Size doesn’t matter: How little brands can take big action for the community

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Size doesn’t matter: How little brands can take big action for the community
Supporting a good cause can appear little more than fulfilling CSR obligations for some firms, but for passionate entrepreneurs like Habiba Raffa, creating a brand that gives back is the focal point of the business.

Raffa is a producer of organic Moroccan ingredients, and the founder of Singapore-based indie brand Ayelli, which is best known for its organic Argan oil. To Raffa, her product is not just powerful in terms of efficacy, but as a vehicle to driving change.

“Through my products, I promote health and social conscious living and giving. What I wanted to do is combine my passion for powerful personal care natural ingredients, with my love of people and the planet,” ​she said. “I want a product with a social purpose and environmental impact way beyond its beauty benefits. A product good for you, for the planet and for the people who produce it.”

Conscious consumerism

The demand for green, sustainable and ethical products like Ayelli is driven by consumers who demand to know more about the product beyond its functionality and efficacy.

Raffa told Cosmetics Design Asia​ that consumers “want to humanly be involved with their product” ​and the story behind it. For example, said Raffa, these consumers are interested in the people who produce the product, and genuinely want to know about their working conditions and quality of life.

“We need to easily and genuinely answer these questions. I think these are aspects that need to be integrated in the product and not just be some social initiative to look good,” ​she said.

By doing so, small brands like Ayelli are even influencing the big beauty conglomerates to do the same, and Raffa believes we are witnessing more big brands embracing being genuine and transparent with consumers.

Currently, Ayelli produces one product, it’s Pure & Organic Argan Oil. While she does have plans and ideas on expanding the brand, Raffa said she only wants to produce effective products that create positive impact.

"I produce and manufacture organic skin and hair products that are safe, provide exceptional results, are ethically made, and sustainable produced,"​ she added. “The modern woman and man are busy while working, raising kids, studying and travelling the wold. They want products that are powerful yet simple. Nobody has time for a seven-step beauty ritual. They want to have a full on self-loving skin ritual in the five minutes and Ayelli fulfils that need of strong self-care in a bottle.”

Giving back to the community

What is more important, believes Raffa, is using her brand to “build a community of health-conscious, socially-responsible, and environmentally-involved consumers”.

Ayelli is the culmination of Raffa’s deeply-rooted and uncompromising values, beliefs and principals. Born and raised in Morocco, the entrepreneur is naturally concerned for its environment and its people, especially its women.

“My conscious production of pure Argan oil has an important social and ecological impact in Morocco,”​ said Raffa. “Argan oil comes from a tree endemic to a small region in Morocco. Due to very high demand for Argan oil from international markets, the production has become lacking in quality, the tree endangered, and the women farmers behind its production are the first ones being undercut.”

You could say Argan oil runs in Raffa’s blood. Her great-grandmother was an Argan oil producer, which Raffa said empowered her to carve a better life that impacted the generations that came after. As a recipient of that positive impact, Raffa uses Argan oil to give Moroccan women benefits that extend beyond beauty.

“Our sustainable fair trade practices ensure that our Moroccan rural farmers receive a steady wage and are financially, socially and environmentally empowered,” ​said Raffa. “Their jobs producing our Argan oil helps Berber women gain social and economic independence, a level of autonomy they wouldn’t otherwise have in a male dominated culture, giving them a vital role in the region’s development and their children’s future. When women benefit, children benefit!”

Treating nature with dignity

The Argan tree, or Argania Spinoza, is important in more ways than one. Not only is it “the pillar of a growing economy”, ​it has a direct impact on the environment, combating problems such as desertification, soil erosion and low water supply. Raffa explained that because the surge in demand for Argan oil, this vital tree is now endangered.

Unsustainable practices of harvesting Argan oil, said Raffa, will cause permanent damage, rendering the oil to be even rarer and ultimately, more expensive. In addition, it has led to the exploitation of local communities in Morocco.

As her company is so dependent on nature’s bounty, Raffa also works to ensure producing Argan oil responsibly and sustainably, for the community and the land.

“The sustainable and fair trade production of Argan oil is crucial and is still possible,”​ said Raffa. “In fact, environmental responsibility is an extremely crucial part in the production of our oil. We teach our farmers to respect nature and to protect the endangered Argan tree through responsible harvesting and honouring their heritage.”

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