Beiersdorf Women in Circularity Initiative Support Women and Leverage Plastic Recycling

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India: Beiersdorf is strengthening its CARE BEYOND SKIN Sustainability Agenda with the launch of “Women in Circularity”. This holistic initiative is geared towards providing substantial funding to plastic waste recycling organisations that have a strong social business approach. The initiative has two important objectives: the first is an expansion of the recycling infrastructure of plastic waste management organisations in emerging economies and the second is to ensure that the waste collectors, a majority of whom are women, receive adequate training and development opportunities. “Women in Circularity” is poised to make a significant environmental impact while fostering a more inclusive society.

The launch of the initiative involved the selection of organisations with a social impact in regions that have been most affected by the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. After a comprehensive validation process and on-site visits, four organisations were selected – Green Worms in India, Delterrain Argentina, and Recycle Up! Ghana in Ghana, and TakaTaka Solutions in Kenya. The “Women in Circularity” initiative entails a donation of 4 million Euros and is part of Beiersdorf’s COVID-19 Aid Programme – the largest global aid programme in Beiersdorf’s history, launched in 2020. In close cooperation with public authorities as well as local and international organisations, Beiersdorf aims to help mitigate the negative impacts and aftermath of the pandemic whilst offering income and development opportunities to more than 1,600 women within the waste management sector.

With only 3 per cent of household plastic waste being collected and recycled in Kerala (World Bank Report, 2021), the “Women in Circularity” initiative aims to tackle a dual challenge – plastic pollution and poverty. By creating employment opportunities for the local workforce, the initiative seeks to effectively address this pressing issue. Green Worms, a local waste management association in Kerala, will establish a Material Recovery Facility in Malappuram District by December 2023 and implement a Plastic-waste Recycling Plant in the Kannur District by February 2024, both situated in rural Kerala. This ambitious project is set to provide jobs in waste management to over 500 women from 20 villages. Simultaneously, it will lead to the recovery of 6,000 metric tons of plastic, out of which 2,760 metric tons will be recycled annually. Beyond the significant environmental impact, “Women in Circularity” will elevate the social status of women in the region by offering workshops, scholarships, menstrual hygiene education, regular health check-ups, health insurance and vaccination drives – ensuring a safe work environment. The initiative also establishes a Waste Workers Welfare Fund to enhance economic security for the local community.

Jean-François Pascal, Vice President, Corporate Sustainability at Beiersdorf, states, “The global plastic problem has continued to intensify over the years due to the production and disposal of millions of tons of plastic annually, which is very often single-use plastic. This was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With our ‘Women in Circularity’ initiative we aim to help mitigate the devasting aftermath of the pandemic on both the environment and on society by creating a lasting impact”.

“Also, the initiative will help increase these organisations’ plastic waste collection and recycling capacity by 15,000 tons of plastic per year by expanding their plastic waste management infrastructure including new recycling plants. The funds will create new jobs and improve working and living conditions of female waste collectors through the provision of training, occupational health and safety, health insurance and expanded immunisation services,” comments Beiersdorf’s Luisa Robles Vega, Sustainability Manager Environmental Strategy & Human Rights.

Explaining the vision, Jabir Gharat, CEO, Green Worms, says, “During the pandemic, many waste workers, most of whom are women, had no source of income.  They are generally the sole earners in the family. To survive the pandemic, they took loans and now they are back to work and, in addition to feeding their families, are also repaying their loans. These women are resilient and all they need is access to stable and safe work opportunities. If we can work together on a shared mission with women waste collectors, we can create stories of hope in tackling both plastic pollution and poverty.”​

Launched in four countries, this initiative redefines the approach to environmental challenges and women’s empowerment within the waste management sector. With an emphasis on inclusivity and circular resources, the initiative contributes to a sustainable future where businesses become catalysts for positive change.