Women leading the way in sustainability: meet the changemakers

Women leading the way in sustainability: meet the changemakers

In the social impact sector around the world women are taking the lead. In the UK 41% of social enterprises are led by women and over half (51%) have a majority female workforce, which is much more gender balanced than the corporate world where women are significantly underrepresented in senior leadership positions.

In fact, in 2016 there were actually more men named David (8) among the FTSE 100 CEOs than there were female chief executives (6).

#EthicalHour is committed to uniting change-makers all around the world and helping them maximise their impact. We believe it’s important to make ethical and sustainable living accessible to everyone and to make it a key part of any business if we’re going to tackle the global problems we’re facing.

Around the world change-makers from all walks of life are coming up with innovative new ways to do good and make an impact, and we think that’s worth celebrating.

This International Women’s Day, we’re proud to celebrate some of the ethical and sustainable women in our tribe that are leading the way when it comes to positive impact. Meet the change-makers…

 

 

Besma Whayeb, Curiously Conscious

I’m an ethical lifestyle blogger, and a freelance content writer for ethical brands. I started my blog, Curiously Conscious, in July 2014 to document the changes I was making to live in a kinder way – from taking tote bags to the supermarket to visiting eco spas on holiday.

The blog has since taken off, and alongside my business degree and creative agency experience, I’ve tailored my writing to champion ethical business across a number of different platforms, including The Huffington Post and Positive Luxury.

 

Why do you do what you do?

I feel just as motivated today as I did the first time I wrote a blog post: I believe we can all live in harmony with the planet and fellow people, and I want to shout about all the ways to do that without sacrificing a good standard of living.

I like exploring different ways to be kinder, whether that’s by swapping organic cotton t-shirts or changing buying behaviour – I’m not picky. I want my posts to leave you feeling inspired and that each reader can pick and choose what best suits their own life.

Living an ethical lifestyle is not something you “achieve”, it’s something you should pursue and enjoy.

 

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by the brands I write for; I think it’s so brave to create a product or service and go that extra mile to ensure it’s made fairly, often with a financial burden too. I’d love to do that myself some day, but for now I’m content with sharing the stories of the people who are showing big business how it’s possible to be ethical and socially-positive, even on a shoestring budget.

Alongside that, I’m also driven to keep demanding change; there’s so much wrong with the way business is conducted these days, often at the detriment of the environment or their workers. For every negative news story out there, I want to create a positive one to show good business is possible.

 

What does it mean to you to be a woman in the ethical/sustainability sector?

I feel supported by the many woman within the ethical and sustainability sectors; while it may still be a niche industry, it’s clear there is value in making connections with fellow women that enable us all to rise.

From my blog’s demographics and the connections I have, I recognise the sector is a female-dominated domain but is open to men, and I’d like more balance there. Personally, I think what we really need to work on more BAME representation, and also open the sector those with lower incomes; right now, good ethics is still a luxury for many.

 

How do you think we can make the movement as accessible and inclusive as possible?

I think the ethical industry needs to keep growing, and we can create that by increasing our demand for it. Ask clothes brands “who made my clothes?”, avoid businesses that refuse to implement the Living Wage, and champion small, independent alternatives.

One day I hope to see organic food become the norm again, and we’ll laugh about how beauty brands used to use petroleum by-products in their ingredients.

Where can we find you online?

Blog
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook

Read Besma’s interview with our Founder Sian here.

 

 

Vicky Smith, Earth Changers

I’m the founder of www.earth-changers.com, we research & showcase the best positive impact, transformative tourism for people to find & book trips that truly change the world.

We feature life-changing places, with world-changing people, for extraordinary experiences with serious positive impact purpose.

 

Why do you do it?

At root, I believe in equality, agency, and choosing the positive. But it was also a journey.

I always loved the outdoors, nature and wanted to travel. So I ended up working at the coal face of ski and summer tourism as a resort manager – it’s tough but the best experience for working in the industry. Then, I got involved in travel industry internet tech, web development, marketing and ecommerce in UK mass market tourism head offices in the late 90s, which I also loved.

I woke up to sustainable tourism in 2001 when I went to 2 friends’ weddings abroad: Firstly to Kenya, where I got a cheap mass market deal through work and was horrified to see the average clientele not setting a foot outside, meeting locals, trying local food, going on safari or even having insurance or anti-malarials; this was not travel to me. And secondly to New Zealand, all open roads, community hospitality and local focus. This was witnessing first-hand the difference between irresponsible mass market tourism which doesn’t allow local people decision-making, and responsible tourism which does. Horrified, I was helping creating the former. I yearned to return to Africa and had my real life-changing trip in 2006, with 6 months volunteering and travelling around South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. I knew responsible, sustainable tourism was my calling then.

Since then I’ve worked in charity challenges, volunteer tourism (on which I completed and published my academic thesis regarding responsible marketing and greenwashing) qualified as a safari ranger, and worked in sustainable tourism accreditation and NGOs.

If you can have tourism which creates a positive impact or tourism that doesn’t, why would you ever choose the latter? It’s like fair trade coffee or not: for the same price, why would you not?

 

What inspires you?

Adventure – in travel terms, but also life, and learning. We only have one life, make the most.

Connection – with people, places, purpose and ourselves, spiritually. I feel the inter-connectedness of those, the ecosystem we’re in. So I’m inspired by change makers but as much the everyday person on the street – everyone has their story, and we all have equal right to be here.

Integrity – I’m about truth, very much ‘say what you do and do what you say’. You can address anything if you face it honestly. Which can take bravery and willingness to go against the grain.

Those are my values, which inevitably brought me to my calling, sustainable tourism.

 

What does it mean to you to be a woman in the ethical/sustainability sector?

In all honesty, probably the same as in any sector.

In the tourism workforce, representing roughly 10% of the world’s employment and GDP, women are the majority gender: up to 70% in some regions (International Labour Organization).

But you don’t find gender parity at senior level: women tend to be in the lowest paid, in lowest status jobs, often performing a large amount of unpaid work in family businesses (UNWTO and UN Women).

There’s still a glass ceiling, which I experienced many times in my career in terms of opportunities, job title, pay and treatment which didn’t recognise or support my values, and which then contributed to my evolution to the ethical sector and entrepreneurship.

I meet experienced, knowledgeable, intelligent, savvy women all the time who have not been recognised for their worth and values and found a home in the ethical / sustainable sector – which will warmly welcome the enormous contribution they can make.

 

How do you think we can make the movement as accessible and inclusive as possible?

Education and understanding – with both genders.

Through work, I’m connected internationally through tourism organisations to grass roots organisations and many wonderful female empowerment initiatives at our partner destinations, such as here: https://www.earth-changers.com/purpose/gender-equality-female-empowerment/

I’ll be sharing social posts and links about these and it would be great if anyone could reshare.

And I would love to put together a trip to visit some projects and initiatives – it’s so important to see and understand the true stories on the ground – they are who we need to include and empower access for. Interested? Connect on Twitter or via Ethical Hour!

Where can we find you online?

Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

 

Lucy Findlay, Social Enterprise Mark CIC

I run the Social Enterprise Mark CIC, the only internationally available accreditation scheme for social enterprises to prove that they put the interests of people and planet before shareholder gain.

 

Why do you do it?

Because much talk about businesses making a difference is pure ‘green wash’ and there is little recognition that the need to make profit for shareholders can be counter to social and environmental impact. The social enterprise mark proves that this is not the case through its accreditation process. It also encourages good practice.

 

What inspires you?

Many social enterprises inspire me. They combine being wonderful businesses and making a huge difference to the world in so many different sectors. It is the teams of people that run them that inspire me most, especially when there is obviously a shared culture and vision running through the veins of the business. You can usually tell a good one, when you walk through the door or talk to the receptionist!

 

What does it mean to you to be a woman in the ethical/sustainability sector?

Women lead the way! According to most research women are more likely than men to buy ethically and look for services and products that can show that they can make a difference to people’s lives. It’s that women have such a noticeably higher profile and leadership in the small to medium sized social enterprise world. We just need to get more running some of the bigger businesses too.

 

How do you think we can make the movement as accessible and inclusive as possible?

We can be inclusive and accessible by understanding more about what motivates and drives other people. Lots of glib things are said about being more partnership and joint working focused. It is only possible if people share the same goals and ethos and actually build a proper relationship.

It is hard to understand people from purely online interaction though. In some ways virtual interaction is a very blunt medium. It is vital in my experience for people to personally interact as see one another from time to time and at least speak. Ethical Hour is a great start to this process!

Where can we find you online?

Website
Twitter
Facebook

 

Angela Manton, Earth Conscious

I am the founder of Earth Conscious where we make Natural Deodorants using only natural and organic (where possible) ingredients all neatly packaged in eco-friendly containers! Our natural deodorants offer a healthier alternative to antiperspirants and the ingredients pose no threat to marine life when washed away. Aside of actually making the deodorants to keep us all smelling fine, I spend my time sharing and spreading awareness of how we can all be a little more mindful of the impact we have on this planet. I am trying to walk the walk myself not just talk the talk.

 

Why do you do it?

For my children. It’s that simple.

Since becoming a mother 16 years ago, taking responsibility for health and wellbeing became increasingly important to me and it doesn’t take long to realise that this is intrinsically linked to the health of our environment. We have to take care of this planet now and for the future.

Most people need to work but my work must be flexible enough to work around the needs of our four children. This resulted in creating my own business.  The criteria for Earth Conscious remains the same as it did when we started out, it would need to have as minimal negative impact on the planet as possible and instead hopefully have a more positive impact overall. Selling for selling’s sake wasn’t an option. The products have to make a difference, they have to have genuine functionality and they have to be affordable and available to everyone, not just those with disposable income.

 

What inspires you?

This may sound vague but honestly, I try to keep both eyes and mind wide open and gain exposure to the world because Inspiration can come at anytime from anywhere and it can be the smallest of connections that all of a sudden give that burst of energy to surge forward with an idea or simply keep you going. A big motivator comes from every person who takes the time to say how much they love our natural deodorants or how they make a difference to their lives, so a big thank you to all those that do.

 

What does it mean to you to be a woman in the ethical/sustainability sector?

I’m just a regular woman making life up as I go along, surviving, doing my best but it feels good to be part of a bigger picture learning alongside other people who are trying to make a positive difference to this crazy world we live in.

 

How do you think we can make the movement as accessible and inclusive as possible?

The saying “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes” rings in my ears. It’s important to recognise that not everyone is coming from an equal place and that there are too many variables in people’s daily lives. Any messages shared should be strong in educating us all in order to bring about change but we should be celebrating and encouraging the positive changes that are already taking place, no matter how small they might be. Life needs to be pleasurable at times too so let’s try and make this space a feel good space!

Where can we find you online?

Website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

 

Jo Salter, Where Does It Come From?

I founded Where Does It Come From? four years ago to offer customers beautiful, ethical clothing with a unique extra – the opportunity to explore their garment’s story. We focus on providing every day clothes for the whole family – basics such as shirts and scarves that are versatile enough to be worn again and again and in lots of different ways and seasons. We work with social enterprises and artisan groups to produce our clothing and, where possible, we use eco-friendly traditional skills such as hand weaving and block printing. We design our clothes to be beautiful and practical as well as sustainable and fair trade.  

 

Why do you do it?

As well as the sustainability and fair trade angles, I really want people to be inspired to have a better relationship with their clothes. Fast fashion has taken away a lot of the love for clothing – it is simply used and thrown away. When a customer explores the story behind a garment and gets to know the people involved they will feel more of a connection. Once they know the story so far they can add to it, by adding their own memories and experiences. I hope this will lead to them keeping and wearing their clothes longer and generally being happier in them!

 

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by justice. I remember seeing on TV, on a fundraising programme, a lady in Africa who said that it was just luck that she was born there and we were born here and yet her life is completely different.  It is so true. Some people have to struggle hard for simple things like food and shelter, dignity and a livelihood. My goal is in some way to help balance the scales and to raise awareness of the issues through fair trade and sharing the stories of people that are hidden from us by the way our society works.

I’m inspired by our environment and our wonderful wildlife. We are becoming more and more aware of the dangers around pollution, over consumption and waste which are damaging our planet and its wildlife and human life. My goal is that Where Does It Come From? will have minimal negative impact through carbon free and low water production and positive impact through inspiration.

I’m inspired by kindness and positivity. At Where Does It Come From? we want to share stories and positive connections with people so they feel good about the clothes they are buying and feel great when they wear them.

 

What does it mean to you to be a woman in the ethical/sustainability sector?

As a woman I feel a huge drive to create a positive impact for women generally. 80% of the garment making workforce are women – women who often struggle to feed their families and stay safe in their working environment. Bizarrely the majority of fast fashion clothes shoppers are women too – condemning our sisters on the other side of the world to a pretty tragic existence.  I want to inspire women to think differently about how they shop for clothes and how their buying choices affect women elsewhere. By building better connections with their clothes and understanding who made them, I’m hoping fashion shoppers will start changing their fast fashion shopping habits.

 

How do you think we can make the movement as accessible and inclusive as possible?

We need to make sure that the message of ‘less is more’ reaches fast fashion consumers. We need to encourage them to move away from the idea that changing our outfits every 5 minutes is cool, to thinking that re-using beautiful items that you love in different and stylish ways is way cooler! The celebrities who are stepping up to show that they dress their values will really help with this, as well as keeping prices as affordable as possible so that it is not only the well-off who can afford ethical fashion.

Where can we find you online?

Website
Twitter
Facebook

 

Sabine Harnau, From Scratch

I help responsible companies woo and support their customers around the world:

  • writing sales pages and customer service content;
  • localising content for different audiences around the world;
  • training customer care teams to communicate better; and
  • sharing advice to make support more ethical, efficient and engaging.

 

Why do you do it?

Because I’m a conscious consumer myself, and I want to use my skills to help make the world a better place. On the one hand, I want to do whatever I can to help conscious brands become industry leaders in a commercial sense: they can use each pound they earn to do some good. On the other hand, every responsible company faces the same conundrum: we must curb our consumerism if we’re to have a chance against climate change. Outstanding customer support can help people to get more out of each product they buy, hopefully reducing unnecessary new purchases.

 

What inspires you?

Science and research really fire me up. Whether it’s UX research, conducting my own user testing for a client project, or reading up on academic studies in linguistics — endlessly fascinating!

 

What does it mean to you to be a woman in the ethical/sustainability sector?

I feel there’s a really strong female network in this sector. That’s great because I feel right at home. But it’s also dissatisfying to me because we need the other half of humanity if we want to really make a difference!

 

How do you think we can make the movement as accessible and inclusive as possible?

I think we really need to embrace transparency. Many companies interpret that as ‘being open about achievements’. But we must share our struggles and failures, too. Overcoming obstacles, the quest for a different way of doing business — there are so many interesting stories here, so many lessons to be learned. They keep us honest and approachable rather than ‘holier than thou’. And as adventures, they appeal to many kids and many men who maybe feel a bit indifferent about the more spiritual ‘mother nature’ type talk in our sector.

Where you can find me online:

Website
Twitter 
Instagram
Facebook

 

Izzy Mcleod

I am a blogger over at The Quirky Queer, which I like the call a “Friendly Activist blog”. I focus on ethical fashion and generally conscious and sustainable living in a way that’s student budget friendly, hopefully accessible to everyone, and non-judgmental. Along with my blog I also write freelance, both on sustainability and on mental health and lgbt. And I’m currently in the second year of my astrophysics degree!

 

Why do you do it?

I do it because I want to help other people, especially people my age, and give them access to resources and ways they can help. I wanted to make a non judgmental and honest space which I can use to try and make my tiny corner of the world a better place. I changed my own lifestyle when I realised how much my consumption can impact on people all around the world and now I want to help other people change their consumption too.

 

What inspires you?

I think what inspires me the most is the knowledge that I’m doing something to help, that I’m contributing less to a worldwide problem. It just drives me to keep wanting to change for the better and make people more aware of just how we can help the environment and other people. People inspire me a lot too, whether that’s other bloggers and business owners trying to do their bit or people on the other side of the world just trying to live within their means.

 

What does it mean to you to be a woman in the ethical/sustainability sector?

I think the ethical/sustainability sector, especially in blogging, is full of women and I’m glad that for the most part these are women supporting other women and empowering each other. I think in some other sectors there is a lot more in terms of competition and rivalry but in this one everyone is sort of trying their best and supporting one another because we all have a common goal. To me being a woman in this sector means being part of a community of other women who are uplifting and optimistic. That being said, I would like to see this sector becoming more diverse in many ways including having more men involved.

 

How do you think we can make the movement as accessible and inclusive as possible?

I think we need to keep diversifying the ways that people can be sustainable, so that it’s not just a movement for people with a lot of disposable income and time to get involved in; also continuing to take into account people with disabilities in terms of looking at alternatives in materials and products; and by keeping all campaigns, and the community generally,. diverse and intersectional. Just to make sure that everyone has access and everyone is represented.

Where can we find you online?

Blog
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

 

 

Roberta Lee


I’m the founder of Roberta Style Lee (RSL) a coaching and styling business designed to help women to look good and feel good, from the inside out, but in a socially and environmentally conscious way. I’m a podcast host and I’m also the founder of the Ethical Brand Directory which launched in 2017.

 

Why do you do it?

I want to live my life in a way that makes me feel great – and that makes a positive impact on others. For me, it’s about inspiring others to create a lifestyle they are proud of and know that their everyday actions count.

 

What inspires you?

Helping making people look good and feel good about themselves is a wonderful feeling. But all style and no substance is not what my work is about. It has to be about inspiring people to do good as well.

 

What does it mean to you to be a woman in the ethical/sustainability sector?

It’s a truly exciting time, I think women are well placed to lead, show empathy and lead a united front through collaboration rather than competing. The world needs us to work together!

 

How do you think we can make the movement as accessible and inclusive as possible?
Everyone has a part to play – this isn’t about gender, money or race – it’s about us all coming together for a greater cause. We need to remove the overwhelm and make it easy. Having people like Sir David Attenborough address environmental issues on primetime TV is a great start, but more awareness campaigns and a more diverse range of ambassadors are needed to show how small steps can help make a significant difference.

Where can we find you online?

Website
Facebook

Twitter
Instagram

 

 

The #EthicalHour community is full of incredible women and men dedicated to living as ethically as possible and using business as a force for good in the world, and we’re proud to connect them and work with them all.

Celebrating the change-makers in our communities paves the way for them to have a positive impact and elevate their work. We need to encourage diversity in the ethical and sustainable sectors and make them as open, inclusive and accessible as possible to everyone to truly maximise our impact. We’re proud to #PushForProgress this International Women’s Day…and beyond!

As an ambassador for the Ogunte #1MillionImpactWomenproject, our Founder Sian Conway is joining the cause to connect 1 million women social entrepreneurs by 2020. If you are an impact woman you can add yourself to the map and connect with the network here.

We’re also proud to support Lend With Care by using a percentage of our profits to provide microfinance loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

For International Women’s Day 2018 we have supported The Chitukuko Group, a group of 17 women based in Nkhotakota, Malawi. Some of the women are are married, others are divorced and widowed. The women in the group have a 95 dependents among them.

Between them they run various small businesses and they required a loan to order more stock and grow their businesses. One member of the group, Everyn, is 33 years old runs a small scale bakery. She applied for the loan to buy sugar, salt, bread flour, cooking oil and firewood for the business. She intends to use the proceeds to support he family. She has been running the business for 5 years and she started it to empower herself financially, support her family and pay basic bills. With this funding, she plans to open multiple outlets for her bakery business in the near future.

Providing microfinance loans helps people build their own businesses, support their families and change their communities. It empower people to change their situation and build a better future.

 

Want to know more about how #EthicalHour got started or the work we do to empower people around the world? Watch the Facebook Live replay of our Founder Sian talking to brand styling expert Jade Hicks as part of Jade’s Lady Boss Live series:

If you’re trying to run a business in line with your values, live more ethically and change the world in your own way, join our group of like-minded people in our #EthicalHour Facebook Community.

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