Months on from the COP26 global summit in Glasgow, everyday events continue to remind us of the pressing need to directly address the climate emergency. From a renewal of interest in UK fracking to financing renewables in the face of surging gas prices, the time is now to invest in the planet.
The demand for a sustainable future is evident – no more so than with the youth – and as momentum picks up for an eco-friendly recovery from the pandemic, the time is now for businesses, big or small, to help drive forward change.
London Business Magazine has spoken to a number of women, all of whom are experts in their respective fields, to gauge their insight and views about integrating sustainability into business.
Kate Bellosillo: “Inspiration from nature”
Corporate leader at Kyani Philippines – a health and wellbeing enterprise – and a charity worker for impoverished communites, Kate talks of how her ventures interact with the environment around them.
As the British philosopher James Allen once said, “We do not attract want we want. We attract what we are”. In my case, I was attracted to Kyani, a global company in the health and wellness industry, because it drew inspiration from nature for its products.
For instance, I love that our company sources blueberries from the wilderness of Alaska, making it a powerful ingredient of our Kyani Sunrise. Since it has to protect itself from long and harsh winters, the wild Alaskan Blueberry has developed a rich-coloured pigment called anthocyanin giving it antioxidant prowess, over 5 times the potency of the common blueberry.
This symbolizes Kyani’s culture and tenacity, evolving as a company that strongly cares for people and the environment. Kyani Caring Hands aims to bring hope to children by improving access to nutrition, sanitation and education. In the Philippines, we saw that it was not enough to provide meals to undernourished children in the mountains. Since their homes were without electricity, we also provided them with solar lights instead of kerosene lamps that emitted toxic fumes.
Kyani is truly a business with a lot of heart. Our founder Kirk Hansen put it beautifully: “While Kyani Caring Hands is only a part of what we do, it is all of who we are.”
Eunice Di Campi: “Encourage eco-friendly behaviour”
Founder of EDC Wellbeing and stylist at Kenza Design, Eunice’s experience extends to nutrition and entrepreneurship, where she specialises in guiding women through midlife.
Environmental awareness has slowly begun to increase over the years. More people are now choosing to shop, eat and live sustainably, as climate change affects our lives and the fate of all species around the planet.
Although individual efforts might have a positive impact, more could still be done to ensure that sustainability becomes a way of living for people everywhere. As a small business owner, it’s my role to be part of the solution and join other businesses in constructing an environment where our enterprises can thrive, while protecting our planet’s resources and being socially responsible.
I had to re-think my company’s day-to-day operation and how we could incorporate sustainable alternatives. From a green perspective, nearly all our studio functions could be reconsidered. During the festive season, we accumulated large piles of empty boxes and instead of throwing them away, I decided to recycle them. It’s something I do in my own life.
The next task was to encourage eco-friendly staff behaviour. Here, we reinforced the focus on green living and extended this to our clients. We explained the benefits, goals and methods of recycling throughout the day but also suggested eco-friendly lifestyles, out of hours. Clients, whose environmental values aligned with ours, were attracted as we promoted the move towards sustainable choices. Saving our planet takes commitment, from businesses and communities.
Dr Marianna Demetriades: “Restore healthy skin in cancer patients”
With a PhD in Cardiovascular Research from King’s College London, Dr Demetriades is a rising star in the field of biotech. Her focus is on sourcing treatments for the side effects of chemotherapy, through RSL Revolutionary Labs.
Far too many oncological treatments lead to dermatological toxicities like skin irritation and infections that have a negative impact on patients’ quality of life. Of the over 10,000 ingredients available in the skincare industry, only 10% have been evaluated by regulatory authorities. More than 1,300 have been banned for use in cosmetics in the UK/EU and their use presents risks to immune-compromised patients.
In our companies, we focus on the sustainable development of clinically potent, “green” cosmeceuticals to address these challenges. Our first line of products, εὖSKIN®, launched on World Cancer Day – 4th of February 2022 – as a unique and naturally sourced option to target a host of dermatological conditions and restore healthy skin in cancer patients.
Our innovation stems from developing safe and effective formulas free from toxic and potentially carcinogenic chemicals. We strive to use only natural ingredients from certified sustainable suppliers and are eliminating the use of sulphates, parabens, and petrochemicals. For plant extracts, such as aloe vera, gynura and olive oil, we use local sources and have even created a companion venture, Promed Bioscience, to develop a novel, organic collagen formulation for wound healing and skin regeneration.
By reducing our product packaging and employing mostly online strategies, we have maximised cost savings, minimized paper use and reduced our carbon footprint. In short, small steps towards sustainable development can reap big rewards in innovation and have a meaningful impact on human health and the environment.
Agnes George: “Lower business overheads and greater productivity”
A passionate advocate in the field of preventing Type 2 diabetes and with a Master’s degree in Midwifery, Agnes has used her teaching credentials to branch out into becoming a health strategist.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, employees realised that they were able to, in many cases, be more productive while working at home. Making that shift in ways of working is crucial in order to respond to these expectations, especially as it lowers business overheads too. The Future Work Research Consortium reported “that the past two years has in some ways accelerated a shift that was already occurring within work, and raised expectations from employees and businesses around flexibility and speed of change”.
There are other benefits too. Sixty six percent of businesses expect a shift in working patterns to boost their environmental, social and governance credentials, and sixty nine percent of businesses think hybrid working will be good for the environment, with more remote working, meaning fewer emissions for commuting.
To make hybrid work one must identify which roles need to be done on site and identify vulnerable staff members who may require more flexibility. It goes without saying that as a business owner, you have responsibility over your employees. Hence, it is crucial that you prioritise making mental health support available, in addition to producing inclusion policies for staff who are working remotely.
Monette Hamlin: “Consumers are more conscious of where they purchase from”
Chairperson of the Women’s Business Council in the Philippines and President of TeamAsia – an integrated marketing firm – Monette has ensured that her business practices pivot towards more sustainable outcomes for clients.
Companies practicing sustainability definitely reap long term benefits. Nowadays, consumers are more conscious of where they purchase from. They are more inclined to buy products and services from brands that are socially aware and are doing their part in saving the environment.
That being said, companies should be careful when integrating sustainability in their branding. Companies need to walk the walk and commit to this messaging across different platforms. Otherwise, their reputation will suffer once consumers find out that they’re not living up to expectations.
Also, brands must remember that sustainability goes beyond ‘going green’. Truly sustainable companies have policies that are social, economic and environmental.
At TeamAsia, we have Project Live wherein we practice ecological ways to make the working environment more efficient. Decades before events pivoted online, TeamAsia was already practicing Green Events, by reducing printed waste, promoting events through digital media, doing event registrations online, and designing event websites and mobile apps. We work with partners who implement sustainable practices and proper recycling.
Project Live is not just something TeamAsians do. It is something that lives within us as we bring brands to that next-level experience and have them develop meaningful relationships with their audiences.
Anamaria Meshkurti: “Making your enterprise sustainable pays dividends”
With experience working at the UN, Anamaria is currently Head of Marketing and Communications at Geneva’s Foundation for Technological Innovation (FONGIT), where she helps start-ups promote positive social innovation.
Storms, droughts and glacial melting are increasing in frequency and intensity across the globe. These climatic events are drastically altering the lives of all species. Yet, we humans are also exacerbating environmental issues. Accelerated industrialization of various sectors have contributed to global carbon emissions, resource depletion and pollution.
Under these circumstances, companies – together with governments – have a responsibility to reduce carbon footprints and create a sustainable, circular economy, with the ultimate goal of ending the climate crisis. In my work, I always see new start-ups taking sustainability into account, as they know it makes sense for both business and the greater good of society.
Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly conscious consumers. They’re happy to pay more for products that are not harming the environment. The market for green technology and sustainable goods in 2020 was valued at $10.32 billion, which clearly indicates a growing niche.
Making your enterprise sustainable pays dividends. You will be benefiting the planet and will also exponentially increase your market share by tapping into a new consumer base. As a side bonus, endorsing green labelling mechanisms increases your chances of attracting investment streams. Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) are now sought-after non-financial factors for investors.
This is the future of business. Therefore, my advice as we enter 2022 is to make the world a better place for future generations and to not miss the “sustainability” train.
Aminata Sidibé: “Put Africa at the heart of the debate on climate”
Working at Tanganika, Aminata specialises in producing a range of eco-friendly products that tap into the rich cultures and landscapes of the African continent. At the same time, it reminds us of the vulnerability of these regions to a climate crisis they did not create.
I sincerely believe that the economic development of Africa will not take place without villages and family farms. This is why I have personally chosen to work in West Africa with exactly these eco-villages, farms and eco-responsible craftsmen.
This commitment is proven right each day, because these earth craftsmen protect and respect the earth on a daily basis. Tanganyika is the second deepest lake in the world and contains 20% of the world’s fresh water. By using the name of this symbolic lake for an Afro éco-responsible shop, I wanted to put Africa at the heart of the debate on climate change and highlight the ancestral solutions that already exist on the continent. With Tanganika, my team and I help family farms and eco-villages to produce high quality artisanal products that meet international standards and can be sold anywhere in the world. This guarantees their economic autonomy while allowing them to value their know-how and an ancestral African ecological heritage that is important to remember.
We give them back the power to act for a fair and authentic trade because they are the ones who set the profit margins.
It is a partnership that guarantees us a more just and balanced world.
Elda Thanasi: “Change our consumption and production patterns”
General Director at Maya Underground Mapping, Elda has degrees in Journalism and Business Managment under her belt, along with experience at governmental institutions. Bringing this together, she explores how technology can improve logistics, post-pandemic.
The aim of the green offer is to help prepare companies for the low carbon, more resource efficient economy of the future – whether a company has already started their green transformation journey or are just beginning. Scientific evidence shows that, to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change, we must act now to achieve net-zero emissions and limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Yet each year, around a third of all food produced ends up rotting in bins or spoiling due to poor logistical practices. Meanwhile, pollution worsens and the gap between rich and poor widens. Health, education, equity and empowerment are all adversely affected. This, as well as popular concerns over working conditions in the developing world and how products are sourced, reflects shifting attitudes. Sustainable Consumption Production can contribute substantially to poverty alleviation and the green transition, but that requires building cooperation among different stakeholders.
Now infrastructure, too, is in the foothills of its own revolution. Hence, Maya Underground Detection and Mapping is committed to have a crucial role in the transition, by going carless and using drones to detect various infrastructure problems.
Like an old house, our urban infrastructure is shot through with hidden, unmapped conduits, pipework and cabling. However, given the right policies and collaborative working, today’s technologies could enable us to create a real-time, 3D picture of our buried utilities – producing benefits for providers, customers and the general public alike.
The global pandemic has prompted countries to make recovery plans. Ones that will reverse current trends and change our consumption – and production – patterns towards a more sustainable future.
Dr Yuliana Topazly: “As communities fight for change, all stakeholders are brought together”
A senior lecturer at Kingston University, Dr Topazly is also co-founder of SAY School of Business. As a social entrepreneur, she has developed a track record of supporting businesses, with a focus on women and families.
It’s been a long journey for sustainability to become the focal point of discussion that it is now. That’s not to say that it wasn’t important before, but we can thank third-sector organisations and SMEs for driving change. It’s also great to see that financial materiality is no longer the only propriety for businesses.
Just as crises like COVID-19 present a growing pressure, it also offers new opportunities around what really matters to consumers. McKinsey’s 2022 report highlights that ‘today’s consumers are another pressure point since they no longer see sustainable products as simply an alternative… They are partly basing their purchasing decisions on the sustainability of companies’. Business can no longer afford to ignore this.
Being an academic and the founder of My OutSpace, which focuses on supporting families and women-entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds, I have a unique insight into this growing passion for sustainability. Yet it is important that as a new generation of leaders and local communities fight for change, all stakeholders are brought together to make a real difference.
It doesn’t require massive resources to become more sustainable. Consider the following:
- Introduce policies focusing on sustainability and impact
- Balance profit with purpose
- Encourage your team to share ideas about how the business can become more ecologically-minded
- Work with suppliers and customers who share the same ethos
Everyone can do something individually and as a collective to be a change maker!
In the coming weeks, London Business Magazine will be publishing more articles on the climate crisis, from an economic perspective.
To encounter more speakers – including some that have been featured in this article – click here to find details for the upcoming Global Woman Event, which will be hosted on March 8th 2022.