This week we held a special founder edition of our #ProvenanceLive series where we talked about building positive social impact into your business model. The current pandemic highlights the injustices around the world and yet also the interconnectedness of how much we rely on workers from across our supply chains. Here’s what we learned from speaking with these inspiring founders driving social change through their brands...
“Business and harnessing the power of commerce is really the next iteration of social change – not traditional philanthropy.”
– Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed, founder of Sana Jardin and Advisory Board Member of NEST
Shifting from last week’s talk on biodiversity, we addressed another key issue (and one we’ve seen get attention from shoppers through our Proof Points on Cult Beauty’s online store) – social impact. As a part of our #ProvenanceLive Q&A series, we bring together thought leaders, brand pioneers and industry experts to speak on topics voted on by the Provenance community.
Joining us this week: Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed, founder of Sana Jardin, a socially-conscious fragrance brand driving economic empowerment for their harvesters through a circular-economy model and Kavita Khosa, founder of Purearth, an ayurvedic skincare brand that supports income-generation programs for resource-poor women.
Our key takeaways
Spend time in your supply chains and use empathy to understand how you're really having an impact.
Manage what you compromise so it never affects what you value most (e.g. fair payment over the ideal packaging).
Empower the workers in your supply chain to be micro-entrepreneurs.
Build your ethical and sustainable business model to scale so it has a more positive impact as it grows.
The balance between luxury versus sustainability stories are tricky to meld. Consistency, clarity and integrity in communications are key as brands start to become more purpose-driven.
Q: How do you measure the impact that you’re having on those workers in your supply chain?
A: “I view it by the people and the planet and not by profit... You don't have people coming out of the eco-habitats and ecospheres into assembly-line work – you need to get work *to them*. That's what drives my passion – going into the most remote areas, and being able to give them a means of livelihood.” – Kavita
A: “When women earn money, they give 90% back to their families and their communities in low-income, rural communities in developing countries and I think it’s 50% that men give back, so I'm sure we're all in agreement that empowering women economically is such a such an essential tool for change.” – AmyFor a specific measurement: “Their income has gone up, obviously, because now they're micro-entrepreneurs. We are now starting to dive deeper into that and start to really develop a list of KPIs to help... quantify their increase in earned income over the years.” – Amy
Q: How has it been to communicate this? What changes have you seen?
A: “It's just been like seven years – there's been a paradigm shift. I see green beauty (and) clean beauty, becoming mainstream. I think it's just the way forward.” – Kavita
A: On balancing luxury with sustainability: “We’re getting better at it, but it's really been a challenge because it's two different stories and visually they're two different stories, so that that has been hard.We launched in 2017 and we're just knocking on every door seeing if we could get into these retailers. And, in 2018, there was really this great shift where retailers started coming to us because they were interested in having a sustainable brand.” – Amy
Q: What challenging decisions have you had to make from a social impact versus business perspective?
A: “Our rose essential oil comes from the Himalayas – there's only so much distillent (that) small batch sizes can produce and the cost is very high. Could you say: ‘am I going to continue giving them those prices (the prices go up every year), or am I going to look for another supplier, a middleman or a trader?’It's a conscious decision that you make, and you say ‘no, I'm going to continue to support small businesses and support these community-based organisations that we're working with.’” – Kavita
A: “In terms of our women in Morocco, I don't feel like we've had to make any compromises with them. We do want to replicate this model in other regions of the world where we harvest our flowers (from India – where we'd like to go next). But we have to compromise that initiative because we're a small brand and a tiny team; We don't have the bandwidth to go in there right now and replicate the model globally as we'd like to, hopefully, we will as we grow.” – Amy
More inspiration on the future of commerce:
Read about Sana Jardin’s work with NEST, a nonprofit that is "building a new handworker economy to generate global workforce inclusivity and improve women's wellbeing". See the case study on Jaipur Rugs that Kavita highlighted as a business model that positively impacted more than 40,000 rural artisans.Finally, learn more about what these great brands are doing through their social impact work: