Social responsibility as a lifestyle
CAIRO | Mostafa Adel
The problems associated with plastic products are real, posing a serious threat to the soil and plant life. Over time, the damage gets worse because plastics take centuries to decompose. They can also cause damage to human and animal life, especially when in contact with food.
A BETTER WAY
While public interest in environmental crises has been growing for some time, some entities choose aggressive approaches to goad people into using eco-friendly products. Such tactics often fail, which is why Amira Osman, 30, has picked a different path for her brand. It took her going through some health complications to understand the importance of improving how we consume and live.
“It led me to change my diet and lifestyle, and I gradually came to understand how you can live with a less destructive environmental footprint.”
Armed with a newfound perspective, she started making small changes to her life.
“When I switched out seemingly little things – my toothbrush as an example – people started asking questions,” Osman says.
She would often purchase such eco-friendly products on her travels, but recommending them was not viable because they were not readily available in Egypt. This prompted her to start UrbanEarthlings.
“I didn't like complaining about those items not being available in Egypt, so I took matters into my own hand,” the company founder and manager shares.
The brand offers a variety of merchandise: personal hygiene items for adults and children (toothbrushes), menstrual hygiene products (menstrual cups), grocery shopping articles (tote and produce bags), and tableware (stainless steel straws and related accessories).
“I have plenty of samples for other products I'd like to add to the line, but they are not up to the standard I set for the brand, so we're still experimenting with different samples and suppliers. The product range will expand to cover all zero-waste supplies,” Osman adds.
While UrbanEarthlings aims to spread the culture of using eco-friendly products, Osman advocates for more than that through her brand.
“The way we do business needs to change. This cycle of unethical sourcing, exploiting workers and creating so much waste needs to come to an end. If you're a brand that already exists, the only way to create such a change and to make it sustainable is to start small,” she elaborates.
True to that goal, UrbanEarthlings has a specific way of ensuring that all parties included in the manufacturing process abide by a certain standard. It entails ensuring that all manufacturers the brand deals with have a good waste management system and compensate their employees fairly.
Osman believes that the way to make changes is to take small steps that can have a significant impact on the future, and that is the message she spreads through UrbanEarthlings.
“A lot of people think that advocates of sustainability want to annihilate businesses that aren't ‘environmental.’ This isn't sustainable at all. Think about the number of workers who would be laid off and their families,” she says on her philosophy. “Making gradual changes and transforming the brand is the way to go.”
A REVENUE STREAM FOR THE GREATER GOOD
While the revenues from UrbanEarthlings mostly cover new stock at this point in the startup’s lifecycle, Osman plans to invest much of the revenue stream in one of four areas over the next two years – supporting shelters and animal rescues, reforestation projects and carbon offsetting, research and development to source more sustainable local materials, and an UrbanEarthlings fund that will offer scholarship opportunities for students who wish to learn about sustainable development.
“We’re saving up for the fund, and this seems to be the most challenging so far.”
UrbanEarthlings completed its first year in April 2020, and the future holds much in store for the business.
“I would like UrbanEarthlings to remain a boutique brand, a small project with great impact,” Osman says. “Maybe some great opportunity will come my way and will allow the brand to be of greater impact. I hope this business inspires others to take their social responsibility more seriously.”