The idea of sustainability and environmentally friendly practices are wildly talked about issues at the moment. With the current climate change crisis we are facing, people are starting to become hyper aware of their own environmental impact, especially supporting business that are doing their part to change the world we live in.
I recently went to an event called the Business of Sustainability hosted by the League of Extraordinary Women, a company that works to bring like-minded women together to connect and engage with each other. The guest speakers were three amazing women who have built their own business from the idea of wanting to create change. It was so inspiring to hear them talk about being authentic bad ass businesswomen and staying true to the core beliefs of their businesses. I was lucky enough to have a chat to all of them about the work they do, the importance of event like this for women, plus tips for businesses wanting to be more sustainable.
With a background in graphic design, photography and fashion design, Kelley Sheenan created Peppermint Magazine in 2008 and really paved the way for promoting social and environmental issues. Peppermint aims to focus on the good happening in the world by combining education and inspiration, covering everything from ethical fashion, health and beauty to entrepreneurs. Each edition is also printed in Australia on PEFC-certified paper at an FSC-certified printer and is 100% carbon neutral.
While working as a part-time fashion designer and selling garments at a local market in Auckland, she started to hear the phrases ‘green cotton’ and sustainable textiles. Kelley said, “This was not something that had crossed my radar until that point and it piqued my interest. Around the same time I watched a documentary called China Blue that outlined the atrocities happening with workers’ rights in the fashion industry. I was horrified and began to research all I could around the industry, and was struck by the fact that if I, as a designer myself, did not understand what was going on, how would consumers be expected to know? There seemed to be a small groundswell of sustainable fashion labels happening overseas, along with a handful here in Australia, and so I decided to combine all my graphic design, photography and fashion background skills to create a platform to bring awareness to the public in an aspirational way.”
“We get to work with so many inspiring people – it makes me realise daily that there are so many stories and initiatives of positivity, purpose and hope happening around the world that we just don’t often hear about. I am also super proud of what we have achieved – over the last 11 years we have donated over $20,000 to charity, supported many local and international social enterprises, switched our office to 100% renewable energy and have offset our carbon emissions over and above our production.”
“It’s so important to bring all people together to discuss sustainability – doing better personally and professionally needs to be driven by community over competition. Sharing stories and being vulnerable is how we can all learn together.”
“It makes me realise daily that there are so many stories and initiatives of positivity, purpose and hope happening around the world that we just don’t often hear about.”
Yasmin Grigaliunas created World’s Biggest Garage Sale in 2013 and said it was an accidental start up when she wanted to solve the problem of donor fatigue. After roping her friends and family to take part in her garage sale, there was too much stuff to fit in her tiny garage. It was moved to a local hall and in a single day, they raised $15,000. She said what inspired her the most from that day on was the ‘how’: ‘how were they going to do it again?’, ‘How could they do it better?’
Yas said, “I kept going into the ‘how’ because I knew the ‘why’ was powerful. What we were doing was not just making an impact to make money, but it was making an impact for the planet in the sustainability side of things with the circular economy.” The next year, it wasn’t just her friends and family donating their old goods to be sold, it was total strangers and WBGS has continued to grow. Currently, WBGS has diverted over 3.3 million kilograms of potential waste from landfill and raised more than $314,000 for charities such as Courier Mail Children’s Fund, Smiling for Smiddy and the Mater Foundation.
“We often talk about our triple bottom line which is really boring business speak for caring about people, planet and purpose and that purpose is profit for purpose. Making money that can make a difference. It’s the impact we make just by bringing people together to create some positive change.”
Events like this are important for Yas because she believes every woman should know that she has an equal place in this world. “I started to really open my eyes up to these problems we are facing and I read the DrawDown Project and it says one of the main things we can do to reverse climate change is to educate women, it really pricked my ears up. It made me really listen and made me think, ‘what the hell are we doing to not involve half the world and 50% of the brain power,’ to not bring them into the conversation and help elevate women to have an equal voice, to have equality and the same opportunities and to not self-diminish.”
“I’m not all about women need to rule the world, but I do feel like we need to ensure that women understand that we have an equal place in this world and that we need to actually step outside of our comfort zones and have a voice. We need to know it’s okay to be a loud, proud woman wanting to seek change for the betterment of the world.
“I kept going into the ‘how’ because I knew the ‘why’ was powerful.”
Erica Bartle was a journalist and freelance writer when her husband, James, came up with the idea for Outland Denim. They wanted to build a company that not only made clothes from the finest raw materials and leading water and energy reducing technology. But they wanted to create a company that had sustainable employment practices. Outland Denim employs women who have experience different social injustices, such as exploitation and sex trafficking, and helps to open new opportunities for them.
Erica said the segue from a journalist into Outland was really easy for her. She had already been doing a lot of work and research in the area of exploitation of women and girls. The book Half the Sky: How to Change the World by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn was the game changer for her. “It told us lots of statistics about how rife disadvantage for women and girls is, especially in developing countries. It also told about a lot of the heart ache that these women and girls were experiencing because of the atrocities being committed against them; in factories, in the garment industry, through forced marriage, through genital mutilation and these hideous crimes being committed against them. What Outland provided for me was a gateway to turn it into an action plan. It was a way to help me help women and girls, not just through words, writing and research but also get my hands dirty, and really help in a very tangible way.”
“It is incredibly satisfying. We get to hear so many personal stories about how working with Outland has literally changed their lives. The improvements they are able to make to their homes, sending their children to school, a freedom from worry about where the next money will come from. I think we take for granted in the West when we have employment and regular income coming in and even social security for those times when we don’t that many people in developing world don’t have access to those security nets. So for them it is completely lifechanging and that is very rewarding.”
“Women want to be a part of change for other women, they genuinely want to be helping other women and seeing them thrive. I think we all have a hyper-consciousness because we are a very globalised world, and media is globalised, so that we are aware of movements like Fashion Revolution, and what existence is like for other women in the world, and I don’t think we can ignore that in our everyday lives. What businesses like Outland do is give people a vehicle to express their passion for those issues affecting women and girls in a really tangible way, by purchasing products they know are doing good. And we can see from research that millennials in particular are really passionate about matching their purchasing decisions with purpose and brands that match their values.”
“Outland was a way to help me help women and girls, not just through words, writing and research but also get my hands dirty and really help in a very tangible way.”
At The Daily Pretty, we strive to inspire all women, whether that means you are just starting on your business journey or your brand is thriving and successful. I thought it would be helpful to ask each of the speakers “what tip would you give to people wanting to make their business more sustainable and ecofriendly?”
Work out what your values and start there. There are many different ways of imbedding sustainability into your business, and the best way is to start small and work out what is really important to you. Then ensure that what you are doing becomes part of your story – apart from the personal satisfaction and the moral obligation we all have of playing our part in creating a better world, storytelling is an important aspect of people connecting to your brand.
My tip would be #JFDI, just freaking do it, right?! Don’t wait for things to be perfect to start, just start. I think in society we have this perception that we should photoshop everything, have all the filters on, make our Instagram feeds looks beautiful. Don’t show that dark, gloomy difficult side of ourselves, but the reality is that it’s in that vulnerability that we do our best work. It’s scrappy, it’s messy, it’s hard. We fall down, we get back up again. They’re the things I want to see more in business. I think to go on your journey of becoming eco-friendly and more sustainable, if you have an idea, go and implement it. Just start, don’t wait for it to be perfect. That’s what we’ve done and it’s got us to where we are. And look, we’re far from perfect still and there’s things I’d rather try to do better. But unless we actually do the doing to learn and fail and then pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and keep moving forward, it just wouldn’t have even started. So just #JFDI!!
It’s all about finding those first team members who can really support the growth, catch the vision and just run with it. Then empowering them to do so without being so interested in the micro-detail, you’ve got to lead strong with a vision but also let people go and let them fly because that is going to give them a sense of purpose and they’ll have greater impact on the business in the long term.
Thank you to the League of Extraordinary Women for hosting this amazing event. A huge thank you to Kelley, Yas and Erica for taking the time to chat to me and contribute to this article. The work you all do is so important and inspiring! Visit their companies’ websites and socials to see how you can do your part in creating change.