Building a sustainable social business comes with many challenges, but the quality of the product itself is one factor that can make or break success. How do we keep producing a high-quality product, and how do we ensure this production can be sustained in the future?
We’ve enlisted Leah Putman, an engineer who brings years of experience working in both American industries and low-resource environments to join our Rwanda team in tackling these challenges.
Quality is Key
In order to have a business that lasts, Leah knows we have to be “producing a stable and reliable product that girls can count on.” To keep accomplishing this, Leah has begun to work on improving the consistency in our banana fiber supply chain. This can be difficult since rainy season in Rwanda can cause unpredictable downpours that extend fiber drying time by days. Our team will build a storage facility to dry the material at the supplier, which will reduce the amount of time spent on drying and washing of fiber. In the meantime, 2017 is already on track to be our most productive year yet.
Eyes on replication
SHE is solving a global problem, and we never take our eyes off the big picture, which is the replication of SHE28’s model. With every minor and major step we take in production, we always keep replication and scale in consideration.
On a large scale, we recently implemented some new machinery (pictured above), which our staff affectionately refers to as “The Turbo King Machine.” This technology boosted our production capacity- we’ve made nearly 60,000 pads already this year! In order to recreate this technology, our staff will have an important challenge.
The SHE production team will recreate this technology with parts that are easy to find, replace, and repair locally within Rwanda. If we are able to rely on locally sourced parts, we ensure sustainability and prevent many of the common failures that traditional development projects often face.
But even on a smaller scale, Leah noticed that the adhesive that holds the pads together before they are sealed is currently imported, but could be made locally. She is experimenting with different formulas that would be “easy to use, stick well, cost-effective, and easy to make anywhere.” Even in her free time, Leah is tinkering with different formulas at her kitchen table.
These incremental improvements will produce big returns. Local sourcing increases our impact on the local economy and lowers our unit costs so that we can reach as many women and girls as possible.
This Wednesday is International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is Be Bold For Change. Even though we have seen real progress in the previous decades, it is estimated that we will not reach global gender parity for another 170 years at the rate we have been moving. Boldness is necessary to create change. Here are some actions you can take today to pick up the pace:
- Support women in the workplace. 170 years is too long! What policies could be put into place in your workplace to support female leadership? Reports that female engineers face serious challenges at work, even in places like progressive California, show us that we have to take action to change these policies. At SHE, female employees are in the majority and are encouraged to do jobs that break gender stereotypes. What can you do to bring a little boldness to your workplace?
- Invest in causes that lift women up. We have expanded access to menstrual pads that enable women to do their jobs and attend school without worry to over 13,000 women and girls, and we couldn’t have done it without the investment of hundreds of generous investors who share our vision. Invest in SHE today to accelerate the pace of positive change.
- Contribute your skills to the causes you care about. Make the most of whatever it is you excel at. Whether you have expertise in engineering or are a social butterfly who is great at getting their friends together for a fundraiser, think about where your skills could be used to fill a gap. An added side bonus is that using your skills to create positive change will make you feel great too!
P.S. We have a bonus action you can take, and it’s a quick one. Support PIMCO’s WomenForward partners on Thunderclap, which will post a one-time message in support of WomenForward to your Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr page on March 8th at noon.
Good news, SHE fans! SHE was honored by Katerva, dubbed by Reuters as “The Nobel Prize for Sustainability,” with its 2017 award for gender equality. Katerva chose SHE out of 500 applicants because of our positive social and environmental change, along with our high potential to scale.
It’s no secret that mainstream menstrual hygiene products are no friend to the environment. The average American woman produces 62,415 pounds of non-biodegradable menstruation related waste in her lifetime. We create go! pads in a way that reduces the environmental harm of traditional pads, using a process that transforms agro waste (e.g. banana fibers) into an absorbent core without using any chemicals or super absorbent polymers.
Thanks to our partnership with Johnson and Johnson, we now have new technology that has completely eliminated water from our production process and reduced our electricity use by 400%. We take these steps not only to protect the environment, but also because using few resources will enable us to scale in developing economies around the globe. With your support, we’ve been successful in reaching more people with fewer resources, an important goal for businesses in the 21st century.