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Will&Able bottles up kindness

Will&Able bottles up kindness

Will&Able has two noble ambitions: to help save the planet with eco-friendly products that care for the environment and provide jobs and purpose for people with intellectual disabilities.

Will&Able bottles up kindness

Will&Able is more than just a brand of eco-friendly cleaning products – it’s a social enterprise that is helping to create jobs and provide a sense of community to people with disabilities.

When we consider buying cleaning products that will make a difference, usually our mind goes to brands that promise to be better for the planet. But the next time you’re shopping for household supplies, consider stocking up on Will&Able.

Not only is the New Zealand social enterprise’s line of cleaning products environmentally friendly, buying from Will&Able helps to provide work for people with intellectual disabilities and mental health challenges.

Bottles are filled, lids are fastened, labels are applied and boxes are packed by a dedicated team of people who typically would have a hard time finding jobs. In addition to employment, Will&Able provides disabled people with community, purpose and independence.

According to recent labour statistics, in the December 2020 quarter in New Zealand, 38.7 per cent of disabled people aged 15-64 were employed, compared with 78.3 per cent of non-disabled people in the same age group.

Will&Able’s CEO, Martin Wylie, and general manager, Craig Burston know the challenges of finding employment for people with disabilities firsthand as they both have sons with intellectual disabilities.

Will&Able was created to provide a workplace that offered a sense of purpose and social inclusion for people like their sons.

“They saw what it was like for their own kids and saw the lack of opportunities there were for them to have work and to also feel included and accepted at work,” says Maya Jaros, Will&Able’s marketing co-ordinator.

Wylie came up with the idea of creating a cleaning product range, and Will&Able was founded in 2019 as part of Altus Enterprises – a non-profit providing work for people with disabilities through its outsourcing services. Altus Enterprises was hit devastatingly hard by the pandemic. Much of the organisation’s business has been with Air New Zealand, with Altus employees refurbishing headsets for the airline.

With international travel dramatically reduced amid border closures, Altus was unable to provide its staff with enough work and had to make 137 employees redundant. Thankfully, media interest meant Altus’ plight was broadcast across the country – the organisation’s plea for Kiwis to offer their support by buying Will&Able products was heard, and they experienced a surge in orders. “We had a moment of huge support so that was actually positive,” says Jaros. “After that we were able to create some more jobs which was great.”

More jobs means more people who can experience an inclusive and encouraging environment in a role that they love. Jaros has been collecting feedback from employees, and she has heard many positive stories. One example comes from Marcel, a member of the dispatch crew who was Will&Able’s first full-time employee. “It’s his favourite job that he’s had,” says Jaros.

“He feels part of a team, he loves the people and it gives him a sense of more responsibility and purpose than he normally has had with other jobs.” Customers can get to know more about members of the team by buying the products – the label designs feature photos of the devoted workers.

Helping those who struggle to find employment to have a stable job that they love is one thing, but you needn’t sacrifice saving the planet when you purchase from Will&Able. All the products are certified by ECNZ (Environmental Choice New Zealand), free from nasty chemicals and animal testing, and packed into 100 per cent recycled milk bottles. Will&Able has also implemented a ‘return to sender’ recycling programme where used bottles and boxes are collected and upcycled into useful materials.

There are numerous locations around the country where customers can drop off their empty bottles, or they can purchase a ‘Closed Loop Ticket’ when buying products, to courier the empties back to Will&Able to repurpose them into new bottles. Included in the Will&Able range are dish liquid, hand soap, laundry liquid, toilet cleaner, multipurpose cleaner and more. The products are available to buy individually or they can be ordered for retail and wholesale.

There are several ways to support Will&Able. The products are available to purchase from the Will&Able website, as well as Pricewise and Countdown stores nationwide. There’s also the option to donate – an easy way to do so is to purchase a gift card from the Will&Able website without redeeming the card.

Jaros says ongoing support for Will&Able is the best kind of assistance they can ask for, whether through a subscription that provides a regular and automatic delivery of products, or buying the products on a consistent basis. “That helps us to have sustained orders coming in that can help us have the sustained work. We need your ongoing support.”

It is also always on the lookout for businesses looking for a social purpose initiative to partner with.

Will&Able has a goal of creating at least 100 jobs for people with disabilities. Jaros says there are dozens of people who want to work with Will&Able, but creating the jobs can only be done if they can generate enough support. “We need the continued demand to warrant having 10 or 20 people on dispatch full-time five days a week – that’s a lot of boxes,” she says. “We’re not at a point of having enough demand to sustain 100 jobs, so we still have a lot of work to do. We still want to tell people that we really need their help.”

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