SUSTAINABLE SISTAS: JENNIFER NINI FROM ECO WARRIOR PRINCESS
Sustainable Sistas is a blog series celebrating women who run sustainable and ethical businesses or are doing important work for sustainable causes. We find out what sustainability means to them, challenges they face, what drives them and what they hope sustainability will achieve. Please contact us here if you would like to be featured or know a lady doing amazing work.
Jennifer is someone who is truly committed to the cause. She lives and breathes sustainability, talks the talk and walks the walk, all that. Her enthusiasm and passion is endless (I watch on in awe - we need to work out a way to bottle that energy!); I’m so grateful we have people like her spreading the message of ethical living and sustainability.
We need champions like Jen, a trailblazer and leader for the sustainable living movement. She has a knack for nurturing talented writers, activists and building engaged and positive communities. Many of us bloggers, writers and ethical business owners have all been connected through Jen.
She runs the magnificent website, Eco Warrior Princess (EWP), which she has taken from a humble personal blog to a fully fledged media brand, with a cache of talented writers from all over the world. It’s been wonderful to watch the growth of EWP. In her spare time (ha!), Jen runs an organic farm on her property with fiance, Ben (see what I mean about bottling that energy?).
We are always inspired and energised by her thoughts on sustainability and we hope you are too.
What’s your definition of sustainability?
This is a complex concept because sustainability can be applied not just to ecology but to individuals and even economies and businesses. From my perspective it’s where an individual, enterprise or ecosystem - be that the wider society or industry - can remain productive and sustain itself in the longer term, without ‘consuming’ or ‘compromising’ its future so to speak.
When you start EWP back in 2010 what was your vision? Did you have any intention to monetise the blog?
I launched EWP so that I could use it as a platform to address topics that I felt were important (sustainable fashion, green politics, feminism, social justice, ethical business) and to document my own personal eco journey. I wanted to inspire people towards sustainable living and critical thinking; to make this world smarter, better, kinder, greener. I was - and still am - a writer and activist and hence the ‘warrior heart’ of the website. Money was never my motivation for launching the blog-turned-media brand and it will continue to take a backseat to our coverage of social, environmental and political issues and our highly engaged community.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing eco and sustainable businesses in 2017? Do you see a common thread across the businesses you work with?
There are two big challenges for eco-conscious businesses from my perspective:
Differentiating themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Other non-conscious brands are starting to cotton on to the ‘eco’ or ‘sustainable’ and ‘transparent’ values and buzz words and so there is more ‘noise’ and ‘smoke and mirrors’. Conscious businesses will have to do more to prove their authenticity and must continually innovate their product and branding to stay appealing and attractive to their target market.
Effective creative marketing to appeal to the mass consumer market. The conscious community is highly discerning and don’t ‘consume’ the amounts of goods the mass consumer market does so marketing to the ‘converted’ isn’t going to make them ‘want’ to buy more. Since the conscious community are less likely to buy into advertising and marketing and are more likely to feel the effects of ‘peak consumption’ brands will have to focus on finding new customers in the mass market and converting them to loyal customers.
Sustainable entrepreneurship seems to be a largely female led space. Why do you think that is?
I’d love to see the research and figures on this, but from my consulting experience it seems to be the case. I have a few theories. Firstly, and generally speaking, women tend to take on the nurturing role in their families and within wider society. Since this characteristic - thinking beyond just themselves to looking at what’s best for the family/community - is one that is attached to women - whether an inherent trait or one that is forced or expected of them - we see them taking a lead in sustainable entrepreneurship because they care about their impact on society and planet. Another theory I have is that women seem not to be motivated solely on just making money for the sake of it, but rather are motivated by the triple bottom line.
As a sustainability entrepreneur how do you incorporate environmentally friendly and socially conscious practices into your business model?
I offset our fossil fuel energy consumption and plane travel, have moved HQ back to our off-grid farm, compost and recycle, run a paperless work environment, work with clients that share our ethical values, believe in gender and cultural diversity and try to hire staff and engage writers from a diverse range of backgrounds, we also pay our staff and all ‘interns’ fair wages, minimise ad spend on platforms such as Google and Facebook because I believe in voting with dollars and that extends to the advertising platforms we use (to whom do their profits benefit?) and with EWP, publish transparency reports so that readers and brands can see how it operates and how much we earn by way of advertising and affiliate commissions.
What is your opinion on traditional companies trying to fit their current operations into a green framework?
I often say “applaud when people and businesses do the right thing, criticise when they do wrong thing.” People are quick to criticise, accusing traditional companies of trying to cash in on ‘sustainability’. While I think its prudent to be skeptical of their intentions, I also believe that any ‘traditional’ company - or any company quite frankly - taking a step, even a tiny step, in the ‘green’ direction is still a positive result.
Despite it’s challenges, what drives and motivates you to create sustainable businesses and keep velocity and momentum up?
I am driven by huge purpose to affect positive change and create a world that is better, greener, fairer, smarter, more conscious world. It’s what helps me to keep going even through the challenging times. And because I am an idealist altruist, I also prefer building team environments and ensuring that the collective is working for the common good and towards a common goal. I feed off my wonderful team members and clients because they share a similar vision. I also enjoy seeing people and businesses flourish and this motivates me to work hard to make sure I’m always delivering value to my team, readers, clients and and all business stakeholders.
What does the future of sustainable business look like to you?
The businesses that will ‘succeed’ will be the ones who develop a sustainable product that customers actually want to buy, who care about people and planet as much as their profit and ‘give back’, play an active role in their ecosystem by engaging and seeking feedback from employees, customers and stakeholders to ensure they are always delivering value, and work with regulatory bodies and government to seek continuous improvement in their industry.