Triodos Bank’s Executive Board provides a perspective on the wider world it operates in, its impact and activity in 2017 and its prospects for the future.
What challenge was the inspiration for your project?
Yoni was established in The Netherlands in 2014 and produces sanitary pads and tampons made from organic cotton. In 2011, Mariah Mansvelt Beck, co-founder of Yoni together with Wendelien Hebly, was diagnosed with early-stage ovarian cancer. Her doctor advised using tampons or pads made from organic cotton to minimise vaginal irritation. When Mansvelt Beck followed this advice, she discovered that organic cotton sanitary products were difficult to get hold of. They were only sold at a few organic shops.
An even more important discovery was that the ingredients of conventional tampons are not listed on their packaging. This truly shocked Mansvelt Beck and Hebly: the exact ingredients are shown on almost all consumer products, but not on these very intimate products. They discovered that most tampons and pads are made from synthetic materials like rayon and plastics, and sometimes also contain perfume. Women may be sensitive to these substances, which can lead to irritation.
How is the approach of the project innovative?
Yoni believes women have the right to know what the products they buy are made from. The company contributes to this by listing the ingredients on their packaging, and by breaking the taboo around menstruation.
Menstruating is a sign of health and not something to be secretive about. So Yoni pays a lot of attention to communication and the design of their packaging. This is partly inspired by cosmetics and toiletries. These products come in attractive packaging, and Yoni believes this is also possible for tampons and sanitary pads.
Yoni’s approach is catching on. In 2016, the company won first place in the Dutch SMEs Innovation Top 100. This was mainly thanks to their innovative communications and the wide availability of their products: not only from their own webshop, but also from the popular pharmacy chains in The Netherlands.
What impact does Triodos Bank have on this project?
Yoni was started with capital from several investors and a crowd funding drive. The company has had a relationship with Triodos Bank for a year.
Thanks to a Triodos Bank loan, Yoni can serve a bigger market in multiple countries. Their products are now available in several countries, including Germany, the UK and the Benelux. But the company wants to expand, and that’s why finance from Triodos Bank is so important.
What impact does the project have on the sector?
Yoni wants to raise awareness among women. So the company pays a lot of attention to telling the story of the ingredients in their personal care products. Yoni believes that personal care products are products that women should give thought to. By ‘simply’ listing the ingredients on their packaging, Yoni wants to inspire conventional manufacturers to be transparent too. Before Mansvelt Beck and Hebly set up Yoni, they called the conventional brands and asked them about the ingredients in their products. It was sometimes very difficult to get answers. The situation has changed since then, and several websites of big brands now give some information about ingredients.
Yoni is part of wider movement. In recent years, consumers have been asking questions, including to the European Commission, about the lack of transparency about the ingredients used. These questions point to a growing awareness among consumers.
What impact does the project have on society?
Menstruation is still not a normal topic of conversation, even though the word ‘taboo’ comes from a Polynesian word that literally translates to ‘menstruating’. A study has shown that 19% of Dutch girls know nothing about menstruating before they have their first period. It is not discussed with them. Yoni believes this is a real problem. If it suddenly happens to you and you know nothing about it, menstruating can be a traumatic experience.
Yoni wants to normalise discussing the topic of menstruation. One of the ways they do this is by not using euphemisms. Yoni uses the words ‘vagina’ and ‘menstruation’ on their packaging, for example.
How does the project share the vision of Triodos Bank?
Mariah Mansvelt Beck and Wendelien Hebly are entrepreneurs who want to put their vision into the world in the form of a commercially successful business, just as Triodos Bank does.
At Yoni they critically review their production and operational processes and try to design them as sustainably as possible. They also believe that a core element of running a sustainable business is having a sound business model and turning a profit. Because that is the only way Yoni will be able to make a strong contribution to positive change in the long term.