As climate change continues to worsen, it poses an increasingly larger threat to humankind. Big corporations are primarily responsible for a significant amount of carbon emissions fueling the climate crisis. In recent years, more and more businesses have taken part in environmental activism to help reduce their carbon footprint and inspire others to take action. Among many of these corporations advocating for change are sustainable women-owned businesses.
In the United States, women make up 50.8% of the population. Yet, only 19.9% of businesses are women-owned. Female-run businesses do not receive the same recognition and support as male-owned brands. Due to such, it is important for communities to support women-founded companies, local small businesses, and BIPOC-owned businesses.
According to the 2018 Census, 82.8% of female-started businesses were owned by Caucasian women. According to Harvard Business Review, women of color represent only 4% of overall C-Level positions, such as CEO, CFO, and COO. White men hold most positions with 68%, white women hold 19%, and 9% are men of color.
The Financial Contribution of Women-Owned Businesses to the Economy
Following a report conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration, in 2007, 7.8 million women-owned firms generated $1.2 trillion and 7.6 million employment opportunities.
These numbers skyrocketed in 2019, as the National Association of Women Business Owners reported more than 11.6 million female-owned firms in the United States. Women-founded businesses help the economy circulate as they generate $1.7 trillion annually in sales.
The fast-growing market for women and BIPOC-run businesses have generated trillions of dollars for the world economy. Without female leaders, the economy will be losing both immense financial value as well as businesses driven by social responsibility.
Sustainable Women-Owned Businesses You Need To Know About
To help raise awareness about the economic and social power behind women-founded businesses, we compiled a list of 10 sustainable women-owned businesses driving social and environmental change.
1. Habit Cosmetics
Habit Cosmetics is a cosmetic brand ranging from eco-friendly nail polishes to make-up. Launched in 2013 by Aja Frierson, the company uses non-toxic, vegan, and cruelty-free formulas for its cosmetics while producing sustainable packaging. The company does so by using bamboo instead of plastic, cardboard boxes, and post-consumer plastic packaging.
Aside from its clean formulas, the cosmetics are also created to flatter all skin tones. Frierson wanted to create a brand where women of color would be represented in clean beauty products. With limited funding received, Habit Cosmetics created programs from their three nail polish product sales to give back to women and communities of color.
Not only are the cosmetics trendy and stylish, but they are also affordable! Habit Cosmetics is a great ethical women-owned business to purchase from while on a budget and still looking your best.
2. Devi Arts Collective
Devi Arts Collective is a jewelry company with “an ethical conscious for the wandering soul.” The women-owned business was founded by Bayoush Mengesha and has a strong emphasis on ethical values and diversity as they partner with women from all backgrounds. The jewelry is sustainably and ethically sourced by hand and is created using recycled silver, gold, and ethical gemstones.
Their gemstones are cut by hand by a family in Jaipur, India, while the silver and gold are handcrafted in Vancouver, Canada. Mengesha built the company with the desire to make an ethical and diverse, yet affordable jewelry brand. Devi Collective strives to be a leader for future brands through both their sustainable products and packaging as well as their inclusive and empowering initiatives towards women.
Beelove is a natural skincare company founded by Brenda Palms Barber in Chicago, Illinois. Beelove uses naturally sourced honey as the base of all products. The company was created under the name of Sweet Beginnings and hires formerly incarcerated individuals as beekeepers to gain job skills and help build their resumes.
Since its launch, the company has hired over 500 workers, out of which only 4% returned to prison. This is incomparable to the 68% of the national formerly incarcerated individuals that return to prison.
Beelove was founded to be a long-term sustainable business that gives back to its community and uplifts people. Beelove focuses on three functions:
- Social: Providing job opportunities and a second chance at life to everyone.
- Economic: Giving back to its community by uplifting local businesses and community members.
- The products: Creating products that are sustainably and ethically produced.
TomboyX is a sustainable and values-driven inclusive lingerie brand founded by Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez. TomboyX produces materials created from all cotton fabrics that are good for consumers and the environment.
The organic cotton material is free of chemicals often found in other products. The materials are farmed from environmentally and eco-friendly tree nurseries. The brand also recycles water during the textile process to produce clothes.
TomboyX is an inspiring sustainable women-owned business built on ethical values. The founders envisioned a brand that fit and felt good on all body types. The gender-inclusive brand aspires to represent all people within their brand’s image while uplifting the environment.
5. Rent The Runway
Rent The Runway is a fashion platform that allows consumers to rent designer clothing and accessories. The company was founded by Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss in 2009. The idea began after Hyman’s sister came home with a $2,000 designed dress for a wedding, which sent her into credit card debt. Hyman wondered if it would be possible to rent designer clothes at half the prices.
Rent The Runway has a strong focus on sustainability as it stirs away from fast fashion. Renting designer clothes puts their slogan “Buy Less. Wear More.” into place.
Renting clothes rather than purchasing them also limits the number of fabrics entering landfills and oceans. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry and limiting the amount of clothing entering landfills helps decrease the pollution transmitted.
6. Zero Grocery
Zero Grocery is an online zero packaging waste grocery store created by Zuleyka Strasner. While they are currently only delivering to locations in California, the brand plans on expanding in the near future.
The platform carries and delivers meat, dairy, vegetables, fruits, and home essentials. The brand also delivers vegan and gluten-free foods. None of the products sold are packaged in plastic, but rather in reusable glass containers.
The company is taking a first-hand initiative to combat the global plastic problem directly associated with the food industry. Strasner argues that “90% of global plastic waste comes from food production.” The website also illustrates a guide to storing produce to maintain its freshness and limit food waste.
Miranda Wang established Novoloop to transform plastic and packaging waste into sustainable materials. The new redefined materials are more durable and are often used in homes, cars, shoes, and more. Their slogan “sustainable materials for a changing planet” emphasizes the need and desire for sustainable products that do not diminish the Earth.
The word Nova stands for “as good as new,” while Loop refers to the circulation of plastic. Wang, along with her team, has managed to produce materials that generate the same performance as the ones created by fossil fuels, but release 46% fewer carbon emissions.
The brand seeks to create innovative products to “protect the future of the people and the planet.” Corporations and individuals need to purchase environmentally friendly products that uplift our nature rather than deteriorate it.
8. Girlfriend Collective
Girlfriend Collective makes environmentally friendly athletic wear produced from all recycled materials. Co-founder Ellie Dinh created the company alongside her husband. The brand sells ethical and sustainable athletic wear at affordable prices, while still cute!
The brand encourages consumers to mail in their old Girlfriend products to then be recycled into new ones. Their slogan “recycle, reuse, regirlfriend” is meant to encourage consumers to recycle their products and combat the average 81 pounds of fabric waste each individual throws out every year. Using recycled fabrics helps lower the high carbon footprint emitted by the fashion industry.
The brand states that only 1% of clothing is recycled worldwide, while the rest enters landfills and oceans and is either incinerated or downcycled.
Girlfriend Collective reveals that clothing waste has increased 40% since 1999. Such growth is alarming as, on average, clothes take up to 200 years to decompose, causing massive environmental destruction.
9. Give A Damn Goods
Give A Damn Goods is an online wholesaler advocating for environmental and social justice through its products and services. Established by Emily Waddell, her vision was to create a business that made a difference through transparency, ethical, and social-driven values. The brand encourages consumers to purchase from socially responsible companies.
Waddell began her company by designing graphic tees that would spark conversations. The shirts are ethically produced in Haiti from recycled cotton and recycled polyester. Since its foundation, she has partnered with multiple ethical and sustainable brands that cater to social issues such as trafficking, climate change, and products that are BIPOC made. The website illustrates different categories that sell products catering to each value, allowing consumers to select from topics they best align with.
10. Aya Paper Co
Aya Paper Co is a sustainable and values-driven greetings card and gift company founded by SaVonne Anderson. Remarkably, the brand creates greeting cards and products out of 100% recycled materials from 100% renewable energy! As a climate change advocate, Anderson believes her duty was to implement environmental values into her business and help first-hand communities.
Aye Paper Co does not use plastic packaging but recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable materials. The brand produces only the amount of products that will be used and sold to limit waste.
Anderson has created a sustainable platform for consumers to purchase and educate themselves from and strengthen African American communities. The focus on African American inclusivity implemented throughout the products helps uplift and represent the community.
Sustainable Women-Owned Businesses: Towards a More Inclusive World
For long enough, women and BIPOC-owned businesses have not received the recognition or funding needed to succeed in the marketplace. Women continue to fight for leadership positions, empower ethical companies, and build a better future for tomorrow.
Women-owned businesses take a significant part in value-driven professions through diversity, inclusion, activism, and sustainability. The mentioned female-founded companies are catering to consumer desires of contributing towards more ethical business practices. The socially conscious movement businesses are taking part in provides opportunities for future brands to focus on people and the planet rather than profit and exploitation.