The Short Story
We are a social enterprise based in Oxfordshire which supplies sustainable detergents to shops, farmers markets, cooperatives and charity organisations. When we started we used to run a delivery service mainly to primary school parents, so we were called School Ethical Supplies Initiative - quite a mouthful! As we evolved we kept the name SESI, as some say it's catchy! SESI Refill helps reduce people’s plastic footprint. With the surge of Zero Waste Shops and other established retailers changing to become unpackaged shops, SESI has a key role as a provider of ethical detergents which help everyone to become part of a circular economy. We have been lucky enough to be a valued alternative to those seeking to reduce food waste and cut their plastic footprint. As a social enterprise, we re-inject funds into broadening our product list and branching out to create new partnerships and Refill Stations. Our focus is not profit, it’s to do good.
SESI, stockists and customers are refilling about 1 MILLION bottles a year with our detergents!!!
We’re proud to have developed products that are:
✅ Cruelty Free
Manufactured for SESI by an independent family firm in the UK
The Long Story
Fourteen years campaining - Putting formulas before looks
When you start something without funds like we did, and in a time when you couldn’t even fundraise because plastic didn’t seem to be a problem then, getting going means prioritising your steps. Since we launched our own brand in 2013 we’ve been busy researching gentle formulas whilst sharing all we’ve learned with our manufacturers and their excellent chemist.
Our amazing SESI products wouldn’t be what they are today without all we’ve exhaustively learned from scientists, NGO’s, bloggers and influencers [those not for corporate interest], and last but definitely not least, our own pursuit for the science, transparency and customers constructive feedback. Our detergents while sustainable are not the ‘end product’ and we will continue to pioneer new design of products, raising the sustainable bar. We are not trying to substitute one wrapping with another, we are helping our caring communities reduce and reuse, and for us refilling detergents this is a means to a never ending journey, thinking of the bigger picture. True to our mission and with small funds, we’ve focused in the formulas rather than branding and looks but from January 2020 we’ll have a new look. Stay tuned!
SESI CRONOLOGY - hear it from us 💛
➡️ 2006: born in the shed of our local primary school in Oxford - a not for profit refill service, the food part is for community engagement.
➡️ 2013: we launch our SESI brand of sustainable detergents - having spent years researching other products, the 'eco' marketing effect (greenwash), formulas and misnomers, dirty palm oil and other damaging monocrops and #plasticpollution. We continue to update our formulas the more we learn from research and customer supportive feedback.
➡️ 2014 picture of our daughters (15 yrs old and 13yrs old) refilling at a local Sunday farmers market. They didn't get paid for this in the early years, but salary for market stall assistants did come around 2015!
➡️ 2018: Sat 10th March, SESI runs a free of charge Refill Workshop from Paul and Rina's home, since then customers outside of Oxfordshire begin to contact and join us.
➡️ 2018: From September, SESI pays a salary for the first time to Rina (one of the founders)
➡️ 2019: August is the month when Paul Godden (one of the founders) leaves his full time job to join SESI - a financially risky strategy which is taken with the confidence that both directors can finally pay themselves a low but safe income
Who We Are
➡️ PAUL has two degrees, one as an engineer and one as an accountant; he is pretty active in both areas. His experience draws from what he learned in the UK, Africa and Latin America. Until August 2019 he was the finance manager for around 20 staff in Oncology (a department of 400 people) at the University of Oxford. Paul shares a vision of creating an alternative technology centre for the next generation of scientists and engineers, designing low carbon, zero waste equipment for the warehouse, logistics and factory sector. Provided people continue to support us, this will be a unique project of its kind.
➡️ RINA has sold food in the streets since the age of five. She grew up homeless up to the age of 8 years old, without a father and a then severely mentally ill mother, in the context of a dictatorship and a civil war in El Salvador. Through scholarships Rina's made it to grammar school and then university, later fulfilling her dream to work in research and academia for national projects and programs in the private, state and NGO sectors in Central America and the UK. Food justice, social inclusion and mental health are under her skin and she has a vision for SESI to have a *real* impact in these areas of society
➡️ BELLA AND JASMINE have grown up with these values and have done so much work on volunteering basis to help not just SESI but other local projects. Bella's love for physics and Jasmine's love for biology is influenced by our local scientists, writers and journalists committed to revert climate change.
➡️ AS A FAMILY, we've worked Saturdays and Sundays for years at local farmers markets, enjoying most of it! Yes, there have been blood, sweat and tears, not because of grand and failed ambitions (we don't have those) but because when we started this local campaign, most people really believed that our taxes and the government's recycling had it all covered, and that plastic wasn't an issue. But once informed people care, people listen and in time, many communities up and down the country have found out the truth about recycling and are taking action. This is worth every hour put in all the projects we have loved developing for this campaign! SESI journey moves forward all thanks to volunteers, paid staff and others accross the country sharing the same concerns and ethos.
➡️ The SESI Food story has been woven by our family, and Oxfordshire community groups and volunteers who so generously share friendship, love and comitment. SESI does not rely on external funds or donations, it reinjects its surplus back into itself, but we would contemplate fundraising for future collaborations with other likeminded social enterprises.
➡️ We help tackle some of the causes of waste and pollution, we draw great hope from communities and the cultural shift that can help prevent climate change, and help us divert the course of history towards a cleaner and greener future.
Paul, Rina and the SESI team!