*This article is written by Sustainability Philippines
Most businesses begin with finding a need to fill in the market, and this aspect is no different for sustainable businesses. For some sustainable businesses, however, their beginning lies in seeing solutions for environmental or biodiversity issues.
A good example of this is local business Jacinto & Lirio, founded ten years ago by Anne Mariposa-Yee, Noreen Bautista, Patricia Lalisan, Ryan Pelongco, and Charm Cruz. It so happened that the group was planning their college thesis and project when they came across the water hyacinth issue the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was dealing with at the time.
The DTI shared with them all the environmental hazards caused by the water hyacinth, which led to them looking into the problem and visiting various infested areas. Those areas, unfortunately, experienced increased dengue cases, higher flood rates, and hydro solar power system problems.
CEO Anne Mariposa-Yee shared, “True enough, with our own eyes we saw that it is indeed a problem cause when we went there, almost the entire surface of the lake was covered with water hyacinth and even in the areas where they used to grow palay (crops), it was replaced with water hyacinth.”
It was then that they began to conceptualize the idea that would result in today’s Jacinto & Lirio.
Despite it being a problem, the water hyacinths provided a solution in itself: personalized handmade vegan leather goods and stationary made from water hyacinths.
“During that time, we were trying to experiment with water hyacinths to see how to elevate it to make it acceptable not just with foreign markets but also with the Filipino market,” said Anne.
Jacinto & Lirio wanted to provide a solution to the environmental hazards caused by the water hyacinth problem, and by extension, the lack of jobs for people in the area like mothers who couldn’t leave their children unattended to go work at an office.
The sustainability of Jacinto & Lirio is found in its nature as a social enterprise. By employing the affected community, the group was able to both empower and involve the people.
The business is not without its setbacks, however. At the start, it faced the challenge of research and development in regard to making the product durable since the original product was meant to be high-end bags.
She said that initially, the company “started with women’s bags to be specific, but we realized that it wasn't enough to sustain the business and at the same time, to stabilize the income of our community partners.”
The process of creating its products starts with the community harvesting water hyacinths, where they open the hyacinth stalks, remove the fibers, and stick them together to form a sheet. The sheets are then flattened and solutions are applied to remove the remaining molds. Once ready, the materials are then manufactured into different products that the group designed to fit into daily life.
From creating a line of women’s bags, Jacinto & Lirio ventured into creating smaller unisex items such as journals and items for corporate and wedding events.
As a business that existed for a decade, Jacinto & Lirio also displayed awareness of the nature of the market for sustainable products. It understood that products cannot sell simply because it is sustainable despite the steady increase in interest. To connect with the local market, Jacinto & Lirio recognized the need to be both sustainable and practical.
According to Anne, “we decided to innovate the designs to make it stylish but also functional at the same time.”
Despite being a small company, J&L working hard to continue researching on how to best improve its products while remaining sustainable and attractive to customers. Especially now that more companies are buying sustainable, and locally-made products.
I think they [corporate clients] are slowly embracing green procurement right now, though at the same time, I think the pandemic has opened the eyes of companies to prioritize one (sic) made in the Philippines products and also sustainable designs” the CEO added.
Eventually, Jacinto & Lirio hopes to expand its repertoire of products into other sustainable lines that its market will find value in such as home living and interior design.
Added to that is the desire to share sustainable Filipino products with the rest of the world.
As it works to expand its reach and market, Jacinto & Lirio continues to be mindful of every aspect of what it means to live sustainably—from reducing one’s carbon footprint to the environment, to exploring new ways to be good stewards of the environment.
“It’s [sustainable living] important because, for one, we’re already experiencing the harmful effects of our previous practices where we focus 100% on ourselves and not taking into consideration how it affects our environment,” said Anne. She continued, “another is that we need to think of the next generation as well. I’m a new mother, so I’d like to make the earth more liveable for my son in the future—not just health-wise, but also things he could enjoy. I understand it’s hard to be perfect on that end, but we should take things slowly. We are stewards and managers of the earth, and as managers, we need to make sure that we are good examples to the next generation.”
While buying Jacinto & Lirio’s environmentally friendly products is a great way to support them, it is not the only thing you can do to help them achieve their goals. Those who have brought any of their products can leave a review on their Amazon store so that people in other countries will know how great Jacinto & Lirio’s products are.
Learning from Jacinto and Lirio, and its CEO, Anne, we do not necessarily have to commit 100% of our lifestyle to sustainability; the important aspect of sustainability is being mindful of the consequences of our choices and actions. Whether it comes in the form of supporting sustainable groups and businesses or making sustainable changes in different parts of life, every effort counts towards something better.
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*Disclaimer: Sustainable Philippines will only recommend products that the team personally supports. This post contains an affiliate link that may provide a small commission to the Sustainable Philippines team at no additional cost to you. 100% of the commission will be donated to partner sustainable organizations.