Why Women Are Investing In Sustainable Business
For women, green is the new gold. This is a firm belief of mine and stems from having seen first hand how well sustainable business dovetails with the needs and expectations of women looking to boost their household income or embark on a new career.
When I took up my position with World Organic at the beginning of 2012, having recently returned to New Zealand from the City of London where I worked in the male-dominated world of reinsurance, I hoped to find a group of women who shared similar philosophies to my own; who felt that there was no sin in gaining financial reward from hard work, but who wanted to build success on sustainable, ethical principles. To my delight, I have discovered these women are everywhere, not only in New Zealand, but across the globe.
The number of women turning towards green business is significant, not only in terms of what it says about the current economic climate but because of the shift it marks in the way we relate to our world. We are, I believe, at an important cross-roads in our history. This is an era in which a previously marginalised idea – the notion that we have a responsibility not only to each other, but also our planet – is on the cusp of becoming part of our consciousness.
We have seen such shifts previously; in the 1930s, for example, where, in the aftermath of the Great Depression, people accepted that government had a role to play in protecting its citizens against economic hardship. We saw it too, in the late 1960s, when the Civil Rights and Feminist movements opened our eyes to the truth that we should all enjoy the same rights, no matter our colour, our gender or our religion. And we are seeing it now. For the first time, people are beginning to understand that their actions reverberate around the globe; that the way they conduct themselves impacts not only on the lives of others, but also on the health of our planet.
Green business women are at the vanguard of this movement and they are taking the lead in developing a business model which not only reflects the age-old need to make a profit, but to do so in the context of ethical, sustainable work practices.
By way of example, I need look no further than World Organic and examine the core principles upon which the company was founded. When we set about creating our organic skin care lines – The Organic Skin Co. and River Veda – we did so with three clear goals in mind. Firstly, we wanted to offer to the market organic products of the highest quality, filled with ingredients which would not only help people to look better, but which were good for them.
Secondly, we were determined that quality should not come with any compromise to the environment. From seed to bottle, we were adamant that ethical, sustainable business practice should hold sway. And finally, we wanted to create a business model that would help others; that would empower women to work, but with a freedom and flexibility that allowed for family and for friends.
Whilst, after a great deal of research and preparation, we were able to put the first two goals into place prior to our launch, the last took a while for us to get right. We wanted a business where we were working with strong, independent, entrepreneurial women. For a long time, we looked at retail, but we couldn’t find a model that seemed to fit. Then we became aware of the possibilities of direct selling.
After further research, a business plan centered around consultant sales was developed. With the exception of a few, carefully chosen shops, World Organic products are now only available in New Zealand and Australia either online or through well-received parties run by a growing band of consultants.
Significantly, the direct selling model dovetails perfectly with our intention to run a business which is not only based on ethical principles, but which helps bring the world closer together. Our parties in particular, have proved to be wonderfully successful. You bring a group of friends together and let them try products in an informal, relaxed atmosphere. Not only do they get to experience these products in a more meaningful way than they do in-store, they get to have fun at the same time! It helps too, that they are able to experience and purchase products which are not only good for them, but also the world around them.
I’ve been delighted, too, that our preferred sales model has so quickly attracted a range of high-quality consultants I look at the women I’m working with and I’m blown away. They’re smart, committed and inspiring to be around.
And I’m also pleased that these women have, in turn, been so enthusiastic about their decision to sign up with World Organic. There are any number of reasons why this is so, but probably the key element is that people want to commit to a business they know has strong ethical foundations. The vast majority of our products are certified organic and we work closely with organic, community farms in India, paying above award rates for their exceptional ingredients. We also package everything in recyclable aluminium tubing or glass bottles, as well as using FSC card for our boxes. This means our products are good for the environment as well as the consumer. Our consultants buy into this.
The flexibility and freedom offered by direct selling is another reason why so many women are choosing to become consultants. Essentially, owning your own consultancy gives you control of your business and family life. You can find real work-life balance because you get to decide when you work and you get to decide how much money you want to earn. The only limits are those you choose to impose upon yourself. We run a smart business and it generates quick profits.
Ultimately, I’m delighted to be working in a field which fits in so well with the expectations of the current generation. More and more, people are taking into consideration the ethical and environmental footprint of products when making purchase decisions. People want to feel good about what they buy. They want to know they are doing the right thing by themselves and their family and they want to make purchases with a clear conscience. Business women have been quick to pick up on this, because they understand it so instinctively, and they are taking the lead in creating some fabulous new businesses for a new market. For these women – women like our wonderful consultants – green really is the new gold.
CEO, World Organic