As we are inundated with news focusing on the devastating health and economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak around the world, a recurring theme that resonated with me was the call to support local businesses.
Instead of stockpiling at large supermarkets which struggle to meet the increased demand fueled by widespread panic-buying, why not visit your neighborhood mom-and-pop stores who – unlike their corporate giant competitors – wouldn’t necessarily have the cash flow to survive the economic downturn that inevitably follows such a health crisis.
In addition, besides supporting local, I would like to encourage everyone to consider buying from social enterprises who would reinvest (a percentage of) their profits to assist vulnerable communities most affected by COVID-19.
To make it easier for you, I have put together a list of social enterprises and conscious brands in Asia with a credible product offering, a compelling social and/or environmental mission, and who offer goods and services that can be ordered online, considering the social distancing and self-isolation measures practiced by many.
1 | Bettr Coffee
In need of a caffeine boost while you strive to adjust to the new reality of working from (the chaos of your) home? Order one of Bettr Coffee’s signature blends online or subscribe to a regular coffee delivery, and help support their program training and employing at-risk youth, disadvantaged women, people with mental health issues and other marginalized groups as baristas.
You can also try their rCUP, the world’s first reusable coffee cup made out of recycled paper cups – it’s leak-proof, insulated, designed to last at least 10 years and is fully recyclable afterwards. The certified B Corp also uses sustainably and ethically sourced coffee beans, powers part of its operations through solar panels, composts its coffee grounds, and offsets its carbon emissions.
2 | Ugly Cake Shop
On the hunt for a cake to celebrate a special occasion? Take a look at Ugly Cake Shop – their sweet creations – that are definitely not ugly! – don’t contain any artificial flavors or colorings, and as a bonus, they reinvest part of their profits to a nutrition fund supporting children in need in Timor-Leste.
3 | Seastainable
Seastainable offers eco-friendly alternatives to daily essentials, including reusable straws, cups, bowls, cutlery sets, tote bags made from recycled PET material, plantable paper coasters and towels designed with recycled polyester and water-based ink. Profits are funneled into marine conservation projects in Southeast Asia to combat plastic pollution, strengthen wildlife protection, improve environmental education and drive youth-led climate action.
4 | Freedom Cups
Ready to pursue a plastic-free period? Invest in a menstrual cup by Freedom Cups, a social enterprise that donates a menstrual cup to a girl with limited or no access to safe female hygiene products for every cup purchased by a regular customer. Menstrual cups, similarly to reusable pads made from eco-friendly materials, offer a more cost-effective, environmentally friendly and medically safe alternative to plastic-filled, single-use pads and tampons.
5 | Dignity Kitchen
Dignity Kitchen, a social enterprise food court that provides training and employment opportunities to people with physical and mental disabilities, had to cancel most of its events, training courses and lunch sessions organized for the elderly, and saw its food sales drop by 90% because of the coronavirus outbreak. They do accept online food orders, and encourage individuals and companies to reach out if they are keen to sponsor meals for frontline workers and nursing homes, or basic hygiene training for the elderly.
6 | The Animal Project
The Animal Project (TAP) creates unique lifestyle accessories, stationary or dinnerware designed by differently abled individuals who earn royalty from the sale of each item. Up to 50% of the social enterprise’s profits are also reinvested into initiatives supporting the special needs community, and promoting a more inclusive society.
7 | Bamboo Straw Girl
Bamboo Straw Girl aims to tackle single-use plastic by offering reusable products made out of bamboo or textile scraps and other upcycled materials. They also employ independent seamstresses in Indonesia, providing them with a much-needed supplementary source of income, to produce handmade batik pouches and bulk bags from textile offcuts. Their signature reusable bamboo straws are handmade from whole bamboo stalks sourced from a mix of homegrown bamboo groves and wild bamboo, without any extra chemicals or harmful additives.
8 | TeddyThotz
TeddyThotz works with the elderly, single mums, people of low-income backgrounds, homemakers, crafters and indie designers to create unique, handmade accessories, such as crochet animals, traditional patchwork blankets and mats or batik bags. These vulnerable communities learn a new skill, while earning additional income, and the social venture also provides support to the charity Friends of the Disabled Society through product sales, product development and skills training. In response to the coronavirus crisis, TeddyThotz designed a reusable fabric face mask, accept online orders on their Facebook and Instagram pages, and can ship directly to your home.
9 | Purnama Outreach
Purnama Outreach creates handmade and sustainable fashion, lifestyle and sports accessories, and reinvest their profits to contribute to a variety of international causes, including children’s education in Thailand, Indonesia and Nepal, or improving women’s livelihoods in Nepal.
One of their signature collections include jewelry, bags, pouches, passport and card holders, luggage tags and dog collars made from upcycled tire inner tubes, the proceeds of which go towards promoting sustainable living and education in Indonesia. The social enterprise also partnered with Singapore Fashion Runway, the country’s first inclusive fashion show, to design a range of accessories, the sales of which are used to support special needs individuals, people with chronic illnesses, and breast cancer patients and survivors.
10 | Indosole
Indosole empowers local artisans in Indonesia to produce footwear from upcycled tires, which would have otherwise taken thousands of years to decompose. Their products are water-proof, durable, vegan, and use an eco-friendly material Envro Fibre for their supple straps, as well as responsibly sourced natural rubber and dyes, with no chemical or toxic run-off into the environment. To date, the B Corp has saved 80,000 tires from landfill, the equivalent of 220,000 pairs of shoes.
11 | Matter
Conscious brand Matter combines heritage prints, transparent sourcing and ethical production processes to promote artisanal craftmanship in modern society. Their mission is to make rural artisan textile production in Asia sustainable, and inspire consumers to value slow and seasonless fashion, and seek to understand where and how their clothes are made.
12 | Anothersole
Anothersole combines running shoes technology with leather craftmanship to make affordable, lightweight walking shoes, and 10% of the proceeds are reinvested into charitable initiatives combating malnutrition among children in developing countries.
13 | The Clay Day
The Clay Day works with a ceramic studio in Cambodia to empower underprivileged women to make handcrafted ceramic accessories, and earn a better livelihood. Every ceramic bead is individually hand-rolled, painted, glazed and fired twice in kilns, and the women are guaranteed fair wages for their work.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and is mostly limited to organizations in Singapore, so if you know of a socially or environmentally conscious brand, social enterprise, non-profit or purpose-driven business in your own city/country in need of support, please leave a comment or feel free to reach out.
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Based out of Singapore and Indonesia, Trang is in charge of editorial content and strategy for Causeartist in Asia, looking after the media platform’s coverage of the region. In addition to her role at Causeartist, she divides her time managing a global sustainability project for Refinitiv (formerly Thomson Reuters Financial & Risk), as a freelance contributor to publications focused on social and environmental issues, and as a consultant on international development projects on issues ranging from climate change mitigation to education or women’s rights.