Have you ever wondered what to do with the used vegetable oil that is left in the kitchen after cooking? You should always remember to dispose of it properly, of course; but what if you could make something out of it? In today’s interview, we get to know the founders of the innovative start-up Souji. Some years back, while in their 30s, they started to research and found a way to produce soap out of used vegetable oil! Keep reading to find out more!
Who is the team behind Souji? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Behind SOUJI there are mainly two people, Sergio and Catalina. Sergio is an environmental engineer with a great entrepreneurial spirit, the perfect mix for him to be the inventor of the idea and now the CEO of the company. Catalina is an expert in Marketing and Business Management, in love with Sergio and his ideas, which at the team level complements the project to shape it and bring it to the market. In addition, both outsource services from many other companies that also make SOUJI possible.
What does Souji consist of and how did you come up with this idea?
The idea was born from the head of Sergio, who noticed the annoyances that the oil residue creates at home (storage, transportation, etc.) and, knowing the enormous environmental impact that its mismanagement creates (1l of oil, can contaminate up to 1,000,000 l of water), decided to look for solutions. He thought about the traditional method of making homemade soap, but he found out that it also had its limitations: the use of caustic soda, a very corrosive element, which needs a lot of care, glasses, gloves, an outdoor place, and even a month of waiting to see the result. So, he began to investigate: he hired a chief chemist, an expert in the field, and after three years, SOUJI was born. A liquid-based on compounds of vegetable and mineral origin, without handling risks, or caustic soda, which is just one minute, manages to convert the oil into an ecological and multipurpose detergent, with a pleasant aroma. Throwing away used vegetable oil into the sink brings along disastrous consequences for the environment, such as altering the ecosystem and killing living species. Oftentimes, consumers
are not aware of these consequences, due to a lack of education around the topic.
How could Souji help in raising awareness about the risks of mismanaging the end of life of used vegetable oil?
Environmental education is a complex issue and everyone’s responsibility. Oil is a very forgotten residue, but highly polluting and present in most of the world’s diets. Its management is complex and its impact is enormous. Not only in the environment, polluting the water, killing species, and altering entire ecosystems, but also economically, plugging pipes, increasing treatment costs, and promoting pests and diseases. Our mission is to offer an alternative to these disasters and from our social networks, and the media, inform us about this impact. We are a very small start-up and our noise is not very loud yet, but we raise our voices whenever we can, and we work every day so that more people know what it is about.
Based on the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) theory, businesses should commit to focusing not only on profits but also on people and the planet. Do you agree?
Of course, it is essential. Companies are the people who make them up: working by and for them, as well as for their clients, is the basis of a healthy organization. And the planet is our main current mission, to live in the greatest possible harmony with it is not an option but a necessity. Our survival and that of millions of species depend on it.
Which kind of reactions/feedback has Souji received?
Of all kinds, but fortunately all very positive. There are people with doubts related to the possibility of washing your clothes with oil because they are not fully aware of how soaps are made, or the issue of aroma, which is very important to many. But once they know the product, they like it very much. Initial distrust in such a novel product is normal, but the truth is that we are happy, the results are positive and so is the acceptance. In addition, we continue working to improve and, above all, to reduce costs and be more accessible to everyone.
In your opinion, which role does youth play in finding innovative solutions to sustainability-related issues?
A fundamental role, the young and the not so young must have an open mind to change our way of consuming and to solve our daily problems in a more sustainable way. We have the responsibility, and the need to create and demand services and products in tune with the planet.
Looking back at when you started the project, is there something you would do differently?
There are always things that you can change but in the end, we are a small and innovative project where every mistake teaches us and tells us where to go.
What’s next for you and Souji?
Work, work, and more work … now we are perfecting our offer for the catering sector, with the development of a machine that facilitates the problems of operation and volume that these establishments have. And we are also working to internationalize the formula and continue offering new formats and improvements.
Which advice would you give to those who want to start their own sustainable business?
They should inform themselves, study, and surround themselves with people with the same concerns. And if they really do throw themselves out, let them be patient, persevering, and hard-working. The undertaking is not an easy path, and it is not for everyone, but it is very rewarding and enriching.
Thanks to Sergio and Catalina for taking part in this interview. YEE supports science and innovative solutions: we’re glad to share these stories with our audience, hoping to inspire someone out there to take the lead and change the world! Good luck with your next projects!
YEE aims to unite environmental youth non-profit organisations in Europe in order to enhance international cooperation, increase knowledge about nature, raise awareness of environmental problems and to strengthen participation of youth in environmental decision-making.