SDG 5: Empowering Women One Company At A Time: Tackling Gender Inequality Through Innovation

Andreas Jovan Gisala; Irati Goienaga Rodríguez; Alayya Meralda Hanif; Riley Malcolmson; and Nesrine Joly


The Sustainable Development Goals (adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015) cover the years 2016 to 2030 and are formally the goals of the United Nations “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, an agenda that lays out the vision, principles, and commitments for a more equitable and sustainable world for all. The SDGs’ practical and political importance, as well as the challenges they provide, can only be fully grasped by first knowing what came before them. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were a set of eight international development goals in force from 2000 to 2015. The UN, worldwide nonprofit organizations, and many other concerned and devoted organizations and individuals more locally have all published literature on sustainable development in general and the SDGs in particular. Because it is easy to become lost in all of the information, we have chosen our sources carefully. Most crucially, there is a widespread belief that much more inventive approaches to collect and use data, ranging from crowdsourcing to big data, are required if the processes for implementing and delivering the SDGs are to fully benefit from the data revolution. The UN, worldwide nonprofit organizations, and many other concerned and devoted organizations and individuals more locally have all published literature on sustainable development in general and the SDGs in particular. Because it is easy to become lost in all of the information, we have chosen our sources carefully. Most crucially, there is a widespread belief that much more inventive approaches to collect and use data, ranging from crowdsourcing to big data, are required if the processes for implementing and delivering the SDGs are to fully benefit from the data revolution.


In order to structure our essay, we decided to focus on 5 innovations that improve gender equality.

The first one created a supply-chain by buying raw cotton from farming families in Egypt at a guaranteed price. This raw cotton is processed in the same place where the raw cotton is created. Kotn invested in the cotton farming communities by allocating some of their funds to support and develop the village. Indeed, they already have built a school in the Nile Delta.

Kotn’s effort in educating the youth helps to end the cycle of child labour that ravages many African states. The first, fourth and fifth SDG are involved as Kotn is continuously working on educating and empowering the local community of farming families to a better quality of life.

All the innovations we chose are investing in poor and small communities. For example, Kotn is improving the quality of education offered to the communities in the Nile Delta where their supply chain is nested. It helps to establish equal opportunity at school by implementing a 2:1 female to male ratio at the schools that Kotn built. As an example, Ingy, a young female student was illiterate in September of 2017, but after attending the school built via Kotn’s innovation, Ingy learned how to read and write in just 3 months. Nelwa’s also improves the life in small communities. Here, through selling ice cream, it helps women from Tanzania to educate themselves.

It doesn’t just help their employees but all the community around because the ice cream’s products are from local producers. Moreover, they have recruited a group of women that are generally young single mothers unable to complete their education and provide them the needed education and training. The SDG involved are SDG 5, 8, 11 and 12. Thanks to those innovations, a lot of new jobs were created for people (especially women) who wanted to work and those guarantees gender equality as economic growth. Taboo also helps small communities such as rural Indigenous communities in Australia who are reached through the NPY Women’s Council who partner with TABOO as it sells organic cotton pads and tampons.

TABOO’s outreach spans both domestically and globally with 100% of net profits going towards their mission to ensure women all over the globe have access to safe menstrual hygiene products, and the appropriate education to deal with their menstrual health.

Indeed, a lot of women around the world are not going to school because of their period and especially in poor areas where there is no menstrual hygiene, this very present and current phenomenon is called “period poverty”.

The goal of both Taboo and Cup AB is to fight against this terrible issue.

Cup AB is an organization whose activities support many of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as it concerns Good Health (3), Quality Education (4), Gender Equality (5) and Responsible Consumption (12).

They aspire to make the world a better place by reducing the usage of women’s disposable protection. They also provide menstruation cups to women in underdeveloped nations to decrease health concerns, shame, and the chance of women missing school due to their period. The firm has eliminated waste from approximately six million disposable protections since commencing manufacture in 2015. The emissions produced by one menstrual cup are not the same as those produced by ten tampons. Furthermore, because the product is reusable for five years, the amount generated is much lower.

Sponsoring ladies with menstruation cups so they may go to school without feeling embarrassed about their lack of protection would help them acquire a better education and promote gender equality.

Bolsa Rosa is a company aimed at reducing unemployment of women thanks to several innovations including a virtual headhunting providing advice on flexible work schedules, an online job bank that allows women to find job opportunities.

In addition, through certifications programs, companies provide better working conditions as they offer consulting services and workshops to help innovate for equitable policies.

Bolsa Rosa’s business model meets sustainable goals 5 (Gender Equality),8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and 10 (Reduced Inequalities).

Bolsa Rosa has greatly transformed the working environment in more than 5,000 companies located in some of the most important cities in Mexico and improved life dynamic and quality of working women and their families.

Additionally, Kotn, Cup AB and Nelwa’s are also creating jobs and increasing economic growth. Their impact is clear as they improve equal working conditions: the girls don’t miss school; the Tanzanian mothers can now have steady income to support themselves and their families while the families involved in the cotton chain have fair wages. Both Kotn and Cup AB are aiming the SDG: Responsible Consumption because they use products that do not contain any dangerous materials or harm the environment, just as Taboo which only use recycled plastic tape when packaging its products – making its delivery process entirely sustainable.

All those innovations are conscious because they solve several current problems at the same time and greatly improve gender equity as quality of life in general.


At our first meeting, most of us were aware of global issues nowadays. Most of us have understood that the SDGs are important and are in the progress of being applied everywhere in this world. Some countries targeted to fulfill all the SDGs by 2030. Meanwhile, other countries targeted longer than 2030. The six of us came from different countries with different issues happening in each country; however, we have the same point of view for making this world a better place.

At our second meeting, we agreed that the SDGs were a bit too general. We felt like it was nearly impossible to achieve all the SDGs instantly and at the same time all over the world. We also acknowledge that depending on the country, there were some SDGs that didn’t make much sense. For example, for a country like Niger without any sea access, the 14th SDG doesn’t have much sense. We also found it difficult to visualize a country that has fulfilled completely any of the 17 SDGs. We consider the circular economy as the most responsible model for companies. Businesses have the responsibility to make positive impacts on society and the environment, but not just the responsibility but the power to make these changes.    As consumers, we should stop buying products from companies that are apathetic about the environment.

Businesses have the power and responsibility to make positive impacts on society and the environment. We as consumers can make some changes in our behaviors to force companies to take action to improve society and the environment, but the ones that have the last word in these changes are the companies. They have the power to redirect their companies to achieve the SDGs.

According to our understanding, a flourishing business means that it must have massive impacts on people and the planet. Moreover, it should add value to itself. This doesn’t mean that those companies that are flourishing do not care about generating benefits. We consider that being a flourishing business can have great benefits and also include the human and environmental factor in their policies.  The common SDG among the 22 stories we read is Gender Equality. It’s relevant to mention the discussion we had about if SDGs were incidental or if companies specifically create their businesses to fulfill the SDGs. Not all the members of the group had the same point of view at first, but after discussing we all agreed that in a wonderful world, SDGs should be incidental. Businesses should focus their main aim in making a better society as a responsibility not as an imposition. We were grateful that we got the opportunity to explore amazing stories of flourishing businesses that have adapted this SDG. All the stories included the value of empowering and educating women for a better future. We thought that the stories were impressive because their business purpose focused on women’s rights and needs, which were different depending on the country where these businesses were being developed.

We truly admire the founders for their actions and involvement in developing the SDGs. We respect them for creating innovations and thinking about helping society. We were thrilled about the number of positive impacts these amazing founders have made on their community. Most flourishing businesses prioritized creating benefits for their community and environment; instead of being money-oriented businesses. We once discussed that most businesses are greedy, and they don’t care about their communities and environments a lot. We thought it is not good for businesses to be only money-oriented; instead, they should start giving back more to their surroundings. Being money-oriented is not the characteristic of a flourishing business, so businesses should avoid this. We believe that businesses should balance giving back to their surroundings and gaining profits. If not, these businesses will have a hard time trying to survive. Maybe in the short run, they won’t have any issues, but as countries start implementing new policies focused on the SDGs, in the long run, those firms who don’t care about society and environment will struggle on adapting to them or will directly disappear.

Some of the innovations were new to us, and we thought that those innovations would be useful in the future if the companies grow bigger or they will expand their business globally. We felt that all the 22 AIM2Flourish stories were meaningful and impactful. We were grateful to read about businesses that are responsible and have a good impact on society. We are so used to reading bad news about companies being unethical and just profit oriented that these stories gave us some hope about the progress of the human species.   The stories were excellent, and we think that the founders were very determined in solving global issues using their ways. We understood that each business has its way to contribute to developing the SDGs, and we figured that the founders were clever to create such business models. Some of the firms we read about had similar business models such as the ones that employed the women from their communities to give them new job opportunities. but others have different business models that are equally valid. After all, these businesses apply the same SDG, but they have different ways to do it.

We enjoyed our time reading, exploring, analyzing, and discussing these stories on our own and as a whole group. Each of us had our part then everybody shared the stories that we read to everybody in the group. We had a fun time discussing and analyzing the stories together, the discussion was interactive, and we succeeded in highlighting the important points of the stories. We learned that the future is in our hands, and there shouldn’t be any plans on destroying the earth further. This was an important and meaningful experience for us because we met new friends from other universities and other countries. Some of us had doubts about how we would relate with the different countries’ students, but the surprise was grateful. We connected really well, and we had so much fun discussing our points of view. The time difference wasn’t any problem, we succeeded to agree on a time that wasn’t perfect to anyone but convenient for all of us. The flexibility and commitment of all the members of the group made the development of the work really enjoyable. After reading all the 22 AIM2Flourish stories, we already expected that flourishing businesses nowadays should apply any of the 17 UN SDGs to survive in the long run. The stories were intriguing for us as young people to create changes in the world. Right now, we are concerned with the current global issues in our world. Thus, we want to create significant changes that will benefit everyone. We feel encouraged by the founders to create great innovations, and we appreciate their efforts in applying the SDGs to their businesses. We think governments should promote the kind of companies we read about in the AIM2Flourish project, but also implement some measures to help the existing companies to make the change and become more socially responsible.


Our teamwork was done as a unit, where we all participated in the decision making at the virtual meetings. At the meetings we discussed the topics and the work to do, also we distributed the work in an equitative way so that each team member did the same amount.

On the first meeting we talked a little bit of our self in order to introduce each other and generate confidence so everyone could talk to each other with normality, it was great to see how everyone end up being fluent at the conversation while at the beginning some of us seemed a little bit shy but as weeks passed, we all reach a very confidence work paced with each other. This strategy worked to us because since day one we created a WhatsApp group, in this group we discussed the convenient hours to do the meeting, due to the fact that we are students from three different time zones, in our case the best hours were between 2-3 Spain time. A great ally for us was that we all had a decent understanding of English so communication was not a problem, also all the students did a tremendous effort in joining the meetings, of course there was some of the meetings that was not possible for all to join because of justified purposes but overall the issues we all worked as a team.

One situation that we noticed was that no matter the distance between our countries and the cultural differences, we had a lot in common and a similar way to approach the problems that were appearing during the work, there are a lot of prejudices in our actual society, but us as students, we broke them all as a team getting to the conclusion that no matter what at the end of all we are humans and when we compromise to achieve a common goal it is possible to reach it while learning a lot from each other.

One other situation that arose was the impact that being in three different time zones had on our ability to meet as we had to contend with a 11-hour time difference between Ontario being in Eastern Standard Time and Indonesia, with Jakarta being 11 hours ahead, leading to some difficulties in finding meeting times that worked for everyone. In addition, Spain was right in the middle, leading us with few possible meeting times that worked for everyone. In order to address this, we attempted to meet at a similar time every week and set our meetings in advance to reduce the risk of conflicts of schedules and people not knowing when the meetings were. By communicating regularly through our WhatsApp group, we were able to update each other as conflicts arose and were able to keep up to speed when people were unable to attend meetings.

Another thing that came to light working in a multi-national team was the degree of trust that was needed in all the group members in terms of trusting that everyone will do their assigned work as though in Indonesia the day may be finished with the work due the next morning for them, but in Spain there is still plenty of time to do the assigned work, and in Canada the day is just starting, resulting in trust needed that the work will be completed on time and done to a high degree when the deadline leaves little to no time to do the work in the event one of the group members did not do their part. This level of trust in each other was a massive asset as it allowed us to delegate effectively and focus on our respective work, as opposed to worrying if things will be done correctly, or at all. This trust also allowed us to have more positive meetings as they were geared more towards discussing the work done and deciding who would do what, as opposed to needing to take time to discuss late or incomplete work and potential consequences if the work was not the level it needed to be. As a result of this it also allowed for more friendly meetings in general and a positive working environment.

One final lesson learned while working on this project was the unique background and skill set each team member brought to the table. As we are from different areas of the world and speak different languages, each of our lived experiences shaped the way we approach things, and by using this to our advantage and listening to each other’s stories we were able to gain a better understanding of who our group members were and what their strengths were, we became more cohesive team that worked according to our strengths, which positively impacted the ability to work on this project.


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Title URL Business Name
Empower Women and Increase Productivity in Companies Through Flextime Jobs Opportunities Bolsa Rosa
A Budding Idea: Plant-Based Cosmetics Veriphy Skincare
Protecting Motherhood Maatritva
Balancing It Out Sodexo
Empowering Women and Ending Period Stigma TABOO
Una Tienda Hecha a Mano y con el Corazón Desde el Chocó / Culture and Tradition Woven by Hand from Chocó LA CHOCOANITA TIENDA SAS
Programando para el Futuro Laboratoria
‘Bee’ing Thoughtful in Consulting Humblebee LLC
CAUSEGEAR: Freedom through Fashion CAUSEGEAR
Good Health and Employment Opportunities for Women Jayaashree Industries
To the Start of a Healthy Life CareNx
Democratizing Access to Health Umana
Wheels For Women Roshni Rides
Beyond the Bean Dean’s Beans
Changing the World One Cup at a Time Lunette
Reduce the Use and Stop Overproduction Monthly Cup AB
Disrupting Feminine Hygiene, One Panty at a Time THINX
Gelato: Nature’s Guilty Pleasure Nelwa’s Gelato
Sparking Entrepreneurship Through Clean and Affordable Energy Rural Spark
Holding the Future in Our Palms Green Afro-Palms
Impact Investing and Gender Lens Investing in Canada Marigold Capital
Teaching a Man to Fish for Cotton Kotn


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Critical Reflections on Innovative Flourishing Businesses in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Copyright © 2022 by Andreas Jovan Gisala; Irati Goienaga Rodríguez; Alayya Meralda Hanif; Riley Malcolmson; and Nesrine Joly is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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