This blog series by the Trico Charitable Foundation spotlights recipients of three types of awards presented at the November 2021 Pivot on Purpose Summit (POP), delivered in collaboration with The Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre at the Haskayne School of Business. Social enterprises across the early, middle and advanced stages were celebrated at POP. The goal of this series is to help inspire, inform, and nurture the ability of social entrepreneurship to close the gaps in Canadian society.
Social EnterPrize Jury Choice, Aisle International (formerly Lunapads) is a Vancouver-based founding Canadian B Corp that was one of the first companies in the world to champion sustainable menstrual health and equity. Aisle manufactures a world-class collection of reusable menstrual care products, including period underwear, menstrual cups and cloth pads.
Since the Social EnterPrize awards in November 2021, Aisle has been working on a number of undertakings. Madeleine Shaw, Co-Founder, Director of Partnership and Impact of Aisle and author of the The Greater Good: Social Entrepreneurship for Everyday People explains:
“Since November’s awards, we have been focused on website upgrades, replenishing depleted inventory, launching new products and the development of some exciting educational projects. Having completed a comprehensive product Life Cycle Assessment in 2019, we are now offering our institutional partners detailed environmental reports that demonstrate the impact of their purchases, including reduction in energy, waste and GhG emissions.”
The Social EnterPrize award money has been largely deployed to support education, as well as to further develop their institutional sales channel. Madeleine says:
“The Planet-Positive Periods toolkit is a suite of free educational materials that was created by Aisle in collaboration with PERIOD. and Green Periods, both US-based sustainable menstrual health non-profits. The toolkit, developed for audiences starting at Grade 5 and upward, features research findings about the environmental impacts of reusable menstrual products as well as their disposable counterparts. It includes a Facilitators’ Guide, video, profiles of diverse individuals who switched to reusables, research appendices, social assets and shareable infographic that students can use to educate decision makers about the benefits of supplying reusable products in their learning environment. The toolkit is available free of charge here.
We also updated “Your Period. Your World.”, a 24-page menstrual health and equity booklet for youth. These educational materials are a vital part of supporting youth and students in understanding their menstrual cycles as well as the positive impact that reusable products can have. They are a critical part of the value proposition for working with institutional partners, along with environmental data.”
Aisle has weathered many of the same challenges faced by businesses worldwide in the Covid era, including supply chain issues and increased costs:
“As an impact-driven company that was foundational in creating the reusable menstrual care market, we have been both heartened and concerned by its rapid growth.
Heartened, as the overall popularity of the products and proliferation of new entrants has brought the concept and products to a growing number of customers. The growth is double-edged, however, as the burgeoning market has also attracted new mainstream venture capital-backed brands who are deploying traditional business tactics that are driving down price, often at the expense to product quality, product safety, supply chain ethics and transparency.
Rather than trying to cut corners in terms of product quality to create cheaper products, we are instead increasing our efforts to encourage institutions and governments to provide their students, workers and citizens with reusable products. Our message in a nutshell: menstrual products should be free, not cheap.”
Throughout these challenges, Madeleine and her team reflect on the success of the menstrual equity movement in recent years having a positive impact in terms of overall awareness and the increasing provision of disposable menstrual products in places like schools, post-secondary and public institutions:
“If disposables should be made freely available as a matter of necessary personal hygiene, why not reusables too? The opportunity for Aisle’s products to make a difference at scale in this way ties in perfectly with recent provincial and federal government initiatives to address period poverty among marginalized Canadians. Reusable products offer significant advantages in terms of being able to better support access, comfort, cost savings and of course sustainability.”
Looking to the future, Madeleine leaves us with enlightening news about menstrual health:
“The decades of menstrual health and equity activism that we and other leaders have undertaken internationally are now bearing fruit. This includes legislation ensuring that people with periods have access to the products and education they deserve as a matter of basic human rights.
As a result of this, we are seeing the increased provision of free menstrual products in places where people work and learn. This is excellent news for Aisle, as reusable menstrual products are an essential part of a sustainable menstrual equity solution. Broadening our customer group to include institutions (including civic bodies, employers, schools and post-secondary institutions) allows our impact to be significantly amplified.”
About Pivot on Purpose Summit (POP):
The Pivot on Purpose Summit (POP) is the next step in a movement to reimagine the power of business models to solve social problems. POP is held in collaboration with the Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre at the Haskayne School of Business, the Trico Charitable Foundation (TCF) and the NU Community Board. Established in 2008, TCF seeks to close gaps in society by provoking innovation and building capacity in social entrepreneurship. Created by TCF, the NU Community Board is facilitated by young Canadian leaders for young Canadian leaders. Through the use of grants and awards, NU’s goal is to support emerging social impact leaders in the work of closing gaps in society.
The Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre at the Haskayne School of Business was established through the generous support of Wayne and Eleanor Chiu’s family foundation, the Trico Charitable Foundation.
Stay tuned for POP 2023!