Top Female Entrepreneurs Influencing Sustainability Trends in Asia
Not just a buzz word anymore, sustainability has become a crucial concept that requires the balance between having an enterprising business that is financially sustainable and at the same time takes into account the environmental impact of running that business.
We talk to several female founders of women-led businesses who are championing the environmental cause while contributing to the economy for a better future. Steering away from greenwashing, these companies are genuinely trying to find a sustainable business model offering eco-friendly products and services.
Ms. Sirilak Narongtanupone, Co-founder of Equator Pure Nature (Thailand)
Residing in Bangkok and mother to a seven-year-old child, Ms. Sirilak Narongtanupone is the co-founder and co-CEO of Equator Pure Nature (EPN). EPN is a Thailand-based “cleantech” company that produces, markets and sells a line of non-toxic, hypo-allergenic-certified, biodegradable household cleaning products under the brand Pipper Standard.
Prior to founding EPN with Mr. Peter Wainman, Ms. Sirilak was Vice President at ING Bank N.V. Thailand Representative Office (ING) and previously worked at various Thai and international financial institutions.
Vanilla Luxury: What made you start creating natural household products?
Ms. Sirilak Narongtanupone: We founded our business amid concerns about the impact of harmful chemicals on the environment and on people’s health. My family members have serious allergies to certain chemicals, and these allergies encouraged us, over years of research and development, to develop our line of natural Pipper Standard products.
All of our household and personal care products use a globally patented, pineapple-based fermentation process that yields powerful natural enzymes and biosurfactants. Our cleaning power has been clinically proven to clean as effectively as—or better than—chemical products. Pipper Standard products are safe for the whole family and friendly for the environment. As the basis of our products is pineapple, all of our products are natural, non-irritation-certified and free of known allergens.
Vanilla Luxury: Tell us more about how EPN incorporates sustainability in its products.
Ms. Sirilak Narongtanupone: Our production process involves a full environment loop. What that means is that we source pineapples from Thai farmers for fermentation. The entire pineapple, including the crust, is used in our fermentation process. Post fermentation, the fermentation fluid is filtered and the filtered crust becomes animal feed. Farmers then use the manure from these animals to grow crops.
Lastly, our products are certified biodegradable, meaning they degrade by themselves more than 90 percent within one month. And Pipper Standard’s packaging is all HDPE recyclable. Our company strongly supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and Pipper Standard products are available in 15 major markets in Asia and the Middle East.
Raeanna Heng, Founder of Cheeky Feys (Singapore)
Cheeky Feys is a sustainable clothing store with items that are handmade in Singapore. The online retailer carries designs curated by indie designers as well as clothes designed from scratch by Raeanna.
Her aim is to create an avenue for people to buy slower, ethically and locally as slower consumption of clothing will lead to less fashion waste. She currently focuses on kidswear, and the goal is to nurture a new generation of mindful consumers.
Vanilla Luxury: Tell us more about how Cheeky Feys incorporates sustainability in its products.
Raeanna Heng: At Cheeky Feys, we adopt the circular economy model for the way our business curates material. We source for second hand material first, then local small fabric shops and if it really isn't available in the local market, then we would consider overseas small shops. The idea is to keep the money and materials within the country as less transport creates fewer carbon emissions from transport vessels, plus it keeps the consumer's dollar circulating within the same country. In addition, at Cheeky Feys, we use collected recycled packaging as the creation of new and exclusive packaging is unnecessary for the earth.
Sonalie Figueiras, Founder & CEO of Green Queen, Ekowarehouse and SourceGreenPackaging.com (Hong Kong)
Serial social entrepreneur and trends forecaster Sonalie Figueiras is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of Green Queen, an award-winning impact media platform advocating for social and environmental change through inspiring and empowering original content and one of the world's leading outlets for alternative protein news.
She is also the Founder and CEO of Ekowarehouse, a global sourcing platform for certified organic products and the Co-founder and CEO of SourceGreenPackaging.com, the world's first global marketplace for sustainable packaging with a mission to fight single-use plastic waste.
With over a decade of experience in publishing, digital marketing, organic trade, sustainability, alternative proteins and green packaging, Sonalie is an eco wellness industry veteran with a keen eye for market trends and a sought-after international speaker and moderator, sharing her expertise on stages across Asia and beyond, including Harvard Business School and two times at TEDx.
Further, Sonalie is a global advisor at Social Ventures Hong Kong, an Impact Purpose Organisation committed to re-imagining Hong Kong as a purpose-driven city, an advisor at The Remedy Project, which revolutionises access to justice for migrant workers globally, a cause close to her heart, and she is an avid home cook and published cookbook author.
Vanilla Luxury: Tell us more about how Green Queen is championing the cause of a more sustainable future.
Sonalie Figueiras: Green Queen Media gives an Asian voice to the heroes of the climate crisis revolution, keeping our readers informed on the latest news, trends and insights from the world of sustainability whilst also showcasing the solutions and innovations that give us all hope for a better, more circular, safer and ethical future.
Cecily Pan, Co-founder of Inna Organic (Taiwan)
Cecily Pan is the co-founder of Inna Organic, a Taiwanese premium clean beauty skincare brand that sells across Asia, Europe, and North America. She is a serial entrepreneur and plays an active role in the Taiwan startup and e-commerce arena, serving in the executive committee in SLP Taipei (Startup Leadership Program) and speaking in prestigious organisations such as Facebook Taiwan (Shemeansbusiness forum), Girls in Tech Taiwan, and Women Startup Salon host by the Taiwanese government.
It all started when Cecily’s mom was diagnosed with cancer when she was back in middle school. Since then, health has become a huge focus in her life. In 2010, one of Cecily’s twins was diagnosed with chronic eczema. Cecily tried everything labelled as “gentle,” but none of them worked and made the condition worse. She began educating herself and was shocked by the widespread and casual use of unhealthy chemicals and preservatives in the industry, and the harmful, potentially long-term effects on the body. She decided that she could not go back to using products she could not trust and decided to build Inna Organic. Her mission is to create skincare solutions that are potent and effective, yet gentle and safe enough for those with the most sensitive skin.
Vanilla Luxury: Tell us more about how Inna Organic incorporates sustainability in its products.
Cecily Pan: I wanted to build a brand that everyone can trust and can represent Taiwan. Inna Organic is the first brand in Taiwan to acquire the dual certification of the EWG (Environmental Working Group) and Europe’s COSMOS (Cosmetic and Organic Standard). This dual certification comes with rigorous standards and numerous restrictions which slow down the speed of product development. However, Inna Organic cares more about upholding the highest quality of our products and standing by environmental principles than hopping on passing trends.
Furthermore, I want customers to be confident in the safety and effectiveness of our products. Inna Organic is also 100% vegetarian, cruelty-free, and formulated without parabens, silicones, sulfates (SLS/SLES), and artificial fragrances.
I am aware that green products have been a trend in the modern beauty industry. For someone who works in the green industry, this is exciting. However, I am genuinely concerned that some brands might take advantage of this trend and ‘greenwash’ their products.
In Asia, there are numerous brands that claim to be organic even if they use very tiny amounts of organic ingredients. I am also concerned about misleading claims on eco-friendly products and packages. For instance, when people advocate for ocean conservation but shampoos containing PEGs are still discharged into oceans and rivers.
That is why all Inna Organic’s products are 100% environmentally friendly, PEG, and paraben-free. Inna Organic is dedicated to organic and eco-sourced ingredients because of their low environmental impact. Customers can rest assured since we have EWG certification, guaranteeing customers that all our ingredients are environmentally friendly throughout their life cycle.
Stephanie Dickson, Founder of Green Is The New Black (Asia)
Steph L Dickson is a leading voice in sustainability in Asia. She founded Green Is The New Black, Asia’s first Conscious Festival and media platform. Her mission is to make conscious living mainstream, accessible and sexy.
Steph is also the host of the Live Wide Awake podcast, which brings conversations to life at the intersections of consciousness and climate change, sustainability and spirituality. She is regularly asked to conduct talks and workshops on conscious living, rethinking and driving sustainability at work, inspiring keynotes on actionable green steps for meaningful change and eco-anxiety. She has conducted talks and workshops in cities around Asia and in the UK.
As a changemaker in the green space, Steph has been described as "sustainability entrepreneur helping Asia businesses combat climate change"(CNBC) and a "force of nature"(Honeycombers). She is also a two-time TEDxspeaker (P&G), a Gen.T by Tatler Leader of Tomorrow (2020), and Prestige 40 Under 40 (2018).
Green Is The New Black is a lifestyle media and events platform that is on a mission to make conscious living mainstream and accessible. They do this through stories and curated experiences advocating for social and behavioural change, that leads to little green steps with big impact.
Vanilla Luxury: Tell us more about how Green Is The New Black is championing the cause of a more sustainable future.
Stephanie Dickson: Now more than ever we need to maximise the small window of opportunity that we have, to ensure meaningful change happens around the world. Individual action matters - it builds the bridge to collective action. At Green Is The New Black we call these #littlegreensteps. Think of your steps as the building blocks, and all of us need to become builders now. This can be the decade of decisive action that turns everything around. It can feel overwhelming like it's all doom and gloom, but there are incredible humans using their time and lives for the good fight. We can all play a role, no matter how small. But we don't have any time to waste. Sustainability is a journey, one we can be on together.
If you are looking for help or support you can check out www.greenisthenewblack.com for the next steps on your path, join us virtually or in person for one of our events or listen to the Live Wide Awake podcast for inspiration.
Aparna Saxena, CEO and Co-founder of TORAJAMELO (Indonesia)
Aparna Bhatnagar Saxena is an unapologetic feminist, a vegan, an environmentalist, and a student for life. She firmly believes that we need to take concrete steps towards making slow-ethical-fashion and slow-living mainstream as a way of prolonging our life on this planet and sustaining it.
An Indian, now based in Jakarta, Aparna has lived and worked in four countries in Asia. She is now an entrepreneur, after having worked in start-ups, SMEs, larger corporations and impact businesses.
TORAJAMELO is an ethical-slow-lifestyle brand that works with rural and remote women-led weaving collectives across Indonesia to offer them market access for decent livelihood, while at the same path preserving and sustaining cultural sustainability of heritage weaving. They are working towards systemic poverty alleviation and preventing outward migration of rural Indonesian women by creating a sustainable ecosystem for women artisans.
Vanilla Luxury: Tell us more about how sustainability is incorporated into TORAJAMELO's products
Aparna Saxena: At TORAJAMELO, we work with 100% backstrap loom weaving by indigeneous community. We collaborate with around 1,100 women weavers in Toraja and Mamasa in Sulawesi Island; Larantuka in Flores (NTT); Soe, Maubesi, and Oesena in West Timor (NTT). We offer them market access sustainably via our Business Model.
TORAJAMELO is on a journey of continuous improvement. We have incorporated the principles of sustainable design to avoid Fabric wastage when we craft our products. We use our textile cut-off to create different products and accessories.
Our focus is now to make our supply as green and sustainable as possible by exploring natural fibres, natural dyes, and local sourcing. We proactively seek and partner with women led small businesses to support social sustainability of communities both urban and rural
Also, as a step towards circularity, we are exploring regenerative farming so that raw materials can be supplied for our supply chain sustainably and we can redirect post consumer products back to us to "Return-Repair-Renew".
Born and raised in Singapore, this foodie spends her weekends exploring new cafes, restaurants and bars. If she's not at the gym busting out a yoga pose, she probably has her nose in a book or is binge-watching a brilliant whodunnit.
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