10 facts learned from the conference, though some a bit depressing, hopefully motivates change by American consumers, businesses, and corporate leaders…I a flabbergasted by #5, I especially like # 7, I can see how the occupy movement had grown more steam day after day based on # 3; and I hope that the firm noted in # 8 can do something more sustainable about # 2
I recently sent an article to a few of my dear Lumid alumni and previous project management team members (you lucky souls know who you are) reminding them of the great times we had devising a mock organization and project on Ugandan women’s development and feminine hygiene. And it’s true as one of my team members commented that I just cannot get of the subject…of the Period that is…because this story is simply too innovative to resist. It helps me to reflect on some simple rules about social entrepreneurship, filling a need in society while simultaneously creating a business model.
Where 70% of women in India simply are not able to afford sanitary napkins a study by AC Nielsen highlighted the poor sanitation and hygiene conditions of women, especially in rural India. On top of the taboo of speaking about menstrual health, often the opportunity cost of buying sanitary napkins could mean daily necessities such as milk. And the other methods used by women for their periods involve rags, newspapers, leaves that may be unhygienic and ascend to infections such as RTIs or potentially cervical cancer (Sinha, 2011)
In 2006, an Indian man and high school drop-out took a risk and made a disruption in order to transform lives and improve women’s access to more affordable sanitary napkins. He began to investigate the composition of sanitary pads. Arunachalam Muruganantham (i’ll call him Murug for short) began to wear women’s panties and created a “menstruating uterus by filling a bladder with goat’s blood…occasionally squeezing the contraption to test out his latest iteration.” Deemed a pervert by his wife, mother, and ostracized by others in his community, he continued his research and even created his own millionaire’s alter ego (one that Donald Trump would be proud of) in an attempt to obtain testing materials from U.S. firms to support his investigation.
Finally, murug was able to fashion an electricity generated sanitary napkin machine that de-fibers cellulose (from tree bark), compresses and seals it into a napkin and sterilized by ultraviolet light (the kind only a Starwars hero could appreciate). Each machine under the control of four woman can produce about 1,000 napkins sold at retail price for about $.25 per package (8 per package).
What’s the gain? Well, according to Murug’s research, U.S. consumer giants like P&G and J&J burn their corporate pockets (think P&G commercial, “in a small village in Africa” Nia has a happy period because she has tampax) of half a million dollars(!) on a machine that does the same as Murug’s machine which costs $2,500. Although the number of napkins produced are not comparable to the numbers produced by P&G, a unique business model was born out of his invention that will assist in reaching his vision of a “100% napkin-using country”.
Rather than becoming a commercial enterprise, Murug spreads an idea and tries to fill a need. His company, Jayaashree Industries, helps rural Indian women and self-help groups buy a machine (via govt loans, NGO), teach them how to operate it (about three hours of instruction), and ultimately creates jobs that allow the women themselves to make an income. Although currently there are only 600 machines in use by women across 23 states in India and abroad, Murug envisions 1 million jobs to be created as his invention and the business model becomes more viral and expands in other developing countries.
Everything in between:
What’s equally important as access to affordable sanitary health is creating an awareness, and in this case an awareness especially relevant among half the population of India. Although I cannot begin to say I understand the lifestyles of Indian women in some parts of the country, the immediacy of one woman’s response to a cautioning against reproductive infections: ‘So what? How long are we going to live anyway?’ really hits home the need for more social innovators like Murug and responsible businesses like Jayasshree Industries to jump start development and raise awareness.
So Team Papy, B, S, I, and E, don’t be too bummed about not getting our mythical funding for the project, there are social entrepreneurs and changemakers out there who are!
Being my first post here I would first like to say thank you Sannasu and Ratatanny for inspiring me with your thoughts and words of Sustainability and Development. Based on the topic of this post I am pretty sure both of you have failed or made mistakes of different kinds in your life, and I am just as sure that you learned from them……so that brings me to talking a little bit about how important it is to admit your mistakes and failures being an individual, a group, a company or an organisation or to simplify…….this is for everyone.
I will start with a quote by the industrialist Henry Ford:
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently”
Failure and Intelligence belongs together and these two words can create amazing Corporate Social Responsibility. CSR is for me a three letter abbreviation that has become a trend almost, people today make careers and amazing profits from working with CSR, and they show how great work they have done with aspects at the triple bottom line. It is fantastic to see the engagement around the worlds business leaders on the topic, however I am missing one aspect. This is the failure aspect.
Businesses are praised for sending in their sustainability reports showing the good work they have done in the past years focusing on the positive things that have been done, however no one is asking them to reveal the things they failed with. This brings me to my urge for Failure reports, this as a responsibility that should be compulsory for all companies and organisations around the world. If you show me what you did wrong I wont do the same mistake, this is probably one of the greatest responsibilities you can do, to share your mistakes without being afraid to be shot.
We all know the best school is learning from failure, as no one wants to make the same failure twice, but why do then companies try to put all their failures in the wardrobe? Are they scared to lose face, reputation and short-term profits? There needs to be a mindset change here as when it comes down to it there is nothing greater than admitting your mistakes, it can give you a longterm respect and trust from your target group. Just look at it on personal level. Lets say you hurt someone, then you will grow so much more in this persons eyes if you admits your mistake and say you are sorry rather than ignoring it and not talking about it, who will learn from that?……..okay maybe we can’t compare everything to relationship-psychology but to one extent I do believe it goes through all lines of life and relationships from personal to business. We all will become greater by admitting our mistakes as if my company would make a mistake that can have detrimental effect on my surroundings I would be a sustainability-criminal not sharing this mistake to the rest of the worlds companies and organisations. Maybe they all wont listen but at least I have made my effort to share and I have given the opportunity for others to learn from my mistake.
If a company is responsible for sharing its failures it will minimise the risk that others make the same mistake, which would be a first stepping-stone to prevent large failures for the world in the future. Hence sharing your failures should be one of the first stepping-stones to good CSR so Bring on failure reports and share it, and we will all gain from it in the end.
Thank you failure!
/ Eva Alm
Hopefully in the future Sustainability and Social Awareness will be an integral part of the entire supply chain of ALL companies. Today that is sadly not the case. Mass production continues to put its toll on the environment and unsafe working conditions, low wages and child labor are still major issues in many developing countries.
There is no quick fix to eliminate these problems. However, we as consumers can contribute to drive the demand for more sustainable and ethically sourced products by choosing the environmentally friendly and fair trade options available.
Below I share a couple of my own sustainable favorites;
- Certified FAIR TRADE or ECO coffee, tea, chocolate and bananas! Read more about Fair Trade certified products on; Max Havelaar
- Textile; Swedish clothing company Lindex recently launched its Sustainable-Choice collection, and H&M have created the Conscious and Sustainable Style collection, both collections including garments made with organic cotton
- Beauty and Wellness; The Body Shops new Eco-Conscious Rainforest Hair Care is 100% biodegradable. Origins and Yves Rocher also have good environmentally friendly products.
Wishing you all a happy and green 2012!
If the world can’t completely convert from oil and gas to electric*, then why not make oil and gas operations more responsible?
It’s the called the the EO100 Standard and it allows for a 3rd party verification process by independent stakeholders, outside the actual operating managment, including the companies, academics, governments, and NGOs and indigenous communities, to qualify and evaluate oil and gas company’s environmental, social, and sustainability impact and performance.
Previously EO100 Standard v. 0.5 was established for oil and gas operators in the Amazon and Andean regions of South America, but it appears that the renewed EO100 Standard v 1 will allow its application to more global oil and gas operators. Operators will be held accountable under the EO metrics and performance standards in areas such as corporate governance, human rights, fair labour, climate change effects, and project life cycle management. Essentially, the aim is to make more transparent the entire process from contract to implementation and in any post-completion and remediation.The standard is implemented by the organization, Equitable Origins, which started in 2009, with the vision of bringing greater transparency and credibility to CSR activities.
*Although Israel is on the move motivated by Shai Agassi’s Better Place organization to build electric energy infrastructure around the world to promote the electric vehicle switch:
Aron Cramer on the strategies learned from 2011 so that companies can help to lead sustainable businesses in 2012. –Guardian December 23, 2011
Aron Cramer is the President of BSR, Business Social Responsibility–a network of businesses working on sustainable strategies
Also for some insightful comments from his opening BSR Conference 2011 speech:
CSR for Development (CSR4Dev) is an open platform where students, researchers, teachers, civic leaders, corporate idealists, and the overall international community can express their thoughts and spread ideas on Corporate Social Responsibility and its role in society both in the developed and developing world.
CSR4Dev is the brainchild of three recent LUMID graduate students (Eva, Tanny and Susanna) who share the strong belief that global businesses are rightly growth driven but also have a vested interest to promote sustainable solutions to social and human development.
We have dedicated this blog to anchor ourselves on topics and issues related to CSR. We hope to maintain an active dialogue through current events, readings, and reflections from our ends of the world with the vision of shaping a more critical evaluation of CSR’s implications for development. The blog will also be space for promoting ideas on how corporations, organizations and individuals through innovation and creativeness can contribute to sustainable and equitable growth of societies.
We hope that after reading our blog, you as a global citizen, corporate leader, non-profit organization, or anyone else with an interest for CSR will be inspired to continue promoting responsible business in your local communities and in the global markets where you work!