- A Brief History of International Women's Day
- Why Sustainability Matters
- 5 Sustainable Female-Owned Businesses You Should Know About
The third month of every year is a celebration of women worldwide. The focus is on women who have elevated women's socioeconomic, cultural, and political equality. Various groups and organizations come together worldwide to encourage women to break through barriers of bias and see goals turned into reality.
A Brief History of International Women's Day
International Women's Day dates back to the early 1900s (1). The world had become industrialized, and the population saw a growth unlike any before. As a result, more and more was demanded of the average worker, and there was an exploitation of women in the workforce.
A sense of unrest spurred debate. The oppression and inequality felt by the female workforce led to women carrying out more proactive efforts. In 1908, 15,000 women in New York City held a march (2). The following demands were made: voting rights, shorter hours, and better pay.
In 1909 the first National Woman's Day was observed in the United States and was celebrated the last Sunday of every February in America until 1913 (3).
In 1910, during the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin proposed that there be a Woman's Day every year in every country. This day would recognize women and progress their demands for equal standing. The idea received unanimous approval, and International Women's Day was recognized for the first time the following year in 1911 (4).
During World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on February 23rd, the last Sunday in February. After some discussion, it was agreed that March 8th would be the annual day to celebrate, which has remained that date ever since (5).
The United Nations, in 1975, celebrated International Women's Day for the first time. Moreover, the UN has continued its support throughout the decades with themes like "Women at the Peace Table" in 1997, "Women and Human Rights" in 1998, and "World Free of Violence Against Women" in 1999.
In 2001 internationalwomensday.com was launched. Since its inception, the site has provided direction and resources to help bring awareness and change for better gender parity and gender equality. Female-owned businesses and organizations are highlighted, and significant charitable contributions for women's groups and organizations have been made over the years.
Why Sustainability Matters
This year's International Women's Day theme is "Gender Equality for a Sustainable Tomorrow." Given the current state of the world climate, doing what we can to create a sustainable future has never been more critical.
The effects of climate change, especially in recent years, have been significant (6). There have already been observable impacts on the environment. The ranges of plants and animals have shifted. Trees are flowering sooner, and glaciers have shrunk. There are longer, more intense heatwaves, and sea levels have risen.
The human-caused effects are here. They are irreversible in our lifetimes and will worsen in the coming decades if we don't act. Luckily, the business world has made sustainability mainstream.
ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investors pushed into the business world. As a result, banks began taking sustainable businesses seriously, and in 2021 we saw a rise in ESG backed companies (7). In addition, managing climate issues has become core to business values (8).
Not only is sustainability and clean technologies vital for the environment, but it is also becoming smart business.
5 Sustainable Female-Owned Businesses You Should Know About
American chef and cookbook author, Miyoko Schinner, has changed the game when it comes to cheese. Her vegan butter and cheese options give us a fantastic alternative to the traditional dairy products most people are used to. In addition, her cashew-based cheese wheel is award-winning!
Miyoko's Creamery has also fought off legislation attempting to prevent her company from using words like "butter" and "cheese." The Creamery won the lawsuit filed against California after the California Department of Food and Agriculture pushed to remove "dairy" and "butter" from their product labels.
Miyoko also participates in the Sonoma Clean Power's CleanStart program. This means that half of the electricity in their facility is 50% renewable and 91% carbon-free!
Their business operates as a Certified B Corporation and helps promote sustainability by spreading the vegan lifestyle along with its butter. So does being vegan really help with sustainability? According to researchers at Oxford University, the answer is yes (9).
Researchers discovered that if a person cut meat and dairy products from their diet, they essentially cut their individual carbon footprint by up to 73%! That's huge! On a large scale, if everyone refrained from consuming these products, the global farmland could be reduced by up to 75%. This would create a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions and free up land to be reclaimed by nature that was taken by agriculture.
Miyoko also has a sanctuary. She co-founded Rancho Compasión, which has become home to many farm animals. Milk Plants. Hug Cows. This is the message you'll see on the website!
Soko is a women-led, people-first business. This jewelry business was founded by Gwendolyn Floyd, Catherine Mahugu, and Ella Peinovich. Soko is based in San Francisco and Kenya and works with over 1300 Kenyan artisans. This company is committed to ethical practices while working with artisan entrepreneurs.
Soko is also a Certified B Corp company. This is possible with the abundance of affordable and stylish jewelry ethically handmade in Kenya. The jewelry is created from sustainable materials. By taking care of the artisans and compensating them fairly, many jewelers earn up to four times what they would typically earn.
A virtual factory was created by using mobile technology to grant exposure to these artisans. It differs from a centralized factory in that it uses the current technology to empower and enable the human workforce.
Two college friends founded Most Prominent Co. Avery Antonio and Mayra Moran. It's easy to tell that these women care with the following on their about page: "Most Prominent Co. is a fashion brand telling stories of fair labor and serving others through garments. We support those advocating for fair labor practices and sustainable fashion through meaningful stories that are incorporated into collections and explored through community projects."
The Los Angeles based company practices an ethical production process using organic cotton and are known for ethically made streetwear. They source fabric from natural fibers and use materials that last in day-to-day life.
These women not only have a successful company that is sustainable but are also mindful of the health and livelihood of the workers. In addition, they take the necessary steps to make sure that the factories they work with are paying a living wage.
Wasi Clothing was founded by Bolivian-American designer Vanessa Acosta. Not only is she an advocate for women of color, but she also aims to create clothing of all sizes that is inclusive of all ethnicities, genders, and skin tones.
Wasi is a Quechuan word. It means home and was one of the last words translated by Vanessa's grandfather before he passed away. She honors her Indigenous ancestry and builds a business that feels like home for those who shop with Wasi.
Sustainability is critical for Vanessa, especially in the fashion industry, which has been saturated with many unethical practices. The aim is to be as ethical as possible by sustainably producing their clothing in Los Angeles. Every aspect of the process is intentional for Wasi. Sustainable textiles are chosen, and care is made in the packaging to be as conscious as possible.
Lauren Chew, the founder of Love + Chew, not only helps people on their journey to better health through delicious vegan cookies but is also conscious of the need to be sustainable. This Certified Woman-Owned business is very aware of the need for packaging that not only preserves the cookies but is also environmentally friendly.
The goal is not only to become a leader in plant-based desserts but to make sure her products are delivered in more sustainable packaging. Lauren's background includes having worked in solar energy. She is passionate about the environment, and that hasn't changed.
Using Tru-Impact packaging is a step forward and one that Lauren supports. The packaging uses 30% post-consumer recycled content (PCR), and Love + Chew's boxes are made from 100% recycled paper. In addition, Lauren stays current with advancements in sustainable packaging so that newer, more ideal options become implemented when available.
Women are amazing and always have been. Women are leaders and caretakers. Today, women are paving the way in how people conduct business in the future. That future not only includes healthier lifestyles but a more sustainable world thanks to the efforts made by female-owned brands here and now.