I heart Human ♥ Nature (part 2)

Faced with the lack of options in the Philippines, Anna and Camille just thought, “What if we just come up with our own products?” The concept took a lot of work and research, but they were determined nonetheless. What Anna really envisioned for Human Nature is to make it an eco-friendly brand that is affordable enough to make it easy for people to go green and also benefits communities at the same time. During an interview with Anna on October 27, she shared with Green Unlimited how green Human Nature is, how it works, and how they keep prices down.

Before the interview began, Anna showed me their Christmas catalogue, which not only contains their latest products, but is also made of recycled paper and printed with mineral-based inks. “At first, I was worried that the colors wouldn’t be too bright, since the paper is like newsprint,” Anna said. “But as you can see, it turned out fine.” It was the second sign I noticed that made me feel satisfied that I’m indeed in an eco-friendly office, the first one being the fact that the office didn’t have the lights on, working instead with the bright 10 a.m. daylight streaming through the windows.

First of all, I’m curious: How do you keep prices low?
We operate on a direct-selling basis, which helps us avoid high retail costs. In turn, that allows us to pass the savings on to the clients. We really wanted to make it a mass-market brand, so we buy and produce in big volumes. Of course, we buy local as much as possible, and it’s only when the materials aren’t available locally that we choose to import. The most important corporate decision we’ve made is to not have huge profit margins, because we want to make it accessible to as many Filipinos as possible.

If the products themselves are green, does that include their containers?
Human Nature uses PET bottles, which are recyclable. We still try to find ways to make everything green, and we have people asking us if we do refills. We’ve found that the biggest issue with refills is hygiene and sanitation, and that it actually takes more resources to clean and sterilize a bottle for reuse.

How do you ensure that every ingredient is indeed good for the environment?
We scrutinize every formulation presented to us, check it for environmental toxicity and see if they pose any threat to aquatic life. But thankfully, eco-friendly materials are available, we just have to do the research.

What organizations do you work with?
We work primarily with Gawad Kalinga; many of our people come from GK or from within this area. We provide employment to local residents, and also choose to hire locally to make the commute easier for employees, plus they don’t generate such a large carbon footprint since they don’t have to travel very far.

We also partner with Alternative Indigenous Foundation Inc. (AIDFI) in Negros; they just delivered 15 liters of organic lemongrass oil for us. The organization provides alternative sources of electricity to communities beyond the Meralco grid, providing hydro power and wind power as well as livelihood programs. They also help farmers produce crops that earn more money, such as lemongrass, which is very easy to grow and distill. The high value of lemongrass oil makes sure that farmers can earn a very good living of it rather than just harvesting other types of crops. We also buy citronella oil from a cooperative of 50 farmers, which works with the Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern (PFEC) in Bicol. We are also looking at how GK communities can turn into organic farms, since they are usually surrounded by a lot of land. We basically want to help farmers get the best value out of the land and help them improve the quality of their lives.

In its one year of existence, how has Human Nature grown so far?
We haven’t really done any marketing for the company, so it’s grown mostly by word-of-mouth; our dealers are really passionate about our products and the advocacies. We already have 18 employees at the moment, and have branches in Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Butuan, two in Cebu, a big one in Iloilo, Bacolod, Bicol, Samar, and one branch in Parañaque and in UP Village. We have 3,000 dealers right now and will be launching in the U.S. in late November.

Part 3 tomorrow

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