5 years ago, Poéthique was still just an idea in my head. I was researching eco friendly, natural ingredients, playing around with initial formulas and working on our brand’s design. But I had also begun to think about how to design my company – how would we do business, and what impact would our business practices have on all our stakeholders
Unlike traditional businesses that think of their shareholders as their primary – and sometimes, only – stakeholders, we would consider our customers, suppliers, employees and investors, all as equal and long term stakeholders.
As we researched our suppliers of organic ingredients, we began to realise that the supply of botanical ingredients is intimately tied to the communities of the people that harvest them. The communities rely on the revenues from the sale of botanical ingredients to fund their schools, their healthcare centers and the infrastructure in their communities. The prices of ingredients can vary wildly depending on how the growing season has gone, meaning the predictability of income is quite low.
With small farm cultivation and wild plant collection, the pressure is even greater. These communities don’t typically have other means of income generation, as whole families are involved in the collection. There are other concerns as well.
When a crop gains global fame, the increased demand and escalating prices boost incomes but reduce the indigenous people’s consumption of their own crop. The traditional usage of the crop falls away and is replaced by cheaper, less healthy alternatives. An oft-quoted example of this in the early part of the 21st century is quinoa in the Andean region in Peru.
As quinoa became more popular, it was worth more to the Andean farmers growing it to sell it and buy cheaper pastas and rices for their own consumption. So while the markets buying quinoa were gaining a healthier grain, the farmers actually growing it were worsening their diets.
While we were deeply interested in the powerful botanical ingredients we saw in cultures across the world, we wanted to make sure we were harnessing this power of nature in a responsible way. Responsibility meant building a supply chain, where we would only get the ingredients from producers practicing environmentally sustainable agriculture or wild collection.
Additionally, we needed to make sure that people harvesting the crop, or collecting the ingredients were being treated in a socially responsible way: this means fair wages, good work conditions and overall good treatment. Even as a small brand starting out, we knew that laying the foundation for ethical growth was the right way to approach the business.
This is where we are deeply grateful for our partner of 4 years, FairWild Foundation and their mission. Simply put, FairWild is about sustainability for wild plants, protection and sustainable development for those who collect and trade them. A supplier of wild plants that has FairWild certification is thoroughly vetted to ensure that wild collection does not adversely affect ecosystem diversity, processes and functions.
Local communities’ and indigenous peoples’ customary rights to use and manage collection areas and wild-collected natural resources is recognised, respected and protected. In addition, the standards call for collectors to be involved in important decisions such as premium use or pricing agreements. Finally, collection and processing is done without child labour.
For a small brand, these are big steps to have taken and I’m proud of these steps. We don’t have the same manpower or resources as larger beauty brands, yet we’ve chosen to focus our energies in these areas. Ultimately, this is because what I and all the team at Poéthique believe is what ethical sourcing and sustainably skincare or sustainably sourced beauty products really means. Not just buzzwords, but real and meaningful actions to drive positive change in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to inherit a healthy planet