Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt. This week he talks to Helen Robinson, winner of the supreme award at the Women of Influence awards.
2018 can feel quite progressive and like we’re doing pretty well, if you’re in the right bubble. But in many ways oh boy there’s a lot still to do. Like with tampons and pads. Half the population needs them, yet they are mainly made with synthetic and potentially harmful materials, and have attached to them in some places luxury taxes and in many places a stigma around them. Which is where Organic Initiative comes in. The company provides organic alternative to traditional tampons and pads, and aims to foster the movement to support safety and health around periods. A radically sustainable and progressive company, it was co-founded by today’s guest a few short years ago.
Helen Robinson is a wildly accomplished start-up founder. She was CEO of Microsoft New Zealand in some of its most dominant days, a board member of nationally and globally significant bodies like ATEED, and now a winner of the Supreme award at the Women of Influence awards. To talk the journey and the mission, Helen joins us by phone from America.
Using bioplastic instead of plastic for wraps to your organic products: tell us a little bit more about that. And also you use no pesticides in the cotton – which also improves the lives of the farms, considering cotton is quite a problematic crop.
Yes for sure, most of our products are 100% organic cotton and they’re made to be both biodegradable and healthy from a female’s standpoint. We can trace the cotton all the way back to the cotton farm and even barrel thanks to the lot numbers on the box. So there’s complete transparency around the whole product, all of the ink on the boxes is all vegetable ink. We’ve really tried to think this through in every way we can.
It’s important to know that when you have a business like ours we have to think whether making things like menstrual cups is something we should or shouldn’t be doing. What we ended up doing was going and finding the best possible recyclable material for that product. We know that we are removing pads and tampons out of the market by women using these.
Women use these products for years and so we had many discussions about this around the board. In the end we brought out this menstrual cup product which is both reusable and recyclable. It can be used for years so that woman don’t need to use tampons or pads. We wondered if whether we were going to jeopardize our core brand which is organic cotton tampons, pads and liners, but actually the opposite is true and by doing the best we possibly we can with everything we possibly can do and will continue to do that as we roll out our product. It’s all just beginning.
Environmental Innovation is the focus for this year’s C-Prize challenge – Callaghan Innovation is asking innovators to develop tech solutions with the power to change environmental outcomes. Business advice, mentoring and R&D expertise will support finalists to turn their concepts into reality. Follow the C-Prize journey.
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