Business 06 July 2018
In today’s day and age, consumers are becoming more aware of how the products they purchase are being produced and the impact they have on the environment. Products or product packaging that is harmful to the environment stands a slim chance with even the slightest of conscientious shoppers. Sustainable shopping is one trend that’s on the rise—particularly with millennials and Generation Y. Through demand, shoppers are creating a world of responsible retailing.
The key group that is leading the charge of demanding more eco-friendly brands is Generation Y. 84 percent of their generation believe it is their duty to change the world, and they are far less accepting of businesses not joining them at that party. Kelly Stickel, Founder and CEO of Remodista, a fintech and retail analyst, has her finger on the pulse of the best eco-friendly brands out there right now.
"While ethical shopping and sticking to eco-friendly only brands is a tall order to fill, there are ways to go about it that adhere to one’s own personal moral compass and ethical code"
While ethical shopping and sticking to eco-friendly only brands is a tall order to fill, there are ways to go about it that adhere to one's own personal moral compass and ethical code. Nowadays it is possible to find products that are eco-friendly in just about every industry of shopping, from home goods and cleaning supplies all the way to beauty and fashion. Stickel has done the heavy lifting of researching and identifying brands that are truly committed to their eco efforts to save consumers the time and effort of wading through them all. These are her top picks for brands to support in the eco-friendly commerce spectrum:
- Modibodi makes period-proof underwear and swimwear. Enter sustainability. The average woman will use about 20 tampons or pads during the course of her period. That translates to about 300 pounds of product, both in applicators and wrappers, used over the entire course of her menstruating life.
Using a washable and reusable product such as Modibodi, saves money and waste. Modibodi was founded by Kristy Chong, a fast-tech entrepreneur and a social advocate for women’s health issues and rights.
- Naadam is a cashmere brand who pays their suppliers, nomadic goat herders, 50 percent more than traditional traders, and they don’t use any middlemen which means you get the product for cheaper. Their cashmere never sees harsh chemicals or bleaches. They have programs for healthier goats and sustainable grazing practices. Their products are made in clean energy powered facilities and they ensure that their employees are paid livable wages. The brand was born out of the ever-growing demand of the population of consumers that seek quality and transparency in manufacturing.
- Moroccanoil is a hair treatment brand making big moves when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint. In 2017, Moroccanoil saved 737 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted through the use of solar energy. They also save an average of 4,000 trees every year by cutting out secondary packaging. Carmen Tal, Co-Founder, looked to other woman for support when launching the business and to the women of her native Chili when shaping her aesthetic.
- Flora and Fauna sells only vegan and cruelty-free products. Their offices are solar-powered and all of their shipping materials are plastic-free and made with recycled materials. The brand is focused on running an ethical, responsible business and being transparent with customers.
Some other Australian eco-friendly retailers that are making their mark include: Wholesome Hub, Nourished Life, and Pure Home Body. The three are online websites that focus on selling organic and natural products and provide toxin-free shopping options. Each site vets the products they agree to feature to ensure they meet the eco-friendly standards they wish to uphold.
In addition to being eco-friendly brands, Flora and Fauna and Modibodi are both female owned and operated brands that are recognized for their work by Stickel’s Women2Watch program. Women2Watch is a group of women who drive innovation in both online and brick-and-mortar retail. Through Women2Watch, Stickel has had the opportunity to work and consult with the women behind the brands, the trailblazers of responsible retailing.
“We are thrilled to highlight all of the amazing brands who are thinking about the future of retail in terms of sustainability and conscious retailing. We continue to learn and be inspired by these women leaders and their efforts in the sustainability arena.” - Stickel
"These brands all exemplify how companies can go about taking responsibility for their impacts on the environment on both a local and global scale"
Many people are familiar with the damaging effects of fast fashion but are less familiar with the impacts other industries have as well. Each of these brands represent a different industry and market. Consumers are no longer limited to specific avenues of their lifestyles that allow them to be environmentally conscious, nor are eco-friendly brands pigeonholed to specific industries. These brands all exemplify how companies can go about taking responsibility for their impacts on the environment on both a local and global scale.
Eco-friendly does not only apply to the processes in which products are made in factories. Their efforts include making sure that their workers and suppliers are paid a fair wage and safe working conditions. They also focus on how items are treated before consumers receive them to ensure that they are not breaking down during day to day.
Remodista and Stickel not only have their pulse on the businesses out there that are eco-friendly, they are also able to predict how these trends will impact the marketplace in the future as well as where these trends will take businesses. One of the main common threads among these companies that helps make them eco-friendly is their online presence verses a brick-and-mortar location. Purchasing goods through an online retailer cuts down on the carbon footprint that item leaves behind through both packaging as well as distribution and delivery.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.