Ethical Fashion Accessories That Incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals
B Corp SOKO Creates App to Connect Artisans With Business Opportunities
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted in 2015 by the United Nations member states are a call to action to leave no one behind in the face of global challenges that threaten our planet and societies.
From poverty and hunger to climate and social justice, the SDGs touch on issues that require companies to rethink their approaches to value generation. In this context, B Lab is working with the UN Global Compact to develop a tool for launch in 2020 to help companies chart their next decade of progress on the SDGs. Learn more about this new development here.
In the second of a series of insights on the SDGs and how they can guide and inspire Certified B Corporations and other businesses, B the Change contacted Kotsanai “Kaye” Matereke, chief operations officer of SOKO. The women-owned B Corp works with Kenyan artisans to sustainably create and market handmade fashion accessories.
SOKO works with its network of artisans to build their businesses, improve their production capacity, and sustainably increase their income. The B Corp creates a “virtual factory” through its artisan app that helps artisans track orders, payments and deliveries.
Read on for Matereke’s thoughts on how SOKO and other companies can contribute to the SDGs.
Let’s start at the highest level. What do you think is most valuable about the Sustainable Development Goals?
The SDGs are a universal language that gives perspective and direction and creates empathy for all stakeholders. This empathy helps us to build solutions that are relevant, timely and measurable.
SOKO artisans use locally sourced and eco-friendly materials whenever possible, such as recycled brass and reclaimed cow horn and bone.
2030 is only a decade away. Where do you think action needs to focus in order to get there?
To achieve the 2030 agenda, businesses need to be more intentional about creating awareness that will cascade to the grassroots. As in all cases, a larger collective effort increases the probability of long-term success.
The SDGs have been called the closest thing to a sustainability strategy for humanity. Do you think this strategy has enabled business to meaningfully take action?
Yes, the SDG framework has created a standard of what companies should be doing. It highlights business opportunities that have both an economic and social return on investment.
How will the online platform that B Lab is developing alongside the UN Global Compact serve the 2030 agenda?
It provides a medium to encourage continuous improvement of processes in line with environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, giving actionable steps and a network of like businesses for support and accountability toward the achievement of the goals.
Which SDG is top of mind for you right now, and why?
SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. From inception SOKO’s mission has been to disrupt the traditional manufacturing model that promotes centralized manufacturing, marginalising small artisan groups.
To create an inclusive ecosystem, SOKO invested in developing a proprietary cloud-based technology that is supported by a mobile app. For the future, we’ve created a CNC (computer numerical control) router that will allow us to retool the supply chain from the designer to the artisan with software.
Can you give us an example of a business that gives you hope that we will achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?
Patagonia, which started being sustainable/responsible years ago, and they did it by being intentional at every step of the way. Their approach of trying to balance each imbalance they create in the environment today serves as a great model for all companies.