Gender inequality compounds poverty, but business could help redress the balance - RSA

Gender inequality compounds poverty, but business could help redress the balance

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  • Picture of Neil Richmond FRSA
    Neil Richmond FRSA
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It’s no fresh claim that the world’s wealth isn’t getting through to where it’s needed most. Global inequality is exploding - and the deprivation faced in the world’s poorest countries is compounded by severe gender inequality, with lack of access to education at its root. As a result, the odds in life are stacked against girls who grow up in poverty, and the world suffers greatly as a consequence.

Stigma relating to menstruation, child marriage and lack of access to healthcare are among a myriad of issues that deny girls across the world an education, ensuring that poverty stalks girls down through generations – each poorer than the last.  Every 3 seconds a girl becomes a child bride. The number one cause of death for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in developing countries is pregnancy and childbirth – and four in every five victims of human trafficking are women and girls

Business plays a role in concentrating wealth - but by the same token it has the power and a duty to improve the lot of those living in poverty. From philanthropy to investment in regeneration and social enterprise, this can take many forms - but all go considerably further than simply driving a profit and leaving the social outcomes to take care of themselves. Whoever coined the term ‘trickle down’ either had a cruel sense of irony or was unaware that 663 million people still live without even the most basic access to safe water (another factor which keeps girls far from the classroom, as they walk for miles each day to supply their families). 

Profit needn’t be a dirty word - but the uneasy fact remains that while some have ways of accumulating large sums of money, the majority of the human race is trapped in poverty, with no means of escape. So what would happen if more businesses used their power and profit to redress inequality? 

We decided to find out by launching a premium health and beauty brand, and donating 100% of profits to projects that empower girls in need, by removing barriers to education. We developed everyday products already used by millions – offering consumers the opportunity to participate in social change, simply by switching brands. We already know the small choices we make each day add up to an enormous impact on our world. Consumers hold immense collective power – might they choose to put their money behind products that help redress the balance? 

When the social enterprise OneSqin launches publicly on 24th April, it will become the world’s first health and beauty brand to donate 100% of profits to support the education of girls in need. The first production run of our organic, cotton tampons and botanical skin cream will be powered by crowdfunding on Kickstarter - with support from the RSA. Then it will be down to the public - and our ambassadors - to help the movement grow. 

Charities competing for donations are obliged to invest considerable amounts of time and money in fundraising - whereas, in an ideal world they could use all of their income to do what they do best.  By channelling purchasing power towards positive change, we’re championing a model that we hope can be adapted and adopted by a host of causes. With a self-supporting product generating a continuous income stream, ‘market share’ takes on meaning outside the limitations of a traditional business model. Just a small slice of that wider market could drive momentous change.

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  • I wish you well with this Neil. I'm not sure about your business model as surely you will need to invest and grow to develop the business and product so donating 100% of profits sounds unrealistic but maybe I misunderstand?

    • Thank you so much Brendan. OneSqin indeed needs to pay all its bills - operating and capital expense - first, then donates 100% of its net profits. Other companies with this rare business model are Belu water and Brewgooder in the UK.