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EBRD and EU support soap producer Arkadi in Greece

By Olga Aristeidou

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Award-winning, eco-friendly and natural soaps travel the world

© Arkadi


Award-winning, eco-friendly and natural soaps travel the world

Using natural ingredients and eco-friendly packaging, running green initiatives and programmes and garnering certificates and awards are just some of soap-producer Arkadi’s achievements.

Through its Advice for Small Businesses programme in Greece, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), with support from the European Union through the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH) of the European Investment Bank, helped the company expand to new markets. Arkadi has now begun exporting its products abroad and exploring opportunities in new markets.

Founded in 1946 in Crete, a Greek island famous worldwide for its high-quality olive oil production, Arkadi started out producing green soap. The firm was named after the historic Arkadi Monastery in Rethymno, Crete, as well as Arkadi province.

Arkadi is now a third-generation business, led by Maria Malikouti, the granddaughter of founder Georgios Malikoutis.

Baby products (liquid cleanser, fabric softener and washing machine powder) are the firm’s signature products and the reason they became famous to all Greek families.

But since then, the company has grown significantly and recently started producing cosmetics, too. Now, in addition to soaps and softeners, Arkadi sells shower gels, shampoos and body creams, free of synthetics, additives, colours or fragrances. More than 98 per cent of its ingredients are from natural Greek flora (such as calendula, aloe, organic olive trees, lavender and chamomile).

Save nature with more nature

Traditionally, producers in many Greek regions make green soap using last year's olive oil. That way, nothing goes to waste.

Green soap has an important characteristic: it is biodegradable. Producers use the inedible parts of the olive, such as the pit, to make soap. Therefore, when the soap returns to nature, as soapy wastewater when we wash our hands or clothes, it does not pollute the environment in which it ends up. 

“Environmental awareness has always been in our company’s DNA. It is not something we started doing recently; we have been ‘shouting’ for years that this is the way forward,” says Maria Malikouti, CEO of Arkadi.

Over the years, the company has achieved numerous certifications for the quality of its products and the raw materials used, as well as for the optimal operation of Arkadi’s working and production areas.

The firm aims to ensure that Arkadi products are a safe choice for people, animals, the air and sea, and for all surfaces and fabrics, both inside and outside the home.

In addition, the firm has established a comprehensive recycling programme for packaging and other recyclable production materials.

At least 50 per cent of Arkadi’s new, 100 per cent-recyclable packaging is produced from recycled fishing nets, ropes and boat ropes, thus helping to protect seas, lakes and rivers.

“If we do not embrace new trends, such as using recycled fishing nets, these trends will stop. Only if companies are involved in such projects will these initiatives continue. This is the future,” Ms Malikouti says.

“Greek consumers are embracing green products more and more. It is not enough for us to be safe. The whole planet has to be safe,” she continues.

Wash your hands – the slogan of the pandemic

When the Covid-19 pandemic started, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as national health agencies, recommended frequent and proper handwashing as one of the measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. This is how more frequent handwashing became an integral part of people’s daily lives.

“Green soap has remarkable disinfecting properties and is always kept sterile by its low degree of acidity, which does not allow microbial growth,” Ms Malikouti explains, describing how the pandemic created an opportunity for green soap to return to Greek homes. Arkadi has noticed a 243 per cent increase in sales of its green soap since the start of the pandemic.

The pandemic also made companies, including Arkadi, think more creatively in order to survive or continue growing. Arkadi developed a new antibacterial soap with eco-packaging which it sells in mini sachets of 3 grams. People can carry these around and use them to wash their hands with the help of only a little water, if they prefer not to use alcohol-based sanitisers.

Thanks to this innovative product, Arkadi won two green awards earlier this year.

“The pandemic is like a test that I personally believe will make us better people. The coming days will find us with a better attitude towards ourselves, those around us and the environment,” Ms Malikouti says.

Even before the pandemic, Arkadi had started a project, the so-called “green stops”. Instructors with portable sinks were teaching people, especially children, how to wash their hands properly. The sinks were placed in shopping malls, where more than 7,500 children washed their hands and about 100,000 visitors got in touch with Arkadi to learn about this initiative.

In the midst of the pandemic, and in collaboration with various municipalities around the country, the company organised a similar initiative for blood donation days.

All of this work and innovation by Arkadi, and the EBRD’s help, mean that consumers can now look forward to seeing the firm’s green products in stores all over the world.


Tips on how to make your laundry day greener

Arkadi shares some great tips on how to wash your clothes in an eco-friendly way:

1. Use environmentally friendly products with fewer chemicals and more natural ingredients.

2. Wash at low temperatures to reduce energy consumption.

3. Select the option to wash your laundry without the prewash setting. This saves both water and energy. It is preferable to start the washing machine when there is enough clothing to fill the drum.

4. Dry your clothes with the help of the sun instead of a dryer – again, to cut energy consumption.

5. The proper washing of clothes with high-quality, environmentally friendly products minimises the need for ironing, reducing energy consumption.

6. Do not overfill your washing machine. In this way, your clothing will be washed more thoroughly and you will not need to wash it twice.

7. Save money and reduce waste by cutting back on the amount of detergent you use. Even 40 grams of a high-quality detergent are enough.

8. Do not forget to recycle the packaging.

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