made do with whatever products they could get their hands on, health services reported an increased number of cases of children ingesting harmful alcohol hand sanitisers. Prices for raw materials doubled overnight and price gouging commenced.
The Challenge Ahead:
The market has started to settle down a little but we still see an increase of 300%-400% over pre-Covid-19 prices on items like everyday disposable gloves and medical grade masks.
Costs continue to increase within the hygiene industry; the demand is just as high now, in May 2021 as it was in March 2020. We have witnessed a radical change in how frontline services deal with the intake of patients and there is a heightened awareness of personal hygiene and social distancing. Prices for shipping around the world have also risen by 300%-400% and there seems to be no levelling off just yet.
We Wanted to Help:
At a time when Covid 19 was spreading rapidly, frontline staff, volunteers, as well as homeless people were at more risk than ever, and needed external sources to step in and offer assistance. The team at Ward Hygiene unanimously voted to help in whatever capacity. A bold step for a startup that was trying to build a sustainable business at a very difficult time.
But before we could help, we had to rethink our supply chain. The challenge Ward Hygiene faced was sourcing quality products in a market that was not only volatile in terms of pricing but also in terms of integrity. As several online ecommerce platforms were being investigated for importing and flooding the Irish market with non-registered alcohol sanitisers, we continued as a small Irish owned company to source stock at competitive prices while ensuring all due diligence had been carried out with the Irish biocidal regulator at the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications.
Once we had ironed out the logistics, we approached Peter McVerry Trust with an offer to help. We suggested an open conversation in terms of what was being purchased and what we might recommend in terms of cost savings and donations. When we saw their purchasing costs we knew we could help reduce their outlay.
A key part of taking care of frontline services is providing the very best in terms of health and safety. As we started working together with Peter McVerry Trust we immediately identified the opportunity to offer a hand and surface sanitiser that was alcohol free , fully lab certified and safe to use around younger residents.
The benefits of Xtra Protect as a sanitiser are many, ranging from non-flammable, non-irritant and non-toxic to boasting a residual effect on surfaces for up to eight days. It works perfectly as a foaming sanitiser which means it literally lasts twice as long, and for those sanitising dozens of times every day, causes no damage to the skin. To an organisation famous for the compassion they show and the good they do for homeless people in Ireland, we were happy to donate as much quality hand sanitiser as we could.
Giving Back, Moving Forward:
We are excited to announce that in July 2021, Ward Hygiene will be launching an innovative concept called Greenloop. As a team and a company we hope to encourage a transition towards zero waste living and mitigate single use plastic pollution one bottle at a time! As we continue to support our charity partners, our company will give a 10% equal share of profits divided between the Rainforest Alliance Europe and the Peter McVerry Trust. We love the idea of not just being more environmentally friendly, but also actively being of service to our community both at a local and global level.
We really feel passionate that by working side by side with our customers we can genuinely make a lasting difference. Together we can help create homes for those who have none. And together we can plant new trees and help with the conservation of our rain forests and the communities and wildlife that live within them. Our motivation is to go above and beyond offsetting our carbon footprint; we strive to leave no trace as we scale with our partners.