This year, in honor of the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women and the International Women’s Day theme, UN Women put a spotlight on the intersectionality of gender inequality and climate change with an event on the theme: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” underscoring how women and girls continue to bear the burden of climate change while leading empowerment and sustainability efforts across the globe.
Through “Eco-fluencer”, a virtual round-table discussion on female leaders and sustainable businesses, UN Women brought together Filipina champions of sustainability and gender equality to talk about achieving sustainability for women, by women in the Philippines.
The event, hosted by Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) Youth Leadership Champion awardee and AGREA CEO Cherrie Atilano, featured ECHOStore CEO, Chit Juan; Messy Bessy CEO, Krie Reyes-Lopez; and Unilever Philippines Head of Digital Commerce, Anna Mangilin, who shared their visions towards a more sustainable future and their advocacy in promoting women’s empowerment in their organizations.
Making sustainability a lifestyle
“When we founded ECHOStore, we wanted to show others that it is easy to live well while we make others live well,” explained Chit Juan. “Since the founders are all women, we wanted to create more opportunities for women producers, suppliers, and partners.”
The sustainable lifestyle brand, ECHOStore, led to the creation of its non-profit arm, Empowering Communities with Hope and Opportunities through Sustainable Initiatives (ECHOSI), which supports marginalized groups, women entrepreneurs, and cultural communities to create their own products through the sustainability value chain.
“Sustainability should always be reflected in the leadership. In the course of our daily business at Echo Store, we make sure that all of us — from the CEO and board members to the staff — live it, eat it, drink it and see it every day,” said Ms. Juan.
Creating scalable change for women
Messy Bessy, a pioneering local brand that produces eco-friendly personal care and home goods, creates social impact innovation through sustainable products and poverty-alleviation programmes.
“The future of sustainability is in regeneration – being able to replenish and restore what we use up, and building economies and communities that thrive while allowing the planet to thrive as well,” said Krie Reyes-Lopez.
While creating products that are friendly to the environment, Messy Bessy also empowers underprivileged young women to become self-reliant through education and work opportunities under their work-study programme.
“These past two years, we shifted our focus to scaling and replicating our programmes. Faced with the reality of our own sustainability during the pandemic, we pitched our model to bigger organizations to ensure that we can continue providing opportunities for women in our communities,” said Ms. Lopez.
Building brands that care
As one of the world’s largest and most influential consumer goods companies, Unilever also places sustainability at the core of its business and operations.
“Unilever is driven by a purpose of making sustainable living commonplace,” said Anna Mangilin. “Our brands are our gift to the people, and we make sure that our products are made and created with sustainability in mind. We do this by sourcing materials responsibly and shifting to renewable energy.”
Through their Condition for Greater Online Learning programme, Unilever leveraged its wide network of partners to provide women access to learning and resources at the beginning of the pandemic. “We always pivot our advocacy in order to serve the needs of our communities and consumers. At Unilever, we believe in both equality and equity and that everybody should be given what they need in order to succeed,” said Ms. Mangilin.
“Our focus now should be more on intergenerational well-being,” said Cherrie Atilano. “Business is no longer transactional. More importantly, it should be transformational. It should help transform us to be better, make us more mindful of our business and individual actions, and it is in this way that we can convert sustainability to resiliency in our communities.”
Eco-fluencer was organized by WeEmpowerAsia, a UN Women programme funded by the European Union that aims to increase sustainability and women's participation and leadership in business.